Can Millennials Still Become Millionaires?


During the last few months, the president and Congress had a heated debate about the definition of affluence and who should have to pay more taxes. Ultimately, the opposing sides decided that anyone earning more than $400,000 would be subjected to higher tax rates, the implication being that this group has the financial wherewithal to pay more. However, the decision about who is really rich is much more subjective.

Recently, the Census Bureau stratified the income levels in the U.S. About 46 million people, or 15% of the population live below the poverty level, or the income needed to barely survive. The poverty level is dependent upon a number of factors and was set at $23,050 for a family of four.

Lower middle class workers have incomes that fall between $32,500 and $60,000. Upper middle class workers often have income above $100,000, which comprises the top third of American incomes.

The next level of income is the 5% of Americans earning more than $150,000 annually. At the top of the economic ladder is the 1% who can earn more than $250,000.

A 1996 article published in the New York Times titled “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealth”  is a slightly outdated but interesting review of the profile of millionaires. Some of the observations in the article follow.

- Most are men aged 57 years, married with three children.

- One in five is retired. Two-thirds are self-employed. Self-employed people make up less than 20% of all workers, but account for two-thirds of the millionaires. Most are professionals, such as doctors and accountants.

- Many are involved in mundane and very unexciting businesses.

- Half of the wives of millionaires do not work. The No. 1 occupation for wives is teacher.

- The median income is $131,000, and average income is $247,000 (the higher earning millionaires skew this number). Eight percent have incomes between $500-999,999, and 5% have income over $1 million.

- Average household net worth is $3.7 million. Six percent have more than $10 million. The median is $1.6 million (this number is skewed by high earners as well).

- On average, total annual income is less than 7% of total wealth.

- 97% are homeowners.

- 80% are first generation affluent 

My question is whether millennials have a fair chance at becoming millionaires during their lifetimes. Are higher tax rates, redistribution of wealth, increased class warfare, and lower levels of business confidence throughout the country going to decrease the odds that young people will achieve the wealth levels of former generations?

Related questions are: Will millennials be able to buy a home? Will educational costs suppress the accumulation of wealth? Do millennials really want to accumulate wealth or are they focused on more esoteric career paths? How many millennials will become millionaires by default inheriting significant sums from their parents?

Time will tell. In the meantime, I have accumulated three lists, which should help young people make decisions, if salary is an important criterion in their selection of a career. The first is a Bureau of Labor Statistics list of all jobs that pay more than $100,000. Actually, the reference lists all jobs; I extracted those over the aforementioned level. The second  is a list of top paying jobs with medium and top pay levels. The third is the highest paying jobs along with training time for each career. The information comes from three diverse sources, so that there are some inconsistencies relating to job specifications, etc.

Good luck in your job hunt. I hope you all make a lot of money in careers that fulfill your ambitions and dreams.

Bureau of Labor  Statistics (in thousands)



 Annual Mean Wage

All Occupations


















Physician, all other



Doctor, Family Gen Prac



Chief Exec






Dentist, all other



Dentist, Gen



Petroleum Eng









Arch and Eng Mgr



Comp Inf Mgr



Natural Science Mgr



Ind Org Psych



Financial Mgr



Sales Mgr



Gen Ops Mgr



Air Traf Contr












Law Teacher






HR Mgr



Public Relations Mgr



Nulcear Eng



Political Sci



Mgrs all other areas



Adv Mgr



Purchasing Mgr






Aerospace Eng.



Comp Mgr






Computer Hardware Eng






Softwear Dev







Top Paying Jobs


Positions     -       Median Income ($100,000)   -    Top Pay


Neurosurgeon         368                 643

Petroleum Eng        162                 265

Nurse Anesth         159                  205

Petroleum Geo       149                  247

Dentist                  147                  253

Actuary                 136                  208

Software Arch        119                  162

Pharmacist            114                  133

Mgt Consult           110                  198

SAP Basis Adm      107                  160

Optometrist          105                  149

IT Security Cons    102                  156

Highest Paying Jobs

Positions            Highest Salary ($100,000)      Training Time (yrs)


Surgeon              181                  10-15

CEO                  140                  varies

Eng Mgr            140                  6-7

Airline Pilot        134                  5-10

Dentist             132                  8

Lawyer             110                  7

Air Traf Contr    100                  9

Comp Info Mgr  100                  4-8

Mkt Mgr            100                  4-6

Natural Sci Mgr   97                   6



Note: The desirability of these positions is greatly impacted by any number of other considerations. Off hand, I can think of the following: side benefits, location, deferred compensation such as stock options, etc.