The salary Americans say they'd need to earn to feel rich at every age—it's less than $1 million

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Many Americans don't think they necessarily need to make $1 million a year to feel like they're well off financially, according to Bankrate's 2024 Financial Freedom survey.

On average, Americans say they'd need to earn around $520,000 annually to feel rich, according to the survey. Bankrate polled 2,407 adults in the U.S. online from May 16 to May 20.

That amount varies slightly by generational cohort. Here's how much each generation says they'd need to earn to feel rich, according to Bankrate.

  • Gen Z (ages 18 to 27): $461,000
  • Millennials (ages 28 to 43): $480,000
  • Gen X (ages 44 to 59): $574,000
  • Baby boomers (ages 60 to 78): $556,000

However, the typical American worker is a long way off from that income level. The median household income in the U.S. is $74,580, according to the latest available data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Younger generations appear to be the most optimistic about their ability to achieve their financial goals in the future.

A little over 60% of Gen Zers and more than 50% of millennials say that while they're not completely financially secure, they will be someday, according to Bankrate's survey. That's compared with 48% of Gen Xers and just over a quarter of baby boomers.

You don't have to be rich to feel financially successful

For many Americans, achieving financial success isn't necessarily tied to a specific income level or bank account balance.

Nearly 60% say their definition of "financial success" is living comfortably, which means being able to afford day-to-day expenses and have enough left over to put into savings, per Bankrate's 2024 Financial Success survey.

Other popular definitions include having adequately funded emergency and retirement savings accounts, living debt-free and never needing to worry about money.

"Because Americans largely consider financial success as being comfortable or being financially prepared for the future, we can likely infer that Americans think financial success happens before you reach that point [and] that you can be financially successful long before you're rich," Sarah Foster, Bankrate's principal U.S. economy analyst, tells CNBC Make It.

How to reach your financial goals

Feeling financially successful tends to depend more on how you manage your money than how much you bring in, says Foster.

"I've seen people with modest incomes live a fulfilling, financially stable life because they keep a wise watch over their budget, live within their means and prioritize saving for any financial goal," she says. "That's compared with some higher-income earners who are far from feeling financially comfortable because they're paying off credit card debt or living well beyond their means."

The best way to begin working toward your personal definition of financial success is to examine your income versus your expenses, Foster says.

Once you have an understanding of your finances, you can determine which of your spending areas you can decrease in order to funnel that money toward your own money-related goals, such as boosting your emergency fund or paying down credit card debt.

"Making more money is not the secret to being better with money," she says. "One who tries to prioritize preparing for the future and not just living in the present will set themselves up for financial success."

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