The slight majority of Americans, 55%, believe they could live comfortably on something less than $75,000 a year, according to results of a new USA Today/Gallup Poll. This compares favorably with the median US family income of about $52,000, although another 24% say they would need $100,000 or more to achieve a comfortable lifestyle, 50% more than the 16% already making six figures.
Ideal Income Correlates to Actual Income
Survey results show Americans’ perceptions of income needed are closely related to current household income. In general, the lower their income bracket, the more likely Americans are to say they need to earn something above that level to live comfortably.
Adults with annual household incomes between $100,000 and $149,999 are the only group with a fairly sizable percentage saying they could live comfortably on something less than their current income. That figure is 40% among those in the highest income bracket, compared with 11% of those with incomes between $50,000 and $99,999, and 5% among those with incomes between $30,000 and $49,999. In fact, Americans earning between $100,000 and $149,999 are more likely to say they could live comfortably on less, rather than more, income.
Younger Women’s Income Needs Hardest to Meet
Women aged 18 to 49 are among the most likely to believe they need $100,000 or more to live comfortably, according to the new poll. Additionally, the 31% saying this is nearly double the 17% of 18- to 49-year-old women whose current reported household income is in this range. By contrast, the 23% of younger men who say they would need $100,000 or more is similar to the 19% already in that income bracket.
However, women aged 50 and older have the most modest perceptions of what it would take to live comfortably (61% say less than $75,000) as well as the lowest reported levels of household income.
Most Content with Current Income
Despite the gender differences in the amount of money younger adults think it would take to live comfortably, nearly two-thirds of women aged 18 to 49 (66%) as well as men 18 to 49 (63%) told Gallup in April 2010 that they had enough money to live comfortably. Women and men aged 50 and older were somewhat more content, with about three-quarters saying they had enough money.
Americans Hold Steady View on Standard of Living
Americans’ perceptions of whether their standard of living is getting better or getting worse were fairly steady throughout 2010, according to other recent Gallup data. Gallup Daily tracking in December 2010 found 45% saying their standard of living was getting better, while 35% said it was getting worse, for a +10 “net improving” score.
About the Data: Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 14-16, 2011, with a random sample of 1,032 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.