What Does “Rich” Mean To You?

My Twitter following grew hand-in-hand with the newsletter. On Twitter I really just wanted 1,000 followers figuring that might be enough to crowdsource. That was a goal because Yinh and I would randomly text friends with a question to settle our own debates. I remember sitting in a cab as she blasted a group “Do you know what a solstice is?” because I claimed this was “common knowledge”.

Well I used Twitter this week for a survey.

“What number do you consider “rich”?

There are over 400 respondents by now but the poll is still open. You can see the thread and take the brief, anonymous survey here.

You can see the results here.

There’s 2 centimillionaires. 5% of respondents have a net worth greater than $10mm. And the relationship between wealth and age is fairly strong until about age 30 but then the correlation becomes much weaker. Lots of very rich 30 and 40 somethings. And there’s a 22-year-old worth $3mm. Smells like someone who has been mining ETH since high school.

The 400 respondents have a combined wealth of over $1.2b. Several people have joked that I have a valuable email list. But I did not collect email addresses. It will be interesting to see how the numbers change now that this mailing list is getting the survey. Then I’ll know just how valuable your email addresses are, muahaha!!!

Let me explain the context of this survey in the first place. It was a piggyback to my wealth tax email last weekend. A friend told me that he once read that people consider net worths 4x larger than their own to be “rich”. The reason this is interesting is you would expect that people in favor of a wealth tax would try to draw the line in relative terms since “rich” is relative. So someone worth $1mm might think $4mm should be the line, while the top respondent on our survey would draw the line at $1b.

In this case, I was trying to see if there was a relationship between a person’s net worth and what they considered rich. This sample produced a median multiple of 5. So someone with $1mm thought $5mm made you rich. Also, the median amount the entire sample considered to be rich was $5mm. That’s comforting. On average people who were worth at least $5mm considered themselves to be rich. So if you hit that mark, there’s a fair chance your neighbor’s yacht won’t actually make you feel as poor as those headlines of NYers making $750k/yr barely making ends meet will have you believe.

Many people sent me their definitions of being rich incorporating age, expenses, what makes them happy, where they live and so on. I wasn’t looking for thoughtful responses. I was looking for a gut impression. I used the word “rich” specifically for that reason. “Rich” is a child’s world. When I was a kid if another boy had that GI Joe aircraft carrier, they were automatically “rich”. It’s ironically a low-brow word. People were telling me the difference between rich and wealthy (which Chris Rock once quipped is the difference between Shaquille O’Neal and the person who signs his checks). I wasn’t interested in such nuance. Rich…first number that comes to your head. Go.

Back to the results. Of course fintwitters visualized the data. Of course fintwitters had comments. That’s the fun in this. Here’s a thread of reactions.

And as Kamil said, the best take points out that almost everyone thinks that $5mm is the bar for being rich. I’m only off by a factor of 2 when I said that $10mm was the new millionaire. In fact as of 2020, to be a 1%-er in the US a household needs $11mm!

And if you want to see net worth in the US by age as of 2020, you can find that table here.

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