Are you Rich?
Are you rich? “Am I Rich?” Have you asked yourself this question before? I imagine if you’re reading my blog then the idea has come to your mind. Rich in terms of salary, rich in terms of net wealth, rich relative to some benchmark, rich in absolute terms. Maybe being rich may have nothing to do with money. Everyone has the right to define “rich” in a different way. However, I’m interested in Financial Independence at a righteous scale and so to me, how rich am I, in the context of this article, means: do I fall firmly in the 1% of the richest people in my country or in the world, or not. Why? Because, if I can be in the 1% of the most wealthy in my country, then my road to Financial Independence is on track and even, fast-tracked. Getting up to the 1% takes time and effort. If you like the fast track, you might want to check out my article 7 steps to get promoted. I’m working on a more detailed training course with greater insights and information to ensure you best position yourself for that next promotion, but you’ll have to stay tuned and subscribe to my list to see that. And also, when it comes to wealth, I’m curious to see whether my corporate success has translated into higher relative wealth. I’m certain it has, but to what extent? I’m going to cover 2 continents: The United States of America and Europe. Why not elsewhere? Simply because I haven’t lived elsewhere, and these are two regions are the regions I know the best. I’m occasionally in the East on business, but my roots are in the West. When looking at the wealthiest 1%, you need to know that there are two criteria to be considered part of this group: either by your salary or by your net wealth (total of your assets less your liabilities). Now while we separate these two criteria, they are intricately linked. You should all know that to build your net wealth you need to concentrate on your salary and then your savings to then build up your investments, over the long term, using the magic of compounding. If you want some great useable ways to grow your wealth, then check out 5 ways to get rich that anyone can follow . The 1% in Europe Eurostat Structure of Earnings Survey for 2010 (yes, that’s a bit dated) describes the European 1% as male, in his 40s or 50s, with a tertiary education and who works in finance or manufacturing. I’d like to assume that has changed slightly, but it’s still probably true looking at most of my colleagues in the C-Suite. To be considered in the top 1% by Net Wealth in Europe, you need to have net assets of approximately € 1.5 million per person, however there are differences per country. You’ll need a lot more to crack the list in Luxembourg and a lot less in Slovakia but let’s stick with the average number for now. Check out the below graphic for some differences per country: Using the 4% rule of thumb, that level of net wealth gets you a comfortable 60.000 euros a year to live on. Not too bad. But remember it takes time and effort to build that kind of wealth. These things don’t happen over-night. From a salary point of view, you’ll need about 120.000 euros on average to get into the 1%, per person. That translates to about 480.000 euros for a family of 4. The 1% in the USA Given that most of the world’s wealth is currently concentrated in the US, it is not surprising that you need slightly more to make it into the 1%. Currently, you’ll need about $150.000 per person to be considered part of the 1%. Don’t be confused with the $450.000 you sometimes see thrown around as this number is per household. So, if you are married with 1 child, then you need $150.000 x 3 = $450.000 to make it into the top 1%. From a Net Wealth category, to be part of the 1% in the US, you’ll need to have net investments of approximately $1.5 million, per person. You’ll notice that these figures are close to the European numbers. However, the US number is harder to collaborate. I’ve seen sources that mention you need $5 million and even up to $9 million to make it to the 1%. These seem too high for me, especially given that the salary levels to reach the 1% mark are incredibly close. Even more so when we look at purchasing power parity or PPP. PPP is a sort of “theoretical” exchange rate that calculates the worth of one currency (in our case euros) in dollar terms using relative purchasing power. PPP is calculated using similar baskets of goods. If we look at our Euro salary of 120.000 euros in $ terms using PPP, we reach an amount of …. (wait for it) …. $150.000. That’s exactly the same as the level of salary needed to get into the 1% in the US (per person). When you look at the social charges in Europe (deductions from your salary to pay for retirement, medical, life insurance, etc, that is centrally managed – in a lot of Europe countries) and you take off income taxes and you compare that to the system in the US, you find that, after deductions for retirement, medical etc, that your net take home is very similar in the two regions. I’ve done these calculations a number of times, in immense detail, when contemplating moves between the two regions and every time the net take home is very similar. So, with that in mind, it makes sense that the 1% entry levels are very similar. The 0.01% entry level I’m not even going to go into this one, as the numbers here are insane, and it is at this level that you start finding notable differences to the entry level in the US vs Europe. I think for people looking for reasonable lifestyles, one could even say, great lifestyles, relatively, aiming for the 1% level is a great achievement. As I said in the beginning, we all define wealth in different ways and this is not meant to be an exposé on what is wealth. This is a simple look at what it takes to be amongst the 1% of the richest people in Europe and the US. Whatever your salary is currently, everyone can have a shot to reach the 1%. After my studying days, I was making just enough to afford a small one-bedroom apartment, eat reasonable meals and travel once or twice a year. I didn’t see where I was going so I set myself a challenge to move to a country where I didn’t speak the language to see what I could do. 10 years after arriving, I was sitting in my office, in the C-Suite of a 15.000 people publicly listed company. The techniques I used to get there ? I’m slowly sharing them as I write this blog. If you follow along, I’ll continue to share my insights on what it is like to be a C-Suite executive, how I lead teams, manage my company, save more money and build my wealth. I’m also passionate about explaining complex things in simple ways and my 7-year old son if often on the receiving end of these explanations. I hope you stick around and enjoy the journey. The CFO
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