I have some good news for you: You are probably more financially successful than you realize!
If you want to make more money than the average person does, there’s a good chance that you already do! *
I found a Gallup Poll about world incomes this week, and the world median per person income is about $2,920 per year. So if you make more than that, you are richer than about 3.5 billion people! Congratulations! You’re in the richest 50% of the world.
But perhaps the scope is too wide for your liking? After all, the 10 richest countries have median incomes 50 times greater than that of the 10 poorest countries (all in Sub-Saharan Africa). Maybe it’s not right to compare everyone in the world all in one group. Maybe we should narrow our scope and only compare to people in our own countries?
You can look up your own country, but I live in Canada, and I spend a bunch of time the USA too. The median Canadian income is $15,181, with the average American income being slightly higher at $15,480. So if you make more than that, you’re making more than half the people in those countries! Feel successful yet?
I have to tell you that those numbers felt a little low to me. How were half the people getting by on less than fifteen thousand a year?
Well, the average household income is a bit higher, which suggests that low earners are often paired with higher earners, but it’s still not astronomical. Canada’s median household income is $41,280, while USA’s is $43,585. These averages are number 6 and 7 globally, ranking behind Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark, and Finland. Scandinavians do pretty well for themselves. Australia, Netherlands, and Germany take spots 8, 9 and 10.
As a kid, I remember dreaming with my friends of one day making a million dollars – that seemed like a definite benchmark for success. It turns out that the average person is more than 50 times off that amount. Actually – that’s not quite true. We dreamed of having a million dollars… not a million dollars per year. Even so, apparently there are about 320,000 millionaires (net wealth) in Canada – slightly less than 1% of the population (according to worldwealthreport.com).
In present day, I realize that my childhood dreams of being a millionaire were dreams of being in the top 1%. I’m not so sure I’m into that anymore. It’d be nice, I suppose, but I’m not sure I’d call it a goal. If I had to choose a target income, it’d probably be more than $15000, but I wouldn’t base it on a national average. Personally, I might base it on things like how much I need to have a lifestyle I want and how much it costs to do the things I want to do – both for myself and for others. I’m not even so sure I’d want to choose a number at all.
Of course, if you DO care about how much you’re making relative to your neighbours or your fellow nationals or your fellow world citizens, then it’s good to have a reality check once in a while. If you’re like me, you were surprised at the global averages. Maybe you’re already doing better than you thought?!
More importantly, though, you might want to ask yourself what standards you’re using to measure your success. This comparison business seems dicey to me; it’s awfully easy to confuse your own goals with arbitrary standards that someone else put into your mind.
*Technically, I recognize there is a 50% chance that you make more than average. But given that you’re reading this note, you likely have access to the internet, which immediately increases your chances of being in the top 50%.
Image: Cropped from "Man with pile of money on desk", Alexandra Studio, City of Toronto Archives _(Series 1057, Item 4730). _Link. License.