There's a new study out about a truly surprising thing that an overwhelming number of millionaires have in common.
First, a quick story. Then, we'll get to the data.
A while ago, I was visiting a good friend. We have a lot in common. We're about the same age, roughly similar education, same strong work ethic.
We've followed different paths though, and frankly he's a lot more financially successful than I am. Even though I've met a lot of very wealthy people as a result of my writing, he might be one of the richest people I know.
It's not a big deal in our friendship; I've got no complaints about my own situation, and it doesn't get in the way of anything. But that doesn't mean it's not noticeable.
In fact, when I was out with him and a half dozen of his work colleagues that day, it meant spending the day with people whose net worth was a multiple of mine, many times over.
Here's what I realized: It's never enough.
Even the wealthiest people in the group spent a lot of time talking about things they wished they could afford: Bigger houses, more expensive boats, more extravagant cars, more impressive vacations. All that kind of stuff.
They were completely self-aware about this, by they way. They even joked about it -- a sort of rich people's gallows humor.
But the memory popped to mind recently when I read a fascinating statistic from Ameriprise Financial, which surveyed "more than 3,000 U.S. adults ... with at least $100,000 in investable assets, including more than 700 millionaires."
The eye-opening takeaway: Only 13 percent of people with more than $1 million in investable assets think of themselves as "wealthy."
Note that "investable assets" means only easily liquid assets. You exclude things like the value of your home, which is what makes up the lion's share of a lot of people's net worth. So these are people who likely are worth several million dollars, at least.
Business Insider, which reported on this statistic, also cited two other studies with similar results:
- The 2019 Modern Wealth Survey from Charles Schwab found that Americans think it takes $2.3 million for someone to break into the ranks of the wealthy.
- A separate study with Morning Consult that found wide disparities among how much money people think you need in order to go from the middle class to the wealthy. In some cases, people earning as little as $50,000 a year felt rich; in others, people earning $100,000 felt poor.
Of course, $1 million today is not what it was 20 or 50 or 100 years ago. Neither is $2 million or $5 million or $10 million.
It also matters a lot where you live, and how old you are, whether having a few million puts you in line with or ahead of your peers.
But still, the median net worth of a U.S. household is only about $97,300, according to the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances.
Even at just $1 million, you'd be 10 times above that. So, does a few million dollars make you wealthy?
I guarantee you that a lot of people in America would say yes, it absolutely does. But I can see how it feels differently when you get there.
How wealthy are you? For the vast majority of millionaires, apparently, the answer is basically: Compared to what?
I can't help but think of a quote, something the author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote nearly 100 years ago: "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me."