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wundayatta's avatar

What income/net worth is enough to categorize someone as rich?

Asked by wundayatta (58722points) January 15th, 2010

On another question asking how much money people believe would make them happy, we were throwing around terms like “rich,” “poor,” and “middle class.” It’s hard to know what people mean by these terms without asking. So I’m asking.

In concrete numbers, either in terms of annual income or current net worth, where would you draw the line? Or, if you prefer, you can do it in the relative sense—the top 5% or top 10% or whatever in annual income or net worth. Also, choose whether you are talking about individual income or family income.

Try to explain why you chose these numbers. Also explain why you think income is more important or equally important as, or less important than net worth in determining “rich.” My guess is that people generally think that rich is something they are not. So they’ll put the line above them. Very few people will admit to richness, even if they are in the top 5%.

For me, I think if your family earns more than $250,000 per year or has a net worth of more than $2 million, I’d call you rich. If it’s above $500 thousand per year and $10 million net worth, I’d call you very rich. And above $1 million per year and $100 million net worth, I’d call that filthy rich.

I think that income and net worth should be considered with equal importance. Why these numbers? Seems to me they are where people, even with a lavish life, don’t have to worry if the income stream should stop. They’ll be set for life, even if they have to cut back on their life style.

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22 Answers

gemiwing's avatar

I think location is just as important. 100k a year in Manhattan isn’t much, while in Eastern TN it would be quite cushy.

For my region I would say any family (three dependents or less) making 200k a year or more as rich. Same family base making 100–200k upper-middle class. 85–100k is a gray area to me. 45–80k middle class. 24–45k is lower middle class. 12–24k is working poor because not much saving can be done at this level and life tends to be paycheck to paycheck. Below 12k is poor.

Tenpinmaster's avatar

According to Obama, 250,000… then the IRS is gonna tax the crap out of u.

BoBo1946's avatar

relative…many people in Haiti live on 2 dollars a day! So, 10 dollars a week might be rich to them.

mowens's avatar

If you make more than me: Rich
If you make less than me: Poor

Very simple.

dpworkin's avatar

I have heard that genuine wealth, in formal economic terms, begins at around $11 million in assets other than the home.

pjanaway's avatar

I earn 6 figures a year, bought a half a mil dollar apartment outright and I’m only 23, but I don’t consider myself upper class/rich, I consider myself middle. I don’t personally think of upper class as what you earn per year. But how much you have in total, I mean you could have like 10 mil worth of property’s and I would say your upper class/rich.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

All these terms are relative. There are no particular boundaries to the terms. Someone like Rupert Murdoch may tell you that an income of $2m per year is modest, while people in the slums of India would express the greatest envy for the family in the next street who could afford to feed every family member each day.
As a student, I tend to think that anyone who can afford a holiday, a new car, or even to pay their fees up front is monstrously rich. Next year I will be on a good income, considering my age, so I will draw the line higher.

ETpro's avatar

It’s not a specific term, and as others have pointed out, what it takes to be rich in very affluent neighborhoods is quite a lot more than what it takes in areas with a low cost of living. To me, someone is rich when they have sufficient income and/or wealth to meet all their needs and plenty left over to enjoy the finer things in life.

Here’s a great set of definitions Google offers .

Cruiser's avatar

Money doesn’t make you rich it makes you crazy…asshole crazy. I have an opportunity to make some goofy amount of money and not sure I want to pull that trigger. I look at what it has done to some of my friends and nothing but divorce, contempt and heart attacks.

Snarp's avatar

@Tenpinmaster A little perspective is in order before we started accusing people of “taxing the crap our of” anyone. The tax rates in 2010 are 33% for anything between $171,850 and $373,650 for a single person. Above $373,650 it is 35%. That’s not exactly taxing the crap out of anyone. In fact, it’s pretty similar to most of the Bush era, except that for most of the Bush era you hit 35% at a lower income than you do now. Prior to Bush taking office it was 39.6% of anything over $288,350. At the height of the Reagan era it was 50% of anything over $55,300. Throughout most of the 60s and 70s you paid 70% on anything over $100,000. But from 1944 through 1963 you paid over 90% of anything over $200,000. But that was back when we thought we should actually pay for our wars.

asawilliams's avatar

if the interest from your assets is more than enough to sustain your life style

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Snarp I think you’ve got it easy as far as tax goes. Here in Australia, you hit the 40% threshold at $80,000 for a single person. See our individual income tax rates. But then I guess you don’t have much in the way of public health care or public education.

trailsillustrated's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh but you get family payments, austudy, household stimulus program, etc. but I agree the taxes are high there!

Sebulba's avatar

They way i see it “rich is the one that really doesn’t know what he has”

aprilsimnel's avatar

It depends on where you live. In NYC a single individual would probably be considered only kinda rich with a net worth of over $10mm US. I mean, Mayor Bloomberg’s personal net worth is ~US$20bn, and many foreigners live here who have hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars. That tends to skew things with regard to perception of wealth.

I’ll bet if I was back in Milwaukee or Madison, even $5mm would make me Queen Shit of Fuck Mountain, if you’ll pardon my French.

Snarp's avatar

@aprilsimnel You’re right about regional variation (though I think all those people would be “rich” anywhere). It plays a huge role in the definition of “poor” too. We have a one size fits all poverty line in the United States, that doesn’t take into account the cost of living variations that can be significant, even when you’re not talking about the extreme examples like New York and San Francisco.

Factotum's avatar

Properly speaking the spectrum of highest income to grindingest poverty is divided into five zones with the top one being ‘rich’ and the bottom one being ‘poor’. Between is the middle class separated into ‘upper’, ‘middle’ and ‘lower’. The thresholds change as income changes. This is the quintile system and it is of course imperfect, but perhaps less so than establishing an arbitrary figure that seems to linger regardless of inflation and such.

DominicX's avatar

I hate to just quote what you said, but I agree with what you said. $250,000, $500,000, $1,000,000 a year, I think those are good numbers to establish the definitions. In general, at least. I live in San Francisco, so, in general, people make more money here. Obviously it varies from place to place, but I think the numbers you listed are about right.

nicobanks's avatar

From what I understand, if you earn less than $20,000 a year, you are classified (by whom? I don’t know. The government? The UN?) as living in poverty. Makes sense to me.

If you earn $100,000 a year or more, I’d consider you rich.

Everything in between is middle class.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@trailsillustrated True, but you only get that if you are considered poor by the government. I have never received a government handout of any sort, because my parents earn too much and I need to earn $18,000 in 18 months to be classed as independent. Our government loves playing Robin Hood. Only a bad thing because I think they go too far in doing so.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Personally, I’d say any single person without dependents making over $100K a year is rich/wealthy. I also know from experience, making $100K in some cities is like making $30K in others so I don’t give a lot of weight. What really matters is what the debt to income ratio is, that tells you how secure the person is with their income, what their priorities are and also limitations.

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