Being wealthy isn’t just about having money, it’s also about achieving happiness.
In fact, a 2019 survey conducted by Charles Schwab reported that 72% of Americans feel wealth isn’t about a number at all—it’s actually determined by how they live their lives.1
To explore this shifting definition further, we studied the connection between wealth and happiness, analyzing five themes across 11 million Twitter conversations: money, material goods, life experience, time, and health.
So, what is wealth? Click on the five themes above to learn how people define it.
Salary, gross income, and net worth have defined wealth throughout history and that remains true today. Ask the government, and they'll define wealthy as individuals earning at least $500,001 and couples earning at least $600,000—the new income thresholds that now pay the top federal marginal income tax rate of 37% in accordance with the new tax plan.2
While money no longer dominates the definition of wealth today, 21% of our researched Twitter conversations expressed its significance.
While saving and investing is a prudent way to achieve wealth over time, our research showed that Americans said that owning things makes them feel wealthier in their day-to-day lives.
Whether it’s a big purchase, like a new home, or little luxuries, like a new pair of sneakers, the things we own bring happiness and pleasure to our lives in ways that are more emotionally fulfilling than a number in a bank account. It’s no surprise, then, that 27% of our researched Twitter conversations associated material ownership with being wealthy.
The most interesting thing about this perception of wealth is that you don’t have to be a millionaire to achieve it. In fact, you might consider yourself wealthy as long as you have enough to satisfy your personal needs, which is to say: If you can live a fulfilled life on an income of just $15,000 a year, then $15,000 a year is all it takes to make you feel wealthy.
This theme highlights how people live their lives regardless of the frustrations associated with making money, investing money, and keeping track of how much they have, which is why 11% of our researched Twitter conversations expressed life experiences as their preferred definition of wealth.
This newly emergent theme represents the essential recognition that there’s nothing more valuable than time—it can’t be bought, sold, or traded.
After all, if you can carve out more time for yourself by having meals delivered and subscribing to services like Amazon Prime, you can use it in a myriad of ways to improve your life overall, whether that’s starting a second business, reaching your fitness goals, earning a graduate degree, or spending more time with your family.
While the numbers in your bank account and the things you own are still popular indicators of wealth, 3% of our researched Twitter conversations expressed that having the time to do what makes them happy is their interpretation of prosperity.
More than ever before, we’ve started viewing wealth holistically rather than only through an economic lens. While some of these themes require more money than others, the idea of a happy and satisfying life has become paramount.
In fact, Charles Schwab’s modern wealth survey explicitly reported that 45% of Americans define being wealthy as living without health problems while also having loving relationships with family and friends.2
As society changes, we’ve experienced an increase in mental health awareness, an emphasis on physical fitness, and a greater appreciation of fulfilment and enjoyment—which is why 38% of our researched Twitter conversations expressed health and wellness as their determining factors of wealth.
Once you’ve discovered a definition of wealth you like, speak with a John Hancock advisor about how to achieve itStart a financial plan