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Data on income, wealth, and happiness

Thanks for the feedback on income needed for happiness! We have reported below on median US income, the Net Worth Percentile for the population including top 1%, and happiness levels. All of this data is very relevant to the site around financial support, bill payment programs, and more.

The median household income in the US was $61,372 in 2017, and this was from the Census Bureau. Median means half of households earned less and half earned more than the 61K. It is a better data point than the average income, as average takes into account both very high earners and very low earners, which greatly influence those numbers.

The lowest median income bracket is $15,000 per year and the top 1% in this country, have an income at minimum of $420,000 per year and going up from there.

Net wealth data is more varied…with different reports using different amounts. Per the Federal Reserve Report, the median net worth of all Americans is about $70,000, which includes home equity. If you exclude the value of a home (and only include cash, savings, investments, etc.) the amount drops to under $20,000. The top 1% of Americans have a net worth starting at $10.5 million dollars and going higher.

As I wrote about in my own to top percent, it is extremely difficult (almost impossible) to get to that level…that is why it is less than one percent of the population! When my net worth hit that that level (and of course it bounces around a little on a daily/weekly basis based on investment values), it was no big deal. The only think I did was just continue to work, to build it up…until my body and mind gave out. Unless you are born into a rich family or have an inheritance or win the lotto, in order to get to that level (or anywhere near it) it takes extreme dedication, incredibly hard work, focus, sacrifice, execution, probably specialization, and of course a little luck, both “made” luck as well as “blind luck”. I believe that all elements in life have a little luck in them…some of the luck you can make on your own and some is blind.

As far as income that leads to happiness, our “unscientific” survey in the forum showed the level readers say would make them happy would be in the low 70K range. This is fairly consistent with a couple third party surveys that were done, including from Princeton University as well as Nature Human Behavior. Those third party studies, which are of course formal and exponentially more accurate than ours, show the amount people stated was mid 70s to mid 80s, but some of that data is worldwide too.

Income distribution (percent of population that have this income)
Under $15,000: 11.2%
15,000 to 24,999: 9.6%
25,000 to 34,999: 9.4%
35,000 to 49,999: 12.9%
50,000 to 74,999: 17%
75,000 to 99,999 : 12.3%
100,000 to 149,999: 14.1%
150,000 to 199,999: 6.6%
200,000 : 7%
420,000+ : Top 1%

Net Worth Percentile from federal reserve data
0 to 10% of population – negative $962
11 to 20% of population – $4,798
21 to 30% of population – $18,753
31 to 40% of population – $49,132
41 to 50% of population – $97,225
51 to 60% – $169,000
61 to 70% – $279,000
71 to 80% – $499,000
81 to 90% – $1,182,390
91 to 99% – $2,377,985
Top 1% – $10,374,030

Median Income for Households by Age
15 – 24 $40,093
25 – 34 :$62,294
35 – 44: $71,417
45 – 54: $78,368
55 – 64: $68,567
65 to 74 : $50,084
75: $31,893

Our needhelppayingbills.com happiness survey
40 to 50K – 8%
51 to 60K – 7%
61 to 70K – 20%
71 to 80K – 24%
81 to 85K – 13%
86 to 90K – 4%
91 to 100K – 11%
101 to 110K – 3%
111K+ – 3%


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

One thought on “Data on income, wealth, and happiness

  • April 6, 2019 at 4:28 am

    Money has nothing to do with creating levels of happiness except for its ability to pay the bills, buy food and meet needs. After that needs are met, money doesn’t matter. It is about contentment or how you treat and give back to others. That’s what causes happiness.

    Americans are so concerned about what we have compared to the next guy, even the income, that is it so sad. If we compare ourselves to others, we will never have enough. Be content with what you have.

    Another problem is the way people view money and their income is people tend to think we are “stuck.” All this talk about stagnant wages conditions us to think we have no control over our future income levels. But, we have all the power in the world to affect our future selves. People tend to get into their own way and make dumb mistakes when it comes to their wages and income.


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