10 Ways Americans Define Wealth

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2.2 Million — that’s the amount of money Americans say you need to feel wealthy, according to the Charles Schwab Modern Wealth Survey 2023. But this number doesn’t tell the whole story.

When asked what wealth meant to them, 40% of Americans said well-being and only 32% said money. It turns out that while wealth is typically described in terms of dollar amounts, there are other intangible things in life that can make someone feel wealthy — and people value them more. Here are 10 ways Americans define wealth.


In the Charles Schwab Modern Wealth survey, consumers were asked a series of questions. They had to choose between two statements and decide which defined wealth more.

When asked which defined wealth more between “having a fulfilling personal life” and “working on my career,” 72% chose a fulfilling personal life. The survey asked numerous other questions and time and time again, a majority of respondents chose answers that were more in line with general well-being than having large sums of money in the bank.


Speaking of money, the Schwab survey showed that 48% of Americans feel wealthy and the average net worth of those who feel wealthy was $560k (a far cry from the 2.2 million many believed was necessary in order to be considered wealthy.)

Interestingly, when asked which defined wealth more, having a lot of money or having healthy relationships with family and loved ones, 62% chose healthy relationships as a more accurate definition of wealth to them.

Make Your Money Work Better for You


Americans value their time and freedom more than money. When asked which described wealth better, having a higher salary or having the flexibility to work wherever and whenever, 60% chose flexibility.

While having more money can technically buy freedom and cherished experiences with family, what this data shows is Americans also value having autonomy — a say in how they spend their work days.


The Schwab survey showed most Americans valued time over money. A majority (61%) said time was more important than money.

Boomers, in particular, value time over money, as 67% of them chose time over money versus 56% of millennials. This makes sense since boomers are closer to the end of their lives than millennials, meaning they are prone to cherish and value time even more.


Assets are an integral part of the financial definition of wealth. That is, consumers use assets when calculating their overall net worth, and 26% of respondents chose assets when asked to describe their definition of wealth.

Assets can include anything from houses and cars to stocks and bank accounts. They are a physical and concrete definition of wealth versus a more abstract concept like well-being.


For many, having what they need and not having to stress over money is a large part of feeling wealthy. For 70% of survey respondents, not having to stress over money was a better definition of wealth than having more money than others. This is good, as it means people are more concerned with taking care of their own well-being than being wealthier than others.

Make Your Money Work Better for You


For Americans, it’s part of the culture to pursue goals, especially career and financial goals. But, 63% of respondents said being in good health is a better definition of wealth than being successful. Again, this shows the prioritization of health and well-being over the trappings of success.


A surprising amount of people preferred enjoying experiences over things. A large portion (70%) of respondents said enjoying experiences was a better definition of wealth than owning many nice things. 


The Schwab Wealth Survey asked about passing down wealth to family members, but 64% of respondents chose their definition of wealth as paying for experiences with family now over leaving an inheritance for family members later. Similarly, 67% of respondents preferred being generous with loved ones now over leaving an inheritance. 


Many Americans define wealth in relation to their friends and family. When asked if their life compared to friends and family impacts how wealthy they feel, 61% of Gen Z and 61% of millennials said yes.

Additionally, 54% of Gen Z and 47% of millennials said they compared their lifestyle to friends and family on social media. Whether we like it or not, many people define their wealth in relation to others.

Final Thoughts

Americans define wealth in many different ways, from how much money they have to how much time they have to how many luxuries they have in comparison to those closest to them. What’s interesting though, is when asked numerous questions about the definition of wealth, many Americans chose answers more in line with well-being than cash in the bank.

Make Your Money Work Better for You

It turns out, you can’t put a price on time with family, your health, enjoying your loved ones and having a fulfilling personal life. Perhaps that’s why Americans believe those intangibles make them truly wealthy above all else.

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