What it means to be wealthy

San Diegans have modest ideas

Oceanside Pier.
  • Oceanside Pier.

How much money does one need in order to be considered wealthy? According to a new survey from the investment advisory firm Charles Schwab, the average San Diegan's answer is about $2.7 million.

That's more than 30 times the actual median net worth of households across the country, however. And nearly two-thirds of poll respondents believe that accumulating such a fortune in their lifetime is entirely out of reach, with housing costs and low wages hampering savings efforts.

Instead of chasing after cash, locals are choosing to define wealth in different ways. While "having lots of money" topped the list of ways people think of being wealthy, "enjoying life's experiences" (25 percent), "living stress-free and having peace of mind" (19 percent), and "having loving relationships with family and friends" (13 percent) were among the ways San Diego respondents described wealthy lifestyles.

Even the 36 percent of local respondents who say they're already millionaires or expect to become rich aren't doing well on many of the fundamentals the company uses in compiling its Modern Wealth Index.

"San Diegans are a bit behind average Americans when it comes to managing and engaging with their wealth," says Randy Schechter, a Schwab branch manager in La Jolla.

"Our findings show setting goals and having a written plan are critical," Schechter. Continues. "Those who put pen to paper with written financial plans are more confident, more engaged with their wealth and demonstrate more positive saving and investing behaviors, so that’s where San Diego area residents should focus most."

San Diegans, the report observes, fall behind the national average in goal-setting (only one in five residents has a financial plan in place), saving and investing, and staying on track to meet their goals. Still, the region's residents show an above-average confidence level that they'll achieve their goals despite the obvious setbacks.

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