Feeling Rich

What does it take to feel rich? Is it a certain amount of money? A way of looking at the world? Or something else entirely?

According to a 2011 Gallup Poll on this topic, “Americans generally would consider themselves rich if they made $150,000 per year or had $1 million in net worth”.

That would argue for “feeling rich” requiring making a certain amount of money per year, but the actual responses to the poll ranged from not stating an amount of money at all, to believing they’d need to make more than $1 million a year. Clearly, it’s subjective.

And it’s all relative

Feeling rich is personal, which also means it’s also relative to our individual situations — and how we compare ourselves to others. No matter what your income level, you’re unlikely to feel rich if everyone around you is visibly better off than you are — even if the folks you’re comparing yourself to are just characters on TV. (And we all know how realistic TV is, hah.)

Of course, your current numbers matter too. If your household income is $29K your threshold of “rich” will be a whole lot lower than it would be if you made $250K a year. In fact, at $250K a year, you’d probably think it’d be hard to “only” scrape by on $150K. Yet that same $150K might seem like an obscene amount of money to the family getting by on $29K. That probably explains why 18% of people thought they would be rich if they made less than $60K a year.

Life experience

Your financial history will color how you feel as well. I feel rich every single time I go to the grocery store because I can buy whatever I want to eat. If you’ve never had to choose between toilet paper and food, you probably don’t have that feeling. Yet I wouldn’t trade that experience, because it’s given me perspective and the opportunity to feel really grateful on a regular basis. And that’s a good thing.

Someone who grew up having their every whim indulged with daily purchases might not feel rich no matter how much they can afford; or maybe they would feel rich once their earnings surpassed their parents. I have no idea.

Most of us probably fall somewhere in between those ranges.

A combination

What it boils down to is that feeling rich is a combination of things: your past, present, income level, lifestyle, and your general outlook.

So what about you? Do you feel rich now? Have you in the past? What do you think the deciding factor is in your case?

Today’s tweetable: [tweetherder]What does it take to feel rich? [/tweetherder]


  • I always felt rich was someone else! I have a lot more choices than most, but I do not feel rich.

  • I guess if I spent everything I made every month I’d feel richer but I doubt I would feel rich even tthough I do very well. There is always someone better off to compare yourself to even if you know you shouldn’t.

    • Yeah, there’s usually someone better off to compare yourself with if you won’t, but I’d imagine that if you spent more of what you made, you’d actually feel less well-off.

  • Wasn’t there another poll that said Americans need to make $75,000/year to feel happy? I’ll take happiness, but $150,000 would be pretty nice too :)

  • Great topic, the fact is that if you live in America you are one of the richest people in the world. But with that being said I know people at all income levels who would say that they are not rich. I just think it comes down to most of us define rich as somebody making more money than us, when in fact the truth is most of us have all our needs already met.

  • I feel rich when we are living on way less than what we make. Right now, I feel poor because of the new house. But maybe I’ll feel rich next week.

  • Lisa

    I feel rich when I stop to think that 40 percent of the world lives on $2 a day or less. I only feel poor when I compare our rented 750 sq foot house and $30-36 thousand a year with the rich-er folks around me. Really, I AM rich, even if YOU don’t think so! I have more than 6 changes of clothes. I can go to the store for food, drive a car, and even treat myself at times. Well… Guess how low a percentage of the world can do all that? Count your many, many blessings, folks!

  • Eddie

    I’ll feel rich when I have enough of an income from investments to live comfortably without having to work a job. IMO financial freedom = rich.

    • Oh, that’s a good point about financial freedom. Even the amount of money required for that can vary dramatically though.

  • Vaughan

    I would generally have to agree with this article and comments above…and would just add…knowing you are blessed is the first step to feeling rich regardless of your income status…

  • Like you, I feel rich when I’m doing the groceries and get to buy stuff most people can’t buy. I am not wealthy but I’m content with the things that I can afford and with the people around me, which is my family.

  • This is hard because I also think it’s so geographical. I certainly wouldn’t feel or even come close to being rich with that amount of money, not in Vancouver. Unless, of course, that was after tax earnings and I didn’t have to work a lot for it.

  • This post makes so much sense to me in so many ways! My family has lived on less than $50k a year for two years; we will bring in substantially more than that this year, but no where NEAR $150k, and we are feeling very, very rich. I agree with Daisy, though – geography has a lot to do with it too; we’d never feel this way living in a city like NYC, DC, or SF.