Study Finds Only 27% of Wealthy Americans Are ‘Self-Employed’

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Could you join the ranks of the ultra-rich?

Key points

  • More than a quarter of ultra-wealthy Americans inherited no money at all.
  • 70% of Americans who own more than $3 million are over 56 years old.
  • Investing is a key part of building wealth, regardless of your background.

A recent survey of ultra-wealthy Americans found that nearly three-quarters had help building their wealth. According to a A study of the private bank Bank of America behind the ultra-wealthy, the remaining 27% inherited no money at all.

Travels to get rich

Bank of America surveyed over 1,000 individuals who held over $3 million in investable assets. The report found that nearly 70 percent of wealthy people are over 56 – either baby boomers or the silent generation. Younger generations are less likely to be self-made because they haven’t had time to build wealth in their own right.

According to data:

  • 27% of the ultra-rich are self-made: He defines them as people of “middle class or poor upbringing and no inheritance”.
  • 46% prefer: Almost half of the super rich people surveyed either had some inherited wealth or a wealthy upbringing.
  • 28% have inherited wealth: People with rich backgrounds and inherited money.

The study found that how people became wealthy has a major impact on their financial status and attitudes. For example, the self-made ultra-wealthy hold higher proportions of stocks in their portfolios. Younger investors are more likely to buy cryptocurrency or alternative investments.

How you can build wealth

If you are not independently wealthy, you may be disheartened by the fact that only 27% of the ultra-rich are self-made. However, it shows that it is possible for ordinary people to become rich without winning the lottery or inheriting large sums of money. In addition, a closer look at the data shows that for many wealthy individuals, inheritance is only part of the picture. Almost half of the ultra-wealthy got there through a mix of heritage and individual wealth building.

Here are the two biggest foundations for any wealth building journey:

Live within your means

If you’re spending less than you earn each month, you’re already ahead of the game. You may not join the ranks of the ultra-rich, but living within your means is key if you want financial stability. It’s about focusing on spending less and, in some cases, earning more.

  • Control your spending: Start by understanding where your money is going and setting some savings and investment goals. You can use a budgeting application to get a clear picture of your financial situation. You don’t have to cut back on doing the things you enjoy, rather try to spend deliberately and avoid wasting money on things that don’t matter to you.
  • Look for ways to increase your income: There are only so many ways to cut costs, so finding ways to earn more can often help you live within your means. This may mean asking for a raise or seeking higher paying positions. It may also involve taking on the side to bring in extra cash.
  • Don’t take on high-interest debt: The cost of carrying credit cards and other high-interest debt can add up over time. If you don’t have enough cash to pay for something today, try to save and buy it later. It’s not always possible, but debt is enemy number one when it comes to getting rich.
  • Build an emergency fund: One way to avoid taking on debt is to build it up contingency fund with about three to six months of cash. Having that money in affordable savings account it gives you a cushion in the event of a financial crisis such as losing your job.

Invest your money consistently

People can become rich in many different ways. As we saw above, some inherit money while others have an advantage and build on inherited wealth. Others may win the lottery or sell a successful business enterprise. But not all of us have rich relatives or business ideas that turn into million dollar sales. That doesn’t mean we can’t become rich: almost anyone can open a brokerage account and invest in shares.

Over the past 30 years, the S&P 500 has produced average returns of about 10% per year. There are no guarantees – some years the stock market has lost value, and other years it has gained much more. If you invest with a long-term horizon, you can wait out all the tough years and make profits over time. You don’t even have to be an expert stock picker. Look at index funds that track a particular market, or exchange traded funds (ETFs) which contain a mixture of stocks. The power of compound interest means that over time a 10% return can generate significant results.


It’s easy to assume that the only way to get rich is through inheritance or luck. But the fact that so many people were able to get there on their own means there is hope for all of us. You can not become a multimillionairebut you can take steps to build wealth and become financially independent.

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