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In this land of opportunity, Americans may believe that it's harder to get rich than it used to be. But when asked about the likelihood of getting rich personally, about one-third say it's very or somewhat likely that they will attain wealth because of their work, investments, inheritance or good luck.

On the other hand, 63% say it's not too likely or not at all likely they'll get rich. Just 2% volunteered that they're already rich. commissioned Princeton Survey Research Associates International to explore how people feel about their chances for prosperity, as well as how they define wealth and their motivations for pursuing it.

Hope springs eternal -- for the young. More than half (54%) of those 18 to 29 believe they will become rich. Meanwhile, reality sets in with the passage of time. Only 34% of respondents in the 30-to-49 age range believe they will be rich, while 21% in the 50-plus age group think so.

What is rich, anyway?

Most people don't equate wealth with a yacht in the Mediterranean and a house on every continent. A meager 7% of respondents define "rich" by possessions such as houses, cars and boats.

Instead, for at least 33% of Americans, rich means having enough money not to worry, according to the survey. That's a subjective definition that varies with lifestyle and attitude. An additional 26% define rich as having enough money to quit their jobs.

"I think there is a paradox about it. People could live smaller than they do. There are a lot of McMansion inhabitants who could do that if they wanted to, but they slide on the golden handcuffs, and that is part of what keeps you from feeling rich," says Peter Rodriguez, an associate professor of business administration at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business.

Few people put dollar amounts on the definition of wealth. Just 17% say that being rich means having a net worth of $1 million or more, and 11% say a six-figure annual income makes someone rich.

Most people who are rich don't consider themselves rich. It's a relational feeling, Rodriguez says.

"For example, you take someone who has been earning $40,000 a year and bump them up to $100,000 -- they feel rich," he says. "Even if they increase their lifestyle, they don't have to worry about their old bills anymore. But if you take someone who is making $150,000, they feel poor unless they make $300,000."

How to get rich

One-fifth of Americans believe that starting a business is the most likely way to get rich.

History supports that belief. Most self-made millionaires are small-business owners, says Greg McBride,'s senior financial analyst.

Choosing a high-paying job or career comes in second (19%) as the most likely path to getting rich.