Who is Rich in America? Wealth Now Starts at $2.4 Million

Mercedes Benz polo challenge
People enjoy an afternoon at the Mercedes-Benz Polo Challenge July 21, 2001 in Bridgehampton, New York. Americans now put a cash value of $2.4 million on what they consider "wealthy." Spencer Platt/Getty Images

It was once the case that with $1 million in the bank, you’d be considered wealthy by most. But no longer.

According to research by American bank Charles Schwab, that benchmark has risen, and you now need at least $2.4 million to be considered wealthy.

In its survey of Americans aged 21 to 75 the bank asked how much people felt you needed to be considered "wealthy," and found that people believed that having $1 million only makes a person "financially comfortable" rather than well-off.

Though there are now a record number of millionaires in the U.S., according to the Spectrum Group’s 2017 Market Insight report, they still only make up around 10 percent of the country's population.

The $2.4 million required to be considered wealthy is 30 times the $80,000 net worth of the average American household, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Though the number of American millionaires is growing, the number of Americans in the middle is shrinking—suggesting the split between rich and poor is growing. According to a 2016 study by Pew Research Center, the number of Americans considered to be in the middle income bracket in 2000 stood at 55 percent, but by 2014 this number had shrunk to 55 percent.

However, the Schwab survey also found that Americans view other aspects of life as making a person wealthy. While 27 percent defined wealth in cash terms, 24 percent defined it as gained through experiences, and 19 percent as "peace of mind." When asked about their priorities, most said they would rather have good health and gratitude than a lot of cash.

“Wealth is often thought of as a lofty, unattainable number that doesn’t apply to most of us, but that’s an old-fashioned notion that needs to be retired,” Terri Kallsen, head of Schwab Investor Services, said in a statement released with the findings.

The study also examines attitudes to wealth among millennials. Although about a third say they have a written financial plan (in contrast to 18 percent of baby boomers), the discipline does not transfer to their day-to-day spending, with 60 percent saying they don’t set a household budget or monthly savings goals.