What ‘wealth’ means to women

What makes a person feel wealthy? It depends on who you ask.

To some, it’s the material things: a big house, a snazzy car, Instagram-worthy vacations. Others define “wealth” in more ephemeral terms: the freedom money buys them to finally unwind, relax and hop off life’s treadmill.

According to recent data from the Charles Schwab Modern Wealth Index, men and women have different definitions of wealth. Women tend to to define wealth in ways other than dollars and cents.

“[Women] lean more into things that money can’t buy,” says Hibah Shariff, senior public relations manager at Charles Schwab.

More than 60% of women said they’d value good physical health over having lots of money. They also prioritized feelings of gratitude and peace of mind.

“Women value relationships and the lack of being stressed-out about money, being grateful for what they have,” Shariff says.

They also prefer security to material wealth or luxury. When asked which they’d prefer, never having to worry about money in the future or being able to buy whatever they want right now, 84% of women said they’d prefer peace of mind in the future, compared to 78% of men.

On average, the women surveyed said they’d consider around $2.4 million the number required to be considered “wealthy.” That’s nearly 30 times the net worth of U.S. households.

Of the 1,000 people Schwab surveyed, 27% defined wealth as reaching a specific savings goal. Of those, women chose a slightly higher amount than men. But the difference between estimates from men and women wasn’t huge: men picked closer to $2.38 million, women picked closer to $2.39 million.

Related: The benefits women actually want in a workplace

Kimberly Foss, a wealth management adviser who works with women at points of transition — post-divorce to spousal deaths — says women value wealth much less for the material benefits than for the intangible effects: more time to spend with loved ones, develop encore careers and invest in personal relationships.

Foss says that when women talk to her about their own finances, there’s a specific point at which she sees them start to recognize their “wealth” — when their assets go from $750,000 to $1,000,000. That, she says, is a turning point in how these women talk about money.

“In our society, there’s some peg that you’re a millionaire, you’re in the 2%,” she says. “I think psychologically for women, they don’t feel like that … So I take the emphasis off the number, and more emphasize what this number is going to allow her to do.”

And what she chooses to do could be caring for an elderly parent; spending time with children or grandchildren; launching an encore career — anything that makes use of the financial security and “peace of mind” the women surveyed emphasized was important to them in their definition of “wealth.”

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