‘I don’t even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing. It can be here today and gone tomorrow." So remarked Ann Romney on Monday in a Fox News interview with Neal Cavuto. This sound bite was immediately seized by commentators, bloggers and pundits (oh, my!). Not wealthy? Her husband, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Roney, earned 21.7 million in 2010. His net worth is reported to be in the 200 million neighborhood.
Ann Romney’s “wealthy” comment was taken from a longer and more thoughtful response to Cavuto’s inquiry of whether the Romneys could fully appreciate the plight of average Americans in a down economy. She spoke of material vs. spiritual worth, and echoed the sentiments of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life that no one is poor who has family and friends.
How do those who might be considered to be well-off view their own financial situation? Nearly 53 percent of households with a net worth between $100,000 and $1 million consider themselves to be wealthy, according to a 2011 wealth level study conducted by Millionaire Corner. Forty-two percent described their parents as such, and even less (38 percent) their spouse’s parents.
Younger investors were the most likely to call their parents and spouse’s parents wealthy, but the largest differential in how generational wealth is perceived was among seniors 65 and older. Fifty-five percent said they were wealthy, but 35 percent described their parents as such and less than one-third (31 percent) their spouse’s parents.
Millionaires surveyed by Millionaire Corner were more comfortable referring to themselves as wealthy. Sixty-three percent categorized themselves as such. Again, the youngest in this wealth group were the most likely to consider their parents and spouse’s parents wealthy (50 percent and 46 percent, respectively).
One might think that anyone with a net worth between $5 million and $24.9 million could safely regard themselves as wealthy, but fewer than three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents at this wealth level did. But they did consider themselves to be much wealthier than their parents’ generation. Thirty-nine percent overall called their own parents wealthy, while one-third said the same of their spouse’s parents.