Here’s how much you need to earn to be ‘rich’ in every state

Most people have dreamed of someday being rich. It’s hard not to be envious of the wealthy as they move through life without the stress and concern caused by money woes while buying luxuries without a second thought. However, the dream of being among the highest earners in the country might look very different from one state to the next.

GOBankingRates surveyed over 5,000 Americans to find out what level of annual income makes you “rich.” Respondents could choose from these six options: $100,000 or more, $200,000 or more, $500,000 or more, $1 million or more, $5 million or more and $10 million or more.

In a separate study, GOBankingRates found how much pre-tax income a household has to make to be among the top 5% highest-earning households in each state by analyzing the Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey (ACS). The results show that across the country, many Americans have different definitions of “rich.”

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How much you need to earn to be ‘rich’ in every state
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How much you need to earn to be ‘rich’ in every state

Alabama

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $170,906
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: (tie) $500K and $1 million

Alabamans were tied for the most common response, with over half of the state’s respondents answering either $500,000 or more and $1 million or more. Interestingly, a recent GOBankingRates study found that Alabama is one of the states where you’re considered wealthy making less than $100,000.

Alaska

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $223,728
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: (tie) $500K, $1 million and $10 million

Alaskans couldn’t quite make up their minds on what it takes to be rich, but the two estimates that received the most responses are well below the $223,728 needed to be among the top 5% of the state’s earners.

Arkansas

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $160,675
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Residents of Arkansas don’t appear to be letting the fact that they have one of the lowest average household incomes in the country to change what they consider to be rich, with the most common answer calling for at least seven figures in annual income. Arkansas is the state with the third-lowest income threshold to enter the 5% at $160,675.

Arizona

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $195,113
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Arizona inhabitants might set their sights high for what qualifies as rich because they’re thinking about what it takes to get by, day by day. Another GOBankingRates survey found that the everyday costs of living were the top cause of financial stress in the state.

California

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $250,000
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Even if you do get the $1 million annual salary that Californians believe makes you rich, it probably won’t last long if you’re living there. California is one of the most expensive states to live in.

Colorado

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $228,672
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

While $1 million or more was the most common response, $500,000 or better was a close second. Combined, those two responses made up over 50% of all answers from Coloradans.

Connecticut

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $250,000
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Residents of Connecticut have good reason to see $1 million as a definition of rich — it’s one of the states where $1 million goes the fastest in retirement.

Delaware

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $211,732
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Residents of Delaware see earning a million or more a year as being rich, and it’s on the higher end when it comes to income needed to be a part of the top 5%.

District of Columbia

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $250,000
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $200,000 or more

The nation’s capital has an unusually low perception of what qualifies as wealth, given that the income needed to be in the top 5% of earners tied for the highest in the study.

Florida

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $196,433
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $500,000 or more

Although the state of Florida as a whole had a lower perception of wealth than most, there are certainly pockets of much greater wealth in this state.

Click to See: The Best and Worst States to Be Rich in America

Georgia

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $202,025
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $500,000 or more

Georgia’s most common response was $500,000 or more, but not by much. Some 26% of those polled selected $500,000 or more, just barely edging out the almost 25% who answered $1 million or more.

Hawaii

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $238,820
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $500,000 or more

That Hawaiians see rich as having less than $1 million, which is interesting considering the high costs of living, home prices and median incomes on the islands. That $500,000 salary is still more than $200,000 short of what it costs to get a median-level home in the state.

Idaho

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $167,204
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $5 million or more

Residents of Idaho had the highest response rate for $5 million or more, with more than 26% of those polled giving that answer. Meanwhile, it was also the state with the lowest response rate for $1 million or more with just over one in 10 residents considering that amount to be the threshold for wealth.

Illinois

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $227,304
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Illinois residents are certainly no stranger to wealth, with over 17% of respondents answering either $5 million or more, or $10 million or more.

Indiana

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $173,021
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Residents of Indiana think $1 million or more equals wealth. Seven figures will go a long way in the Hoosier State: Indiana is one of the cheapest states to live in the country.

Iowa

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $180,304
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $5 million or more

The Hawkeye State sees $5 million as the threshold for what makes you rich, but you can certainly live the good life on less.


 

Kansas

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $189,252
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Kansans were right in line with most of the country, with 30% of respondents answering that $1 million a year or more would make a person rich.

Kentucky

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $167,532
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $200,000 or more

Kentucky was the only place in the study — aside from Washington, D.C., — where residents believe only $200,000 or more makes you rich.

Louisiana

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $182,288
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Although $1 million or more is the most common response in the survey, it could be a sign that many Americans have a skewed perspective on how much wealth rich people really have. According to Bloomberg, the annual pre-tax income needed to be in the top 1% of earners in the U.S. is only $478,000.

Maine

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $178,516
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $10 million or more

Maine is the lone state where the majority believe $10 million or more is what it takes to be rich, with just under one in four respondents choosing this answer.

Maryland

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $250,000
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Maryland’s top answer of $1 million or more is a little deceptive as the state’s residents were clearly of different minds. There were four different answers — $200,000, $500,000, $1 million and $5 million or more — that all got between 18% and 23% of responses.

Massachusetts

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $250,000
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Massachusetts is among the top states for both median income and median home price, so the state’s residents likely know a thing or two about being rich.

Michigan

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $187,384
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Just under one in four Michiganders felt that making $1 million or more makes you rich.

Minnesota

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $218,790
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

The Land of 10,000 Lakes is also the land of pretty reasonable expectations about wealth. While $1 million or more was the most popular answer selected, over 39% of respondents believe that $200,000 or more or $500,000 or more is all that’s needed to be rich.

Mississippi

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $154,295
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the country, with the lowest median income and highest poverty rate in the country, but that hasn’t stopped its residents from expecting much more: They see “rich” as starting at seven figures a year and up.

Missouri

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $181,527
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

If you ask residents of Missouri what makes a person rich, they’ll say $1 million or more. That could be surprising, given that Missouri has a lower cost of living than much of the rest of the country.

Montana

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $176,370
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Montanans were most likely to answer that $1 million or more was necessary to be considered rich. They also believe in allowing you to hang onto a bigger portion of it, as the state has one of the lowest overall tax bills in the nation.

Nebraska

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $185,422
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

The Cornhusker State was among the 33 states that felt that $1 million a year or more is what makes a person rich.

Nevada

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $184,901
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $500,000 or more

The Silver State had one of the highest response rates for the $500,000 and more category, with 29.51% of Nevadans feeling that was what it takes to make a person rich.

New Hampshire

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $229,425
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: (tie) $1 million and $10 million

New Hampshire residents appear to have higher expectations for wealth: More than 73% of respondents believe it takes at least $1 million to be rich.

New Jersey

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $250,000
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Residents of New Jersey might think of $1 million or more as rich due in part to the state’s heavy tax burden.

New Mexico

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $173,396
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

New Mexico’s $1 million or more definition of rich might be surprising as the state has the second-highest poverty rate in the nation.

New York

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $250,000
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $500,000 or more

The fact that New Yorkers were among the 10 states that answered under $1 million might seem odd given how wealthy the residents of New York City are, but that might be explained by the fact that New York has the highest level of income inequality in the country aside from Washington, D.C.

North Carolina

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $188,470
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: (tie) $500K and $1 million

The Tar Heel State registered a tie between $500,000 or more and $1 million or more, with almost 24% of those polled for each. The next most common answer was $5 million or more with 17.91% of responses.

North Dakota

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $203,744
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Some 40% of North Dakotans in the survey felt that $1 million or more was the level at which you were rich.

Ohio

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $183,823
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Ohioans see $1 million or more as the threshold for being rich, but there’s a lot of residents falling well short of that level: Their state was home to seven of the 25 poorest ZIP codes in the country.

Oklahoma

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $175,805
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

The $1 million or more a year that a majority of Oklahomans believe makes you rich is a bit surprising, considering that the cost of a median-priced home in the state is one of the lowest in the nation.

Oregon

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $199,256
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $500,000 or more

Although 25% of Oregonians answered $500,000 or more as the annual salary that makes you rich, that was only slightly more than the 23.86% who had much higher expectations with $10 million and higher.

Pennsylvania

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $206,534
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

More than 23% of Pennsylvania residents believe it takes $1 million or more to be rich, and another 24% chose either $5 million or $10 million as the base threshold for being rich. 

Rhode Island

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $214,529
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $500,000 or more

Rhode Island saw $500,000 or more as being the definition of rich, but not a single Rhode Island resident felt that earning $200,000 or more — the lowest response rate for that tier in the survey — constituted being rich.

South Carolina

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $174,555
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Just under 30% of South Carolina residents responded that you need to earn at least $1 million a year to be rich.

South Dakota

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $176,511
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

South Dakota’s most common response was $1 million or more, but the state had an almost equal number say $100,000 or more, $200,000 or more and $5 million or more is the income necessary to be rich.

Tennessee

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $179,962
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Tennessee actually had three answers within 4% of each other: $1 million or more was the top answer with almost 23% of respondents choosing that answer, but $500,000 or more and $5 million or more both tied for second at 19.28%.


 

Texas

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $218,061
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Texans’ perceptions of wealth might be skewed by their unusually high levels of debt: The state’s $185,000 plus in per capita debt was one of the highest amounts of debt in the country.

Utah

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $202,202
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Utah actually had the highest response rate for the $200,000 or more option, despite the fact that it wasn’t even the most common response in the state.

Virginia

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $250,000
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Virginians have one of the 10 highest median incomes in the country, and that might be contributing to their perceptions of what qualifies a person as rich.

Vermont

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $192,323
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: (tie) $500K and $1 million

Vermonters might have a pretty healthy perspective on wealth as the state has the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the country.

Washington

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $229,199
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Washingtonians might need $1 million a year or more just to buy a house as the state’s median home price of $345,200 is the sixth-highest in the country.

West Virginia

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $155,823
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $100,000 or more

West Virginia was the only state in the survey that saw $100,000 or more as being all you need to be rich. That could reflect the fact that West Virginia has one of the lowest average household incomes and the lowest median home price in the country.

Wisconsin

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $182,897
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

Over 26% of Wisconsin residents claimed that $1 million or more makes you rich.

Wyoming

  • Income needed to be in the top 5%: $182,268
  • Income residents believe makes you rich: $1 million or more

If your dreams for living rich include living somewhere with real space between you and the neighbors, Wyoming might be the place for you: It has the lowest population density in the lower 48 states.

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