American Values Impact Financial Choices | Conscience or Money?

By Allen Harris • June 13, 2022

Charles Schwab’s sixth-annual Modern Wealth Survey revealed that people with money do have a heart. Almost three-quarters of the American respondents (73 percent) say that their values govern their life decisions. And almost as many (69 percent) say their top financial considerations support causes they care about. When deciding where to place investment dollars, Americans consider such things as the company’s reputation (91 percent). Corporate values (81 percent) are nearly as crucial as traditional factors. The company’s financial performance (96 percent) and the price (93 percent) still mattered the most, but barely.

Infographic illustrating how Americans make investment decisions, according to the 2022 Schwab Wealth Survey

These values carry over to the workplace. More than 8 in 10 (84 percent) say their values guide their employment decisions. Nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) would accept a lower salary to work for a company that better reflects their conscience.

What does money mean to you?

The Schwab survey showed that, to Americans, money means freedom (42 percent), flexibility (23 percent), and opportunity (18 percent).

I am happy to see that Americans with money continue to be philanthropic. They can be. They should be. The global average annual salary is just under $18,000 per year. A heuristic for being able to retire comfortably is to do so with 10 times your salary. Globally, that means people, on average, would feel “financially comfortable” (as the study calls it) retiring with $180,000. (Although, let’s face it, there’s not a lot of room to save with such a low income.)

Are you financially comfortable?

The median family income in the U.S. in 2021 was $79,900. Ten times that amount is $799,000. As if on cue, the respondents to the survey say they need $774,000 to feel financially comfortable.

Chart illustrating the net worth Americans needed to feel wealthy or comfortable from 2018 to 2022

To feel “wealthy” in 2022, Americans need $2.2 million. The numbers to feel wealthy and financially comfortable are up from 2021 but down compared to before the pandemic. Since the last Capital Ideas column, the rich got richer.

There’s more to explore in the complete report on Schwab’s website.


Allen first reported on the results of the 2022 Modern Wealth Survey in The Berkshire Edge on June 6, 2022.

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