How Much Money Do You Need?
Back when I was a high school student earning minimum wage, I had a conversation about money with a friend. We talked about our various schemes for getting rich, and we talked about what that really meant. I still recall what I said: “I eventually want to get a job earning $50,000 a year. Then I will be financially secure.”
Alas, it wasn’t quite as simple as that. Indeed, in my small hometown of Hugo, Oklahoma, $50,000 a year is a good living. The median household income of a Hugo family is about $21,267 a year, and you can buy a nice house for $100,000. I daresay I could have stayed there, earned $50,000 a year, and worked my way to millionaire status.
But I ventured out into the world. At times I lived in places where $50,000 a year would have had a family living in near poverty. So the amount of money you need to feel financially secure is highly dependent on where you make your home.
However, the perception of how much you need in order to feel financially secure also depends on your age, and the overall economic outlook. In January and again in June of this year, Charles Schwab’s 2020 Modern Wealth Survey asked 1,000 adults between 21 and 75 what personal net worth it would take to feel “financially comfortable” and “wealthy.”
The numbers varied by age group, and notably after the March market meltdown, Americans decided they didn’t need quite as much as they thought they needed in January. Here were the findings.
Perceptions of Wealth
Americans on average felt like they needed $934,000 in January to be financially comfortable. In the June survey, that dropped to $655,000. The average American believed that it takes $2.6 million to be considered wealthy. That number dropped to $2 million in June.
For Millennials (ages 24 to 39), the net worth they felt it takes to be financially comfortable was $764,000 in January and $500,000 in the June survey. They believed that you need $2.2 million in January to be considered wealthy, but that dropped to $1.7 million in June.
For my generation, Gen X (ages 40 to 55), we believed that to be financially comfortable required $1.5 million in January and $943,000 in the June survey. These were by far the highest numbers of any age group, perhaps reflecting the general pessimism of my generation. We estimated that the net worth it takes to be wealthy was $3.1 million in January and $2.1 million in June.
For Baby boomers (ages 56 to 74), in January they believed it requires $716,000 to be financially comfortable in January, and $559,000 in June. To be wealthy required $2.8 million in January and $2.2 million in June.
The results also revealed that most Americans (57%) said that they were financially impacted by Covid-19, with millennials most affected (69%).
In my experience, the amount of money it takes to feel both financially comfortable and wealthy is a moving target, usually somewhere beyond your current wealth.
However, I believe almost everyone has the capacity to reach those targets. You don’t have to earn six figures, although it helps. What you do need to do is invest consistently according to a plan, and allow compounding to build your wealth over time. We are here to help you traverse that path.
One smart long-term strategy is to consistently invest in dividend-paying stocks, especially utilities. You don’t have to be an income investor to love dividend-paying utilities.
Dividend-payers are time-proven vehicles for long-term wealth building, but they’re also safe harbors in turbulent seas because companies with robust and rising dividends by definition boast the strongest fundamentals. For our list of high-yielding utilities equities, click here.
Robert Rapier is the chief investment strategist of Utility Forecaster.