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Americans need $233K salary to feel financially secure

Americans said they'd need a salary of roughly $233,000 a year, which is more than triple what the Census Bureau says the average worker made in 2021.
Posted at 5:50 PM, Jul 10, 2023

More than 70% of Americans say they're not financially secure and roughly a quarter of those who aren't confident in their finances say they likely never will be, according to a new survey from Bankrate.

To reach financial security, Americans said on average they'd need a salary of roughly $233,000 a year, which is more than triple what the Census Bureau says the average worker made in 2021.

But if Americans wanted to feel both financially comfortable and rich, they would need to make twice that amount, roughly $483,000 on average.

"Americans are feeling like they're priced out of America," said Bankrate analyst Sarah Foster, who authored the new report on financial freedom. "College tuition has nearly doubled over the past 20 years. Home prices have soared and wages haven't kept up."

Foster said while everyone has a different definition of financial freedom, Bankrate defined it as the ability to afford both everyday essentials and have discretionary funds. 

Most Americans surveyed blamed their financial insecurity on factors outside their control like high inflation (63%), the broader economic environment (48%) and rising interest rates (36%).

But personal finances and financial literacy also impacted stability. 

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"Pretty close to 2 in 5 Americans also were pointing fingers at insufficient emergency funds and insufficient retirement funds," said Foster. 

Roughly a quarter of Americans also blamed their financial insecurity on both debt and housing affordability.

There were gaps across genders and races with White men and baby boomers listed as the most likely to feel completely financially secure.

On the other hand, Black Americans said they'd need $322,000 a year to feel comfortable, which is 44% higher than the salaries White Americans said they'd require to feel stable.

"This is really a story of these longstanding wealth gaps," Foster said. "Everybody is starting from a different starting point. And what that results in is it just becomes harder for you to even manage, becoming financially comfortable."

But Foster adds "lifestyle inflation" means more money won't necessarily fix the problems Americans are facing. 

The more people make, the more money they need to keep up with increasingly pricey lifestyles.

"72% of Americans plan to increase their discretionary spending when they get a raise," said Foster. "If you're saddled with credit card debt, if you're saddled with student loan debt, if you're having to pay more a month in bills, that could ultimately impact your lack of financial security too."

Foster says it's never too late to start planning for your financial future.

She recommends building a habit by making small, manageable savings for emergencies, and making sure you're saving for retirement as soon as possible.