• How Much Money Do You Need to be Rich?

    November 10, 2015

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: #99Percent, Economy, Minimum Wage, Post-Constitution America


    We hear a lot about the “one percent” and the “99 percent” but what kind of net worth scores you a top slot in the real-life Hunger Games here in America? How much money do you need to be just average? The answers tell you just about everything you need to know about modern day America.

    Short answer: Oh, we’re so screwed.

    The Federal Reserve’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances released in September of 2014 is among the most recent data. The nice folks who compiled all of this waded through massive amounts of data. They caution they did not include 11 ultra high net worth individuals due to identity issues whatever that means, so the very top of this accounting could actually be even worse in reality. And don’t forget, the super-rich have had two whole years to accumulate even more money since this all was tabulated.

    Let’s start at the top. The term “one percent” is now semi-meaningless, though you will need about $8 million to join them anyway. What really matters now is the top .1 percent. To crack that level you need to have well over $30 million in net worth.

    But I get it, no one here is packing those kind of bucks. We’re all sort of average Americans, right? Maybe. To count yourself in at the 50 percent mark you need to possess some $82,000. How are we doing, students and young marrieds? Keep in mind net worth is what you own minus what you owe, not necessarily how much money you earn. So those students loans and that VISA card debt count against your ranking here, sorry.

    The good news is that if you own nothing, have no savings or investments but also have no debt — you are precisely at zero — you are in the 11.8th percentile of net worths. Yep, that means about 11 percent of us have negative net worths. About a third of us have a net worth of only $15,000, not exactly a significant bumper against some bad luck, like losing your job or getting sick.

    It’s a pretty bleak picture, but here it is:

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  • Recent Comments

    • Bruce said...


      I believe you meant the 0.1% cutoff is $30 BILLION. But like my “net worthlessness”, I’ve about a 50% chance of Being RIGHT(wing)!

      11/10/15 10:01 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Notice the chart says:Survey of Consumer Finances. Some of us aren’t measured accurately by such a chart and might even be considered post consumers. We aren’t consumed with owning or purchasing except where necessary. One can be fairly content, engaged and enjoying life in finding creative ways to live below one’s means. Being creatively resourceful within modest means can result in great satisfaction.

      11/10/15 2:51 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Geez, where are other responders? Surely the term “rich” is quite Clintonian. It has different meanings for many of us. Rich in purchasing power is just one of many definitions.

      11/11/15 7:32 AM | Comment Link

    • teri said...


      I’ll add some more statistics, if I may, Peter:

      Credit Suisse recently released their Global Wealth Report 2015. They find that, globally, 1) the top 1% of people now own 50% of the world’s wealth. 2) As a percentage of the world’s population, there are now more poor people in the United States and Europe than there are in China (they aren’t talking about income; “poor” is defined as lacking ‘wealth’, i.e. taking into account assets and liabilities like cash and debt, the same metrics that your Federal Reserve chart also measures). 3) They estimate that half of the world has a net worth less than $3,210. A large chunk of Americans and Europeans can’t make that cut because their net worth is negative. As a matter of fact, they estimate that 25% of Americans are in this situation of having a negative net-worth. (“If you’ve no debts and have $10 in your pocket you have more wealth than 25% of Americans.”) This is much higher than the 11% shown by the Federal Reserve charts in your article. Whether this is due to methodology or to changes in wealth during the year between the Federal Reserve findings and that of Credit Suisse, I don’t know.

      Credit Suisse remarks on its findings,”The middle class plays a central role in the political and economic development of all democracies. By defining the middle class in terms of personal wealth, we examine how the group has fared over time around the world. Globally, the size and wealth of the middle class grew quickly before the financial crisis, but growth subsided
      after 2007 and rising inequality has squeezed its share of wealth in every region. Our findings suggest that the middle class in the United States is now outnumbered by its counterpart in China, and that the middle class in North America has less than average wealth, the only region for which this is true. ”


      Also, the Social Security Administration has released its data for 2014. Their chart shows actual W-2 earnings in the US as given by the IRS records based on tax returns for 2014.

      The numbers are pretty abysmal. The median wage was under $29,000, meaning that half of American workers earned under that amount. The “average wage” is higher than that at $44,569, but is so skewed by the few on the highest income bracket that it is not a really meaningful number, in my opinion. (The 134 people who earned over $50 mm last year can really alter that average; 67% earned under the $44,569 “average wage” in 2014.)

      -38 % of all American workers made less than $20,000 last year

      -51 % of all American workers made less than $30,000 last year

      -62 % of all American workers made less than $40,000 last year

      -71 % of all American workers made less than $50,000 last year

      Since the SSA and the IRS reports are based on each “wage-earner’s” tax-return total earnings rather than counting each and every W-2 turned in to the IRS as a discrete “wage”, this means that the data does not give any information on what the average job might pay and one should not make the mistake of coming to any conclusions about that. In other words, a “wage-earner” may have earned $30,000 in 2014, but might have had to work two or three jobs to earn that amount.

      The SSA charts are easy to read, and there is a tool you can click on to look at charts from previous years.


      11/11/15 8:14 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      “How Much Money Do You Need to be Rich?”

      umm..enough not to worry if I’ll run out of propane or food by the end of the month. THAT is rich to me.

      “If you’ve no debts and have $10 in your pocket you have more wealth than 25% of Americans.”)

      hmmm, I should feel lucky. Unfortunately, that $10 is actually $27, is all I have and has to last until December.

      I guess it’s all in your perspective. For some reason, I don’t feel lucky.

      11/11/15 11:34 AM | Comment Link

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