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How much money makes you ‘wealthy’ in San Francisco? The number keeps rising —by over $1 million in a year

San Francisco Chronicle 6/29/2022 By Kellie Hwang
San Francisco survey takers said it would take an average net worth of $5.1 million to be considered wealthy in S.F. in 2022. © Nick Otto/Special To The Chronicle 2020

San Francisco survey takers said it would take an average net worth of $5.1 million to be considered wealthy in S.F. in 2022.

The amount of money it takes to be considered “wealthy” in the Bay Area remains millions of dollars higher than in other big metropolitan regions — and has increased substantially from last year, according to the latest edition of Charles Schwab’s survey on wealth.

Respondents to the 2022 Modern Wealth Survey said it will take an average net worth of $5.1 million to be considered wealthy in San Francisco in 2022, compared to $3.8 million in 2021 — that’s an increase of 34% in one year, and more than double the national average. In 2020, respondents said it took $4.5 million to feel wealthy in San Francisco. The nationwide average also increased from 2021 to 2022, but by only 15%.

To be “financially comfortable,” a San Francisco resident would need a net worth of $1.7 million, versus $1.3 million in 2021 and $1.5 million in 2020. Nationwide, respondents said it takes $774,000 to be financially comfortable.

Survey respondents were asked at what level of personal net worth a person in their area would be considered wealthy, and financially comfortable. While net worth was not explicitly defined in the survey, it generally includes the value of all of a person’s assets, including their home and mortgage balance, minus their liabilities.

The two average net worth values from San Francisco respondents were by far the highest out of the 12 total metro areas surveyed. The second-highest net worth of $3.9 million to be considered wealthy came from respondents in Southern California, which includes Los Angeles and San Diego counties, followed by New York’s figure of $3.4 million. Denver respondents gave the lowest net worth at $2.3 million.

To be considered financially comfortable, New York respondents said an average net worth of $1.4 million would do the trick, while Southern California’s figure came in third at $1.3 million. Denver again came in with the lowest net worth of $671,000.

According to Charles Schwab, 750 San Francisco residents ages 21 to 75 participated in the survey from Feb. 10 to Feb. 27. The other major metros included 500 to 750 survey respondents, depending on the area.

Last year’s survey focused on the pandemic’s impact on finances, priorities and planning for the future. This year’s survey included questions about saving, investing and values in the workplace.

Nearly all San Francisco survey takers found it important to be fulfilled by their work (91%), while only 55% agreed that work defines who they are. In choosing a new job, 94% of respondents said work-life balance and salary are influential factors. Of lowest importance was stock options or equity compensation (65%) and job title (57%).

A high number of respondents (75%) said it’s a priority to use their money for causes they care about, while 85% said they agree that their personal values play an important role in how they manage their finances. About three-quarters (74%) of San Franciscans said they are likely to change their lifestyles in the next year to have a more positive impact on the world.

Kellie Hwang is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email:

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