The Wealth Survey
“I got 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 M’s in my bank account, yeah (on God)” – 21 Savage (Bank Account)
When I first started blogging months ago, I remember having an in depth conversation with a friend of mine about personal finance. We chatted and we chatted, but one question stood out unequivocally. “What’s your definition of wealth?”
At first, I gave the textbook answer of “assets minus liabilities”. Looking back, I’ll remember that moment as a cop out. People work eighteen hour days to acquire wealth. Heck, families are torn apart over money. I’ve seen friends fight over money. And I regret to say that it was over chump change. So, with that context in mind, wealth’s got to mean more than an accounting equation.
My friend looked at wealth as the moment in time that your passive income surpasses your total expenses. That had a bit more meat to it. But maybe we both should’ve gone a bit deeper. Maybe we were both holding back for the sake of intellectualism. Maybe we just hadn’t spoken in awhile and still needed to chisel off the ice a bit. Both answers seemed a bit technical, robotic even.
Months later, after writing over forty blog posts, I set on a quest to find 100 people to fill out a survey and give their opinions about wealth. I ended up with 110. You get some pretty interesting answers when you survey 100 people about money. A majority of the remainder of this post will be dedicated to summarizing these results, but you can find a summary of the responses here.
All people surveyed were between the ages of 19 and 33 years old with a majority within the range of 20-25 years of age. A majority of survey respondents would characterize themselves as “middle class” and roughly 80 percent of the responses were from individuals that would classify themselves as African-American.
The definition of wealth
“I don’t know why I came in this club with you, girl
Don’t know why I came in with these diamonds on my chain
Surrounded by bad b****** I can’t get ’em out my face
Is it cause a n**** handsome and wealthy?” – Migos (Handsome and Wealthy)
When I analyzed over 100 responses about the definition of wealth, a few key patterns solidified.
They fell into the following categories:
- Generational – money that can be passed down for generations to come
- Textbook definition – assets minus debt
- Freedom – the ability to act without concern about money
- Excess money after paying bills
- Ownership – investments and control of assets
Ideal Net Worth
Months ago, I watched a YouTube video that changed my outlook on success. “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightingale recorded in 1956. It’s a fascinating motivational video if you’ve never checked it out. But more importantly, it presents a pretty intriguing story.
Nightingale opens his speech with a story about 100 25-year-old men. His hypothesis was that if you followed the progress of this group of men from the age of 25 to 65 that you’d be frightened by the end of each journey. Each starts the journey at an even starting point with the belief that they’re going to be successful. By the time that they’re 65, only one becomes rich. Four become financially independent. Five are be working. 54 are broke.
As I sat in my room looking at responses, I couldn’t help but think about the excerpt from Nightingale’s recording. Perhaps a bit pessimistic of me, but maybe as I share results, you’ll understand my angle.
Out of the 110 responses, over 15 people said they wanted a net worth of over a billion dollars. When I asked a very similar question of what each respondent expected their net worth to be at age 50, the responses changed a bit. 12 brave souls planned to be billionaires by 50. For both questions, it was pretty rare to see any person respond with a figure lower than $1 million.
There are currently 10.4 million millionaires in the United States. The total population is approximately 326 million. That means roughly 3 percent of Americans are millionaires. There are 540 billionaires. That means that 0.000165 percent of Americans are billionaires. A much smaller portion of America than the self-proclaimed future billionaires taking my survey. But who knows, maybe there are a few billionaires that like taking surveys.
What do you believe to be the biggest contributor in creating a large net worth?
These responses weren’t really that contrary to my original expectations. But, the results are still worth mentioning. 80 percent of millionaires are “self-made”, so maybe family inheritances may be a bit overstated in responses. But overall, each response isn’t much more or less than what you’d expect.
- Multiple streams of income
- Saving and Investing
- Family – inheritance
- Character traits – work ethic, charisma, time management,
If anything could hold you back from becoming wealthy, what would it be?
This question was supposed to be pretty introspective. It required respondents to dig deep. Their responses were interesting. I didn’t expect confidence to be one of the most frequent responses.
Here are some other patterns:
- Being too conservative
- Family responsibilities
- Bad financial habits
- Institutional powers – white supremacy, glass ceilings, discrimination, lack of resources
Surveying over 100 people about wealth definitely taught me a lot. One of the reasons that I started Ruleur was to fuel more conversations about money. This pretty much fits the bill. I encourage you all to start asking the questions that we never really talk about with friends. You’ll learn much more about people than you’d ever expect.