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Bay Area wealth: You're not rich without $4.2 million, says survey

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That’s almost double the national average, but way down from last year

View of the bay from Pacific Heights.
Is that Pac Heights-level money?
Photo by Lewis Liu

Financial firm Charles Schwab surveyed Bay Area residents in 2016 and came up with a jarring statistic: It took roughly $6 million to be considered rich in the Bay Area.

Eighteen months later, Charles Schwab popped the question again. This time they found that, after surveying 750 Bay Area residents, standards have declined down to a net worth of $4.2 million.

This isn’t to say that those living in the Bay Area aren’t an aspirational lot. The poll found that 42 percent of residents polled expect to be millionaires some day, while a recent survey of renters by Zumper discovered that 84 percent of San Franciscans plan to own a home despite the cost.

For comparison, right now 78 percent of San Francisco households make less than $200K annually and fewer than 37 percent of homes in the city are owner-occupied, according to U.S. Census estimates.

For comparison’s sake, here’s how other cities stacked up:

  • Nationally, $2.4 million spelled wealth among those polled
  • In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Houston, Texas, locals says it only takes $1.7 million to be rich
  • In Charlotte, North Carolina: $1.8 million
  • Chicago, Illinois, and Denver, Colorado: $2 million
  • South Florida, Boston, Massachusetts, and Dallas, Texas: $2.1 million
  • Los Angeles: $2.6 million
  • Seattle, Washington: $2.7 million
  • Washington DC: $3 million
  • New York City: $3.2 million
Pac Heights again.
Photo by holbox/Shutterstock

Nationwide, no metro put a premium on being rich higher than Bay Area residents.

None of the people polled had those very specific numbers on the tip of their tongue, of course. Charles Schwab spokesperson Courtney Mains tells Curbed SF that respondents were asked to pick among potential income brackets, and $4.2 million is the median among Bay Area responses.

Also, note that the basic standard of what wealth even means is subjective. Among those polled, 28 percent defined wealth as simply “having a lot of money,” while 32 percent labeled it as being able to afford “anything they want”—similar concepts with crucial distinctions.

Photo by Sundry Photography/Shutterstock