About a quarter of Americans believe they could be wealthy one day. Are their dreams realistic?
It comes down to a matter of perception: the definition of rich depends on many factors, including your current income. The more money you earn, the more money you believe it takes to be “rich.”
According to a recent survey, people think it would take anywhere from $10,000 to $4 million a year to feel rich. Nearly 75% of the 1,000 survey participants responded that it was unlikely they would ever be rich, while 20% believed it was at least somewhat likely.
Researchers also looked at how demographic factors affected people’s willingness to believe they could be wealthy. Political independents, women and those without college degrees were less optimistic than partisans, men and college-educated respondents. 28% of those who lived in urban areas believed there was some possibility of becoming rich, compared to 18% of suburbanites and just 5% of people in rural places.
Relationship status also came into play: single individuals were more hopeful than people in relationships (though that difference depended more on participants’ age) and divorced respondents were consistently less confident, regardless of age, gender, or current income.
Among households in the lowest income quartile (making under $25,000 annually), people believed $293,000 per year would make them rich. Households earning between $30,000 and $60,000 a year set the bar at $394,000, and those making between $60,001 and $120,000 put the number at $426,000. For the top 15%, or those earning over $120,000 annually, the number was $501,000.
Most people placed the “rich” number at or above what the top 0.5% of Americans bring in. The Census Bureau’s 2012 Current Population Survey found that about 4% of households earn over $200,000—nearly $100,000 short of what even the lowest income bracket counts as rich.
The good news is most of us aren’t waiting for that $300,000 paycheck to feel happy—recent research suggests the majority of Americans would be content with under $100,000.