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What you need to feel rich: $150,000 a year

Nearly a third of those surveyed by Gallup said they'd feel wealthy if they made even less than that.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 9, 2011 6:04PM

This post comes from Seth Fiegerman at partner site MainStreet.


MainStreet on MSN MoneyMost Americans don't need to earn millions of dollars to feel rich -- just $150,000 a year would pretty much do it.


Gallup surveyed more than 1,000 adults and found that the median amount a person needs to feel wealthy is an annual salary of $150,000 and a net worth of $1 million. That's still just a fraction of the average after-tax income of those who count among the wealthiest 1% of Americans.


The amount needed to feel rich has remained strikingly consistent in recent years. In a 2003 survey, Gallup found that Americans would feel rich earning $120,000 a year and having a net worth of, yes, $1 million. Post continues below.

By that standard at least, America is becoming a richer nation -- the number of millionaires in the U.S. increased to more than 3 million this year. Unfortunately, wages for low- and middle-income earners have remained relatively stagnant, meaning the dream of earning six figures remains as unattainable for many Americans now as it was eight years ago when Gallup asked the same question.


However, many of those surveyed this time around did admit they would feel rich earning less. Nearly a third of those surveyed said they would consider themselves wealthy earning less than $99,999 a year and roughly half would feel rich with less than $1 million in net worth.


How much would you need to earn a year to really consider yourself wealthy? Let us know in the comments section below.


More on MainStreet and MSN Money:

Dec 12, 2011 3:06PM

I'm 32. My salary is about $100k. My wife started working about a year ago and will earns $70k. We live a modest lifestyle with our two young children. We drive a '99 and '98 sedan and mini-SUV. We have saved consistently. Even though we bought a house in a mid-Atlantic city in mid-2006 we will pay it off this coming year and still fund Roth IRAs.

We do not have i-phones, i-pads, and a personal goal is to be one of the last people without a flat screen TV. My wife and I are both Americans that grew up middle class in poorer countries. I get angry about the US trade inbalance, the lack of personal savings, and the lack of personal responsibility among too many Americans.

Remember the story of the grasshopper and the ants. In the original version the grasshopper starved and froze. We live with the consequences of our choices. Like working instead of partying when we are young adults. I will never be rich, but I will be wealthy with a net worth over a million dollars in 10-15 years and still drive a used car.

Unfortunately my million dollars will be slashed by the continued devaluation of the dollar and increased taxes. Too much of my taxes will go to interest against our massive national debt and subsidising poor choices of individuals.

Dec 9, 2011 11:04PM

I've noticed a lot of negative, smart **** remarks towards people that earn over 100+K, that have said, "150K isn't as much as one thinks".. Why is that?  Why do people feel the need to say rude ****?  They're all just opinions coming from many different people, from many different walks of life. 


I for one make over 100K, I never went to college, I barely graduated highschool for christs sake, but I bust my **** working hard, always have.  I've worked full-time since I was 15 yrs old, I've never been without job longer than 1 day, and I'm 33 now.  I've been with my current company for 11 yrs, and started my own company on the side 3 yrs ago.  It just takes motivation and common sense.  I think a lot of people get wrapped up in thinking they deserve more than they do, without having to work HARD for it.  Your not going places or progressing sitting at home collecting unemployment checks and food stamps, thats for sure.  I know quite a few people that sit at home, collect their checks and are perfectly content with it... Well, there ya go.. Thats what they deserve then, the bare minimum.  They're next job will be the bare minimum, and so on, and so on... You have to WANT and be WILLING to go above and beyond to change your current situation.. I paid my dues when I started with my current company, i worked 60-80 hrs a week for 4 years with NO overtime or compensation, I didn't bitch or complain about it either, but when it came time when work slowed down and everyone got laid off, guess who was still there? And thats the same reason I'm still with the same company today, 11 yrs later.. I had faith that my hard work would pay off, and it did, I've been able to endure these rough few years by staying employed, and its all due to my work performance 9 years ago.. Hard, honest work, eventually, will always pay off.

Dec 11, 2011 10:26AM

Naturally, it's all relative. My wife and I can live comfortably on 33 grand a year and pay all the bills and still save 40% of my pretax income. From our savings, we fund a Roth IRA, our taxable investment accounts, and even manage to bank 13% outright for rainy days. Direct deposit makes self discipline relatively easy and painless.


But we cook all our own meals. We take public buses--except for an occasional jaunt to the bulk stores in our 12 year old car--a real cream puff--that I meticulously maintain. We bake our own bread and pizza. We grow our herbs and vegetables. We buy fresh--not processed or packaged foods. We entertain ourselves by having movie nights at home.  We prefer casual attire and repair our clothes as needed. My wife has a sewing machine and does our curtains and pillow covers.  When possible,  I fix stuff around the house or have a pro repair it---and if it can't be fixed---I dismantle the appliance for parts and even save the screws and bolts. And we like to visit the garage sales for bargain prices on a host of useful household goods.


Frugal living is indeed an art form. It's the most personally rewarding of the performing arts. 


Ask yourself: Do you really need a $1000 stereo system when a $50 clock radio gives you music and wakes you up? Do you need a brand new car for 30 grand when a decent used model sells for 5 to 10 grand?  And rather than fly to Las Vegas--gambling away our money--we just fill the jaccuzzi, light some scented candles, serve a glass of chilled white wine and add some Mr. Bubble bath soap--and we both feel like winners on a holiday.  Relaxed and refreshed--and giggling--all the way to the bank. I'm sure we'll have our million in net worth and a more substantial pension before we're done.  For whatever that's worth in 20 years.  But even if our financial fortunes and modest lifestyle never change--we'll still be happy as long as we both have our health and we're together. 

Dec 9, 2011 10:25PM
I am rich.  I have a roof over my head, running water, electricity, heat, and (although sometimes with great effort) decent food on my table.  There is little I want of material things and even less that I need.  With a family of five, we have two college degrees (almost three) and make about $46,000 before taxes.  We work hard but enjoy our work.  We don't have the fanciest or newest of anything, but we don't need it.  We make do with what we have and enjoy that and each other.  Life is what you make of it, and wealth is more than any amount money could ever achieve.
Dec 10, 2011 12:19AM
I make almost $500,000.  I live comfortably.  I was not raised rich.  Put myself through college and medical school. My first job was at age 10 delivering newspapers and I've worked ever since.  I love my work and I work hard.  The key at any income level (and I've experienced poor for quite awhile) is to not spend everything you have.  You must save.  I saved when I was poor, and I save now.  You do not need a high income to save. 
Dec 10, 2011 3:47PM

By some standards (this article, and Obama) I am considered financially rich. My wife and I are in our mid 30's (36 & 35). I make approximately $210K a year (IT) and my wife makes $90K a year (Lawyer). Together, we make $300-310K annually. We are very appreciative for what we receive and do not for one second take it for granted.  This year we will be paying approximately $80k in federal income taxes.  Because many in Congress, and those in the Occupy Movement feel that we aren't paying our "fair" share, I fully expect my tax rates to be going up.

I understand that our current income puts us in about the top 1.5% of all income earners, but I don't take it for granted. We spend, and live like we made 100k (up until this year my wife drove a 11yr old car because she didn't want to have a new car payment, and my house is worth about $175K. I'm willing to bet that there are many readers reading this that make less than me, but have a house worth more than mine.). Unfortunately, it appears that many don't follow similar life styles.  My wife is a bankruptcy lawyer, so she deals with people daily who have hit the hardest of financial times, and one thing that is consistent is that people have a hard time managing their money, and understanding what is affordable. While many do fall on hard time (lost job, health problems), poor financial management is a big portion of her cases. It surprsing what a person making $35-40K a year things they can afford.  $700 month BMW payment, $150 month cell phone bill, $10-15K in credit card debt. These cases are way to common.  I watched a show on Discovery channel a couple of years ago that followed Lottery winners. In the show they displayed an alarming statistic. They said that 75% of all lottery winners in the US go broke after 5 years from their last lottery check. This is surprising, and embarrassing quite honestly.


Americans have to get better with financial management. Living comfortably just means living within your means, so a couple making $100K a year can actually have more financial freedom than a couple making $400K a year if they know how to manage their properly.

Dec 9, 2011 11:48PM

Riches are not necessarily monetary.  The riches mentioned in the article are based on money.

I too was born into what is considered a poor family.  I was taught to work hard, keep my word, and pay my bills.  I have always been a very hard worker and have been blessed for it.  I do not have a college education, (didn't have enough money to go to college.) My husband and I are now in our 50's, have 7 children and own 5 businesses, which employs over 100 people.  We have found the more we give to others the more blessed we are.  We have been given wisdom and the ability to help and bless others.  Our employees are our extended family.  As we help others, mostly by training and teaching people simple skills, responsibility, respect, discipline, through working with them and providing them jobs...many times when we don't really need them, but they want and need a job...we find a place for them.  Our lives are full, yet we keep growing.  The more we grow, the more people we can employ and embrace.   We are definitely in the people business.  Without our employees and family, we do not have businesses.  They are the most important gift to us.  In return, we will always make room for them.   My prayer is for every person who responded to this, would find a job and find happiness...Jobs are out must be willing to work...I do believe that having a positive attitude, and believing in yourself....makes a huge difference.  Opportunities are all around us if we open our eyes to see them.  Jobs are all around us.  You will only see them, if you are willing to work hard at anything.  It may not be your first choice, but work hard, with your best effort, and you will be rewarded. 

Dec 12, 2011 10:28AM
This isn't just about money.  It all starts with the choices you made in your past and everyone needs to own up to their past decisions.  The path of decision starts from your grade school to high school to college and so on.  Not only that, your life is a result of what you worked hard at.  I'm sure most people work hard, but how many people make them selves marketable instead of doing something out of their passion?  For example, my passion is drawing - but I didn't major in arts and I wouldn't blame others if I did major in arts and can't find a job.  I am a living proof that you can be 'rich' if you work hard at the right things - yes, this country is still the land of opportunity for those seeking.  Unfortunately, this country is also becoming a land of entitlement as more people are quicker to hate others for being successful.
Dec 9, 2011 9:58PM

Between me and my wife this year we will make around $180,000. We are in our early 40's both college graduate and no student loans (we both worked while we were in school), and believe me nothing was even given or handed to  us. We live in a nice house in a golf course community and both drive nice cars and proud of it. American dream is still out there just have to work hard at it. President Obama is not keeping anyone from getting their college degree or a job so don't blame him or anyone else. Everyone wants something given to them for nothing, work hard, live within your means and it will all pay off in the long run. Good luck folks  Smile

Dec 10, 2011 5:11PM

I make about $150K annually and have a net worth of about $750K.  I worked my butt off like Zerozee to get where I am today.  Excellent post by the way.  I don't feel rich, I feel "vaguely comfortable" because I know it could all come crashing down tomorrow.  2008 was a huge wake-up call for me.  We live within our means and I always make sure there is something - anything - put aside each paycheck.  We support charities where we can, help out our adult kids without making them dependent, and *gasp* yes, we even loan money on occasion to family that really, really need it.  I too max out every year on social security taxes and fully expect it to not be there when I eventually retire.  Rather than getting irate over not getting out what I paid in over the past 40 years, I prefer to think of it as the price of admission for living in the greatest country in the history of the plant.  Yes, we have our problems - but would you want to live anywhere else?

Dec 9, 2011 11:34PM

There is a big difference between feeling rich and living comfortably.  Many posts here criticize people who are making over $150K.  These people aren't necessarily complaining and may be living comfortably, but they don't feel rich.  My wife and I make $160K combined.  We both went to college, and my wife has a Masters degree. We have 2 kids, trying to put some money away for the kids education and put some money away for our retirement.  We have a nice house and feel fortunate, but we certainly don't feel rich.

Dec 11, 2011 2:17PM
150k per yr is relative to where you live. It's not a great deal when you live in L.A. or NY City. It is a good amount in the mid west rural areas. What makes it more valuable is being debt free. With no debt about 1/2 that amount is adequate in the midwest to be comfortable.
Dec 9, 2011 9:24PM
To consider myself wealthy would be to have all my bills paid on time, to be debt free, to know that I would always have enough money to meet expenses and not have to worry about money all the time.  THAT would make me feel wealthy. 
Dec 10, 2011 12:36AM
I'm a stay-at-home mom by choice that dreams of having a job again so I can buy new clothes, appliances and eat at restaurants again.  But I'm rich because I get to spend every waking hour of the day with my children.  Financially rich?  Yes, 6 figures would do it easily.  But I'm richly blessed with what I have and I'm choosing to live with less income because raising my own children is more important to me than money. 
Dec 10, 2011 1:36PM

I guess I'm rich enough to drop a few dollars into the fire department or rescue squad pail at the intesections...leave a quarter in a vending machine, so some kid finds enough to give to my local churches (regardless of denomination), who provide help to those who need it in my enough to drop a bag of toys into the "toys for tots" bin during the enough to donate my time at project for humanity and our local soup kitchen....


Let's be honest...many of us make more than we really need, even if we have continual wants...If you started with very little (like myself) and are now relatively comfortable, hopefully you don't forget where you came from and are not afraid to give back when you can. I remember reading somewhere recently that those who make more than 100k represent less than 10% of our population. So if you make that or more, remain humble and consider yourself blessed that you were given the good fortune or capability to do so. I know I do.

irritated teacher........Let me get this can't meet your legal financial responsibilities; however, you can go out and buy a brand new car.
Dec 9, 2011 11:29PM
That sounds good until you make $150,000 and realize you still aren't rich. 99% of Americans spend to their income so you never get ahead and thus never feel rich. You can be comfortable at any income if you live below your means and make saving a priority. Too many people make excuses to not save though and thus every bonus, raise, or promotion gets wasted away and no progress is ever made. A mortgage might be 28% when you are 30 but by the time you are 50, your mortgage should be down to 10% or 15% if not 0%. You can't get ahead if your bills raise as fast or faster than your income. That is just common sense that eludes many.
Dec 9, 2011 9:58PM
I earn 175,000 a year.  I'm not rich.  The best way to be happy financially is to live within your means.  I grew up two blocks from the housing projects and was raised blue collar.......completed my college education the hard way......over a ten year period at night while working during the day and raising a family.  I worked hard to get what I earn....wasn't handed to me.  America is the land of opportunity but there is no guarantees.....even with a college degree.  Simply live within your cash for everything and no vices.  Old school all the way.
Dec 10, 2011 12:29AM
Someone always wants what you have. Dress down, grow your hair and beard long. See how people respond to you. That's the fun you get out of being rich. Look at all the phonies running around. Drop a $10 bill on the ground next to a homeless person and ask them if they dropped it? Let them pick it up and make a difference in  their day. That's joy. When a kid has not got enough money in the store line. Pitch in and give him some change. That's compassion. There will always be someone who has less than we do.
Dec 12, 2011 11:23AM
People relate it to their own situations. 150K in Seattle won't go as far as 150K in Sheridan WY. It's all relative.
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