The old saying goes that "money can't buy happiness." But it would be naive to think that having a certain amount of wealth or a livable salary, can't help improve one's quality of life. And giving the amount of stress that money problems can cause, it makes sense that many people include “peace of mind” in their personal definitions of wealth.
But if we had to assign a dollar amount to living a stress-free life, how much would it take?
According to the 2018 Modern Wealth Index from Charles Schwab, it takes an average of $1.4 million, an increase from last year’s number, in order to be financially comfortable in America. And in order to be deemed “wealthy” you’d need to be sitting on roughly $2.4 million.
Out of the 1,000 Americans between the age of 21 and 75 who were surveyed, only 11 percent listed “having lots of money” as their personal idea of wealth; confirming that maybe not everyone is comfortable admitting that having money can be synonymous with happiness.
While other survey participants used less money-centric ideals to define what being wealthy means, with 17 percent citing “loving relationships with friends and family” and 55 percent said being able to take time for themselves constituted as wealth. We currently live during the age of self-care as a commodity and the little luxuries that we use to fulfill a “treat yo’ self” mantra, cost money. Millennial survey participants especially, felt that small daily luxuries were essential to feeling wealthy: 33 percent felt richer by being able to pay for services like Netflix and Amazon Prime and 44 percent said that being able to have meals out or have food delivered made them feel a little wealthier.
What may be most surprising about the survey, are the differences in financial habits and the optimism or lack thereof about their financial futures, between millennials and baby boomers.
Across the board, the Schwab survey reiterated the fact that people who have a written financial plan, feel more in control of their finances. Some 52 percent of the baby boomers surveyed said that they didn’t have enough money to justify having a detailed financial plan. While 49 percent of millennials regularly rebalanced their financial portfolios and 64 percent of them believe that they will see considerable monetary wealth during their lifetimes. Other participants weren’t as hopeful, and listed mistrust of financial advisors, the 2008 recession, and identity theft as reasons for not having a financial plan.
It seems that despite an unpredictable economy and a sometimes stagnant job market, the idea of the American Dream persists. So what’s the key to wealth? Well, 49 percent of those surveyed said saving and investing, 40 percent said “hard work” and 11 percent said “luck.”
There may be some truth to that last one, as of 2017, only about 10 percent of Americans are worth $1 million or more. Today’s twenty and thirty-somethings especially may have more luck at hitting the wealth threshold, with the rise of the gig economy and more ways to establish multiple streams of income.
Perhaps the key to wealth lies in all of the above; saving and investing, hard work, and a bit of luck.
Tiffany Curtis is a Philly-based freelance writer, podcaster, and sex positivist whose work focuses on empowerment for women of color, race and culture, and sex positivity. She has written for sites like Blavity, Refinery29, and Hello Giggles.