Being a millionaire is no longer the ultimate goal for most Americans

Less than 20% of Americans, across all age groups, equate financial success with being a millionaire, according to Bankrate’s 2024 Financial Success survey released last week. A major reason for this could be that $1 million is not a windfall in the current economic environment. Rather, financial success is more of a feeling than a concrete number, and the feeling workers seek is comfort.

“Living comfortably,” respondents told Bankrate, means being able to meet daily expenses while also being able to save and get rid of debt. For each individual, that figure is likely to vary, which is why the million-dollar mark is virtually meaningless.

A separate Bankrate survey conducted last summer found that the average American feels they need to earn $233,000 a year to be financially comfortable. Unfortunately, that’s 310% more than what the average full-time worker earned in 2021 ($75,203, according to the Census Bureau).

Just over 60% of Americans are hopeful that they will one day reach that milestone of comfort, Bankrate found, though only one in 10 people consider themselves already financially successful. Unfortunately, almost 30% say they will never get there.

“With the worst inflation crisis in 40 years far from over, the U.S. economy could be causing a bit of ‘goal dysmorphia’ for many Americans,” Bankrate analyst Sarah Foster wrote in the report. However, the only thing people really want is to simply get to a place where money is no longer a concern.

If you want to go one step further and feel wealthy, That’s another can of worms. Respondents to Charles Schwab’s 2023 Modern Wealth Survey said they would need a net worth of at least $2.2 million to consider themselves wealthy.

The survey found that each age group pushed back their expected timeline for achieving their version of financial success. Most members of Generation Z said they expect to be financially successful in their 30s. Most millennials are aiming for 40, while Generation X is aiming for 50.

The older respondents got, the more pessimistic they became about achieving financial success. Nearly two in five members of Generation X and baby boomers said financial success is a pipe dream; 20% of millennials and 11% of Gen Z said the same.

Those who have not yet achieved their version of financial success say they need to make more money, increase their savings, pay off their debt and invest more. Perhaps the best way to achieve comfort is through smart investment. “Historically, participating in the financial markets has been the best way to ensure that your money not only keeps pace, but outpaces inflation over time,” Foster wrote.

But nearly a tenth of that subset said any of these measures are useless; No matter what they do with their money, they will never be financially successful.

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