How much money do you have to have before you consider yourself rich?
Charles Schwab asked this question in a national survey, and a lot of people said they’d have to be a multimillionaire before they would feel wealthy. Survey participants on average said they’d need to have $2.4 million to be considered wealthy in the United States.
With $1.1 million, the respondents said, they would feed comfortable, according to the Modern Wealth Index, developed by Koski Research and the Schwab Center for Financial Research.
It’s not surprising that folks living in the Washington area think you need much more than the national average to be wealthy — an average net worth of $3 million, or more than 35 times the median net worth of U.S. households, according to Schwab.
“Wealth is often viewed as an unachievable sum of money, but that’s really an outdated definition,” said Daniel Stein, a certified financial planner and Charles Schwab branch manager in Maryland. “People should think about wealth as the money they have now, whether that’s a lot or a little, and what matters is that you pay attention to it. Being engaged, even when you’re just getting started, can be crucial to help build wealth over time and reach your personal goals.”
You may not have millions, but can you act like a millionaire? Here’s some reading on some of the habits that will help you keep or grow what money you do have.
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Has your frugality gone too far?
Last week, I asked for your best penny pinching story or strategy.
Craig West of Maryland wrote: “Our family uses many sizes of the plastic zip lock bags. I began to think of all the plastic bags that find their way to landfills or into our waterways, rivers, and oceans. I also looked at all the money spent on bags general use only once and in good condition. So suggested to the family that we wash each bag out so it could be used again.”
“When our kids were young and our family of six was eating out at a ‘nice’ restaurant, we would order as a family,” wrote Don DeArmon of Frederick, Md. “For example, we would rarely order extra drinks of any kind (which could run $18 for a family of six); we were content to drink water. We would also split entrees, and our kids got quite skilled in this and treated it like a game, sharing with each other. Lastly, we never ordered more than two deserts; we would pass them around the six of us. One time we were out with two friends and their two kids, and we paid a bill of $33 for six of us, and they paid a bill over $40 for the four of them. As the dishes were being cleared, I noticed that the other family had ordered so much that they left food on their plates, left uneaten portions of desert and that none of them had finished their large drinks.”
Beth D of Austin wrote: “My grandfather (now deceased) grew up during the Depression. He used dryer sheets twice and reused plastic sandwich bags until they got a hole in them. He didn’t buy new socks until the holes showed outside where his shoes covered. I would like to think I am frugal: I am willing to spend a bit more on a product that will last, such as clothes, than the cheapest one available. The quality of the clothes means more than the price tag, because in the long run, I save time shopping, and saving money, to me, is more of a long-term commitment than a game to rack up the most quick wins.”
Rivan Stinson of Alexandria, Va., wrote, “I am the relative that has taken frugality too far at times. Prime example is this fabulous pea coat I bought a couple of winters ago. Everything was perfect except the size. I decided I could make an extra-small coat work with my usually size small frame, and I have regretted it ever since. It’s too tight, I can’t wear a sweater underneath, but I couldn’t pass up the price at the time, and I had a coupon. So I am on the search for another nice winter coat. Lesson learned.”
Charlotte Dazell of Phoenix wrote about her mother’s frugal ways: “She would take birthday cards she received, cross out/replace the names/hand written messages, and send them on to the next one in the family with a birthday. It got to be a ‘family tradition,’ and we all did it. It was really fun to see the prior messages, and Mother could never stand to throw a card away! (Her excuse, ‘Cards are too expensive and I live in the country. Going to town to buy a card is a waste of time/gas!’)”
Color of Money Columns This Week
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Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.