The World’s Richest Country Has No Concept of Wealth

How much money would it take to make you feel wealthy? What is wealth? What is money? These are just some of the mind-bending questions raised by the results of a new Charles Schwab Corp. survey taken way back in Ye Olden Times of February.

In a bit of a head-scratcher, the survey found that people think it takes $2.2 million in net worth to be “wealthy,” down from $2.6 million in 2020, just before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Survey respondents think it takes $774,000 to be “comfortable,” which is down from $934,000.

Given that consumer price inflation has soared from about 2% year-over-year before the pandemic to roughly 8% now, you might think people would need more cash to feel “wealthy,” “comfortable” or “able to buy milk.” Then again, maybe the pandemic has made us lower our sights a bit. Perhaps all it takes to feel wealthy now is an RV, a pleasant Zoom background, maybe a home office on the French Riviera.

In fact, the Schwab survey also found many respondents highly value, uh, values when considering employment. More than half said they’d take a lower-paying job for a company that “better represents personal values or interests.” Of course, my personal values and interests include a home office on the French Riviera, so your mileage may vary here.

Still, 89% of respondents said they wanted fulfilling work, 85% said they wanted the respect of their colleagues and 84% said values guided their career. Lest you think such numbers merely reflect the attitudes of so many woke Millennials, consider that Gen X and Baby Boomers together made up 56% of survey respondents.

So maybe money really is slightly less important these days. And from a global perspective, you could say $2.2 million is still exorbitant, considering the median global income is roughly $12,000. Teen grocery clerks — or at least the ones not yet replaced by self-checkout machines — in America might be considered wealthy, or at least comfortable, by such standards.