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Americans Want 10,000x More Money Than Other Countries for an Ideal Life

Americans Want 10,000x More Money Than Other Countries for an Ideal Life

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A recent study of almost 8,000 people from around the world found that in 86% of countries, most people thought their ideal lifestyle was achievable with $10m or less. Notably apart from the crowd, however, was the US. The majority of respondents from here (31.7%) said that they would need at least $100m, with most saying that they would like at least $100bn.

Here, has taken a deep dive into the average earnings between households in the US, poverty divides, and other possible motivations for people in the US generally agreeing they would need ten thousand times more money than other countries for their ideal life.

Top Findings:

– The majority of Americans think they would need more than $100bn to live their ideal life – 10,000 times more than respondents from other countries.

– A separate report found that to feel ‘in good financial shape’, most Americans felt they would need to be earning over $120,000 annually.

– To achieve the ‘ideal lifestyle’ figure, the average U.S. bachelor-degree holder would need to work for 62.5 lifetimes.

$100bn for the ideal lifestyle

The study, from the University of Bath, asked respondents from different countries what figure their ideal lottery prize would be. In the US, 46% of respondents said they would settle for $10million or less. In contrast, over 60% of all other countries surveys would accept the same figure. 31.7% (the most popular response) of American respondents said that they would like at least $100bn.

Why do Americans feel they need so much more to live comfortable lives?

A report from 2021 found that most Americans felt they’d need to earn at least $122,000 a year to feel in good financial shape, vastly due to a lack of confidence in their own personal finances and in the economy itself.

Additionally, it would be fair to suggest that rising inflation and the cost of living/housing crisis is certainly hiking this figure out. In the past few months, Americans have been paying record-high prices for gasoline, travel, and groceries – and over 90% of consumers have noted this.

With the general cost of living going through the roof – and 61% of renters unable to even afford to roof itself – it’s not difficult to see why some many Americans feel that they would need these insurmountable figures to achieve a worry-free lifestyle.

How much does the average US citizen earn?

A census revealed that a bachelor’s degree holder can expect to earn around $2.4 million over their work life, while the median lifetime earnings of full-time workers with just a high school diploma sits at $1.6 million. To put that into perspective, to achieve the ‘ideal lifestyle’ figure of at least $100 million, it would take a bachelor-degree holder 62.5 lifetimes.

Broken down by household income, we can gain a further insight into the average earnings of a US family. In 2020, just over 54% of US households had an annual income less than $75,000, with the median income decreasing for the first time in five years to $67,500.

What does the divide between poverty and wealth look like in the US?

In 2020, approximately 11.4% of the population were living in poverty, which translates to 36 million people. The majority of households (16.5%) have an income between $50,000 to $75,000 – which does include dual income families. In contrast, just 10% of US households earn over $200,000 per year.

To be in the top 1% of earners, wages average $823,763 per year – although it’s important to note that investment income is not included in this figure, so the actual income of most households in this top 1% is likely to be far higher. Afterall, about 20% of the US’s income annually comes from the top 1% of earners.

When we consider these incomes in terms of wealth inequality, it’s interesting to note the conclusion made by the Economic Policy Institute in their report. The EPI notes that between 1979 and 2020, wages for the top 1% skyrocketed by 179.3%, whereas they grew by just 28.2% for the bottom 90% of earners.

Why did other countries feel they needed so much less for an ideal life?

Of course, the interesting fact here is that the US respondents chose a much higher figure than most other countries surveyed. Although the study doesn’t detail where the US respondents were, it’s worth noting that in some parts of the US – such as New York – $1 million may not be enough to afford an average house, let alone an ‘ideal’ one. In other countries, however, this sum would certainly be the amount of dreams.

The survey itself notes that Unlimited figures, i.e. over $100bn, were most often chosen “in countries with a greater acceptance of inequality (that is, ‘power distance’). 

However, the study also notes that contributing factors could also affect the choices people make – such as “people’s judgements about what goods will make them optimally happy, but could also include downsides such as believing that extreme wealth creates social division and conflict”.

Contrary to popular belief, it appears that not everyone simply wants as much money as possible – many, in fact, have a cap on what they would need for their ideal life.

However, with the cost of living crisis sweeping across the world right now, it’s not hard to see why many Americans feel they might need such high figures to be financially free.

Jonathan Merry, CEO of
Yasmin Purnell
Yasmin Purnell
Yasmin Purnell is a Content Writer and Editor for Yasmin has a wealth of experience writing across a range of topics within the personal finance, student, and business niche. Yasmin joined the team with the one main mission to provide accessible financial, career and business information and advice for all.