How Rich Are Americans On A Global Scale? Very Rich!

The United States of America is known as the land of opportunity.

I believe anyone can do financially well in America. And Americans have done very well financially when compared to the rest of the globe.

Americans dominate any global rich lists out there. Additionally, Americans are at the tip top of the wealth pyramid.

Take the latest Forbes World’s Billionaires List in 2022.

There are 2,668 billionaires in the world and 735 are Americans. This means that 27.5% of the world’s billionaires are American.  

The collective net worth of American billionaires ($4.7 trillion) makes up 37% of the total net worth of the world’s billionaires ($12.7 trillion).

8 out of the top 10 billionaires are American.

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most of you that the richest Americans are certainly doing very well.

But what about the rest of America? The average American is doing just fine when compared to the rest of the world.

In fact, based on net worth and income, you can consider the average American to be among the global rich.

American Household Income in 2021

The United States Census Bureau provides household income information on an annual basis.

The latest household income is for the year 2021. These numbers are amounts earned by the entire household and not income earned by an individual.

2021 household income at selected percentiles in the U.S.:

10%: $15,660

20%: $28,007

30%: $40,524

40% $55,000

50%: $70,784 <- median

60%: $89,744

70%: $113,210

80%: $149,131

90%: $211,956

95%: $286,304

If you make $113,210, you make more than 70% of all households which places you in the top 30% of earners in the United States.

The median U.S. household income in 2021 is $70,784.

That means half the American household made more than $70,784 in 2021 and half the American household made less.

For the people living in expensive coastal cities in the U.S., that might not sound like much because we are skewed by extremely high-income earners.

People in New York City are surrounded by heavy-hitting hedge fund managers, investment bankers, and other professionals in finance making millions or more per year.

Folks in San Francisco are surrounded by Google engineers, Facebook programmers, and early employees of multi-billion dollar unicorns.

It is hard to not have a warped sense of income, especially when compared to an American household in a less expensive city.

Regardless of what most people think about $70,000 a year, it is still a considerable sum when compared to the rest of the world.

The median household income in the United States has also increased over the past 37 years in a relatively straight line from $22,415 in 1984 to where it stands in 2021 at $70,784. The 2021 income is 3.2 times the 1984 income and experienced an annual increase of 3.2% during this period.

Median US Household Income 2021

How Does U.S. Income Compare To The Rest Of The World?                          

This is probably not a surprise to you. The United States of America stands economically strong and is the richest nation on Earth.

We have the most millionaires and billionaires in the world. 39% of the world’s millionaires are Americans according to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth 2022 report.

Number of Millionaires By Country 2021

The net worth of the people in America accounts for 31% of the global net worth. Out of $463.6 trillion in global wealth, the United States’ share is at $145.8 trillion.

Credit Suisse issued a 2022 global wealth report. It contains a lot of great information about global wealth and wealth by nation.

The income of Americans is also high, although not the highest on a per capita basis.

Even the median household income of $71,000 places a family in the top 4% of richest people in the world accordingly to Giving What We Can.

As an individual (and not including the whole household), you are in the top 1% of worldwide earners if you make more than $60,000 per year.

Median Income In US vs Global Income

Some politicians in the U.S. love to rail against the top 1%. The irony is that they are part of the global top 1% income earners as well.

The median worldwide income is $2,800 per year according to Giving What We Can. That means half the household in America makes more than 25 times the median worldwide income.

25 times the worldwide income – talk about being rich. But the American household family making $70,000 might not feel rich.

This is similar to someone living in an expensive coastal city who might not feel rich making $300,000 a year.

American Net Worth Is High Compared To The Rest Of The World

Americans make up 31% of global net worth.

We already know that Americans make up the largest percentage of millionaires and billionaires in the world.

Hence, we have established that the Americans sitting at the top of the wealth pyramid are doing very well financially.

But the rest of us can be considered rich when viewed through the global lens as well.

Global Wealth Pyramid 2021

It doesn’t take much wealth to get into the top 50% globally of all adults. In fact, 53.2% of the world’s adults own less than $10,000 in wealth.

If you have over $10,000 in wealth, you are in the top half of wealth among the world’s adults.

According to the 2022 Credit Suisse global wealth report, the mean wealth of an American is $579,051. That is in the top 10% of global wealth.

The median wealth of $93,271 (50% of Americans have higher and 50% of Americans have lower) is in the top 85% of global wealth.

Even the average American is considered rich by global standards.

If Americans Are Considered Rich On A Global Scale, Why Do I Not Feel Rich?

Wealth, after all, is relative.

Financial Samurai, the personal finance blog, published a post titled “What Income Level Is Considered Rich?

I am a big fan of the Financial Samurai blog.

Sam Dogen, who runs the blog, grew up in finance and left his corporate job at the relatively young age of 32. He did very well for himself and has been producing quality personal finance posts for over a decade.

Not surprisingly, his blog has a strong following and tons of readership. There are over 400 comments on that blog post alone regarding what income level is considered rich.

The table below summarizes various annual income thresholds in Sam’s post:

$50,000: Not rich at all, lower than the median household income in America.

$100,000: Not rich, the upper middle class in lower-cost areas of the country but middle class to the lower middle class in expensive coastal cities.

$200,000: Rich in lower-cost areas of the country and upper middle class in expensive coastal cities.

$350,000: Considered rich in a heartland or southern city. Living an upper middle class lifestyle in an expensive coastal city.

$500,000+:You are rich, wherever you live!

Income To Support Upper Middle Class and Upper Class Lifestyles In New York City

I’ve written a few posts myself about wealth and income level.

Today, I believe it takes $502,000 in cash to live an upper middle class lifestyle in Manhattan and over $1.2 million to live an upper class lifestyle.

Factoring in an income tax rate of 45%, you need to make $912,000 to afford the upper middle class lifestyle and $2.2 million is needed for an upper class lifestyle. 

Those are big numbers no matter how you slice and dice them. And not a lot of people can achieve those numbers (less than 1% of households in America).

But I am writing from the perspective of someone who has first-hand knowledge of how expensive it is to live in a city like New York.

After all, New York has the highest tax rate of any state in the country when income tax, property tax, and sales tax are all taken into consideration.

Plus, the cost of living in New York City is over 2.5x that of the rest of the United States.

I think it would still be hard for people not living in an expensive city to look at those numbers and not think a household with an income of $200,000 is living on easy street, let alone $900,000.

But no matter if you look at Sam’s numbers which show $350,000 as upper middle class in an expensive coastal city or my number of $502,000 cash for an upper middle class lifestyle, we can both agree that it takes a large income.

Numerous people on Financial Samurai argued that $200,000 is an incredibly high income and that it would be considered rich no matter where in the United States.

Being rich is in the eye of the beholder.

Keep In Mind There Are Many Others Less Fortunate

I saw a documentary a while back on Netflix titled “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates.” The documentary is comprised of 3 episodes.

It provides some background and insight into Bill Gates.

A good portion of the documentary was focused on the global problems that Bill and Melinda Gates worked on/are working on tackling.

It shows poor nations and the people within them having horrendous sanitation situations in which a lot of human waste is dumped into the local water stream from where people also bathe and drink.

A lot of kids and adults were getting diseases and sick from the lack of a good toilet system. Think about how much we take a working toilet for granted.

I don’t know how many Americans would think a working toilet is a luxury. But in a lot of poor countries, millions upon millions of people don’t have access to a good working toilet shared by the village, let alone a working private one.

We should count our blessings that even the normal standard of living in America is heads and shoulders above those found in poor countries.

Don’t Take This Blessing For Granted

Americans, generally speaking, are part of the global well-to-dos.

As previously mentioned, we have a disproportionately high share of income and wealth relative to our population compared to the rest of the world.

Even the median household income places us beyond the top 4% of the global world’s population.

We should never forget the good fortune placed on us and shouldn’t take this blessing for granted.

It makes sense for us to optimize and capitalize on such good fortune.

Choose To Be Happy

When comparing yourself to others, especially in such a rich nation like America, it might be tough to feel like you are ahead of the pack.

But when you stack yourself against the rest of the world, things are looking significantly better.

Even the bottom 10% of household income of more than $15,660 is over 5.5 times the average global income.

That is the equivalent of someone making around $400,000 a year in the United States (5.5 times the median income of $71,000).

It is hard to feel down on yourself knowing that you are so well off when compared to the average person on the globe.

Therefore, choose to be happy or happier about your financial situation because there is a high probability that a random person on this Earth would choose to swap their financial condition with you in a heartbeat.

Take Advantage Of The Financial Opportunities Here

Go out and work. Work hard and take advantage of the great financial opportunities afforded you for being in the United States.

Do not take such opportunities for granted. Even an entry-level job of $30,000 is still a multiple of what an average person makes when viewed through a world lens.

There are endless possibilities to make money and build wealth in the U.S. from working a full-time job to starting a side hustle to launching your own company. Use your abilities to put yourself in a great financial position.

Anyone can be wealthy in America – are you?

You owe it to yourself to not squander such great opportunities available here that many people in the world would love to have.

Increase Your Savings And Invest

Now that you see how much people live around the world, your $70,000 a year salary isn’t too shabby after all.

If half the world can survive on less than $3,000 a year, you surely can survive on over 10 times that amount at $35,000 a year.

See, now you can save half of your $70,000 salary by only spending $35,000 a year.

Put those savings into income-generating investments and you will see how much you can accumulate over time. I am a big fan of real estate myself.

There is no longer an excuse for how you can’t get by on such a “low” salary. If billions of people around the world can get by on less than $10 a dollar, you should have no issues getting by on about $100 a day.

Travel And Explore The World To Better Understand How Others Live

It is only natural we see only what is around us. We tend to wrap ourselves in our little world and not see beyond that.

A person in Manhattan might be exposed to high-priced real estate, expensive Michelin-starred restaurants, and $60,000 a year of private school tuition per kid. No wonder it is hard to get by on only a $250,000 annual income.

Don’t fall into this trap. The best way of understanding how other people live is to go and actually see how they live.

Spend some time traveling and exploring the world.

Not everyone lives in a $10,000,000 penthouse overlooking Central Park. Also, not everyone has the good fortune of living in a 2,400 square foot house, which is the average size house in America.

It can be a humbling experience to see how others live. Maybe then there can be a better appreciation of where we stand financially relative to the rest of the world.

Do Not Forget To Contribute Back To Society

Do not forget how fortunate we are to be in America and how much we are already financially ahead of most people in the world by the virtue of being in America; pass it forward by contributing back to society.

Be a productive member of society by working hard, following the laws, and helping others out.

Once you have reached the top, do not forget to send the elevator back down to take others up with you.

Do not hesitate to volunteer your time to the needy.

Also, when you have the financial means, make sure to donate to some good charitable organizations or good causes.

Once again, when compared to the rest of the world, Americans have it good when it comes to financial wealth and opportunities.

Let’s not forget that and contribute positively back to society.

Help Your Kids To See Their Good Fortune

When you realize what good fortune it is to be in the United States, help your kids to see their good fortune as well.

Provide them with all the amenities here in the U.S. and help them take advantage of all the opportunities in front of them.

But also teach them that they are truly fortunate to be in the U.S. Countless other kids around the world would treasure just having clean water to drink.

Help show your kids how fortunate they are to be in this country.

Enjoy Life!

Hopefully, you realize you are living in one of the best countries in the world, if not the best country.

Remind yourself daily how lucky you are to be here.

Enjoy the ride!

To The Audience: Does it surprise you to find out that the average American household income is 25 times greater than the average global income? How does your wealth stack up globally? What things have you done or planned to do to celebrate the good fortune of being in the United States?

Other Posts That Might Interest You

Financial Tough Love And A Dose Of Reality

Here’s What You Need In Order To Be Upper Middle Class And Upper Class In New York City

The 9 Reasons Why The Rich Keep Getting Richer


7 thoughts on “How Rich Are Americans On A Global Scale? Very Rich!”

  1. One of my favorite things about Americans is their ability to celebrate financial success (at least this is my perception of it as a Canadian). In many countries, someone being rich gets them treated with contempt.

    • Agreed, although I feel the tide is turning for a few years now in America as well. There is the Occupy Wall Street Movement against the 1% and a number of politicians running for the highest office in the land have been vocal in attacking very wealthy individuals. But I still view America as a land full of tremendous financial opportunities.

  2. Life is very cushy for most Americans. Unfortunately, a lot of us don’t recognize that. We visited my uncle in Thailand last year and had to take a shower with a bucket. My son didn’t like that at all. 😀 He’s very happy to live in the US.

    • Joe – it’s great that you got a chance to show your son how other people live in other parts of the world. Hopefully, he has more appreciation about his home in the U.S.

      Have you tried other ways of showing your son how lucky he is to be in the U.S. as opposed to other parts of the world?

  3. As anyone who reads any of my stuff knows, I can’t stand Americans complaining about money or most anything else. If you were born in America, you won the birth lottery. The poorest in America are better off than many born in other countries.

    >>What things have you done or plan to do in order to celebrate the good fortune of being in the United States?

    I wake up every day with thanks, and I’m doing my best to “shake” people into seeing how fortunate they are to be born in the USA, too.

  4. This article is confusing and borderline meaningless. “How rich are americans in a global scale”… measuring by Millionaires, total number and mean numbers, seems to miss the main point. If by rich we mean, rich associated to what that money actually means, we should put those figures in context and adjust for cost of living. A millionaire in NYC at 1MM in savings is actually far from rich, and rather upper middle class. it’s likely the equivalent of $200k savings in Spain or Italy.


Leave a Comment