A popular article on CNN.com talks about modern-day millionaires. And to that, I say: Who just wants to be a millionaire? The term has lost all of its cachet. Not to say that millionaires are losers; obviously they're doing much better than most of us.But it certainly doesn't mean what it used to.
The Oxford English Dictionary lists the first documented usage of the word "Millionaire" coming in 1816 from George Gordon, Lord Byron: "He is still worth at least 50,000 pds being what is called here a 'Millionaire' that is in Francs and such Lilliputian coinage." It is interesting that even back then, there was a question over what might truly be considered a "worthy" millionaire. Obviously currency conversion rates can wreak havoc with the term. you can be a Yen millionaire for roughly $8500. That's a pretty low bar to pass.
So, what's your own definition of a millionaire? Personally, I look back to roughly 1900 to 1920. The age of Robber Barons and The Great Gatsby.... the age when the term "Millionaire" was extremely impressive. Using the Inflation Calculator we can see the following current values for previous millionaires:
- 1900 Millionaire: $23.3M 2006 dollars
- 1910 Millionaire: $21.6M 2006 dollars
- 1920 Millionaire: $11.3M 2006 dollars
- 1950 Millionaire: $ 8.2M 2006 dollars
- 1970 Millionaire: $ 5.3M 2006 dollars
- 1980 Millionaire: $ 2.7M 2006 dollars
- 1990 Millionaire: $ 1.6M 2006 dollars
Based on this, I'd have to go with the nice round figure of $10M to be what I would personally consider to be a "modern-day millionaire." That's the kind of money that you can't get by being an extremely frugal teacher or janitor like those described in The Millionaire Next Door (the very fact that there can be a "Millionaire Next Door" is an indication of how much the term has slipped). That kind of money almost requires that you be very successful in what you do. Of course, there will always be lucky people like heirs, lottery winners, and early employees (as opposed to founders) of startups who end up with $10M+ net worth. But it's still a very rarefied group, and it's my goal to end up there.