A $147,000 Salary and 10 Other Crazy Things the Average American Thinks You Need to ‘Make It’

Humans are a competitive and comparative bunch. The mere fact that phrases like “keeping up with the Joneses” and “the grass is always greener on the other side” exist in our language proves that people have an insatiable need to be viewed as more successful than their neighbor. But what do American’s deem successful and when can you finally say you’ve “made it”?

The definition of “making it” is fluid. But in general, people desire more money, less responsibility, and more time to spend on personal relationships. That’s not too much to ask. Or is it?

I’m sure you’re at least partly satisfied with your life, but according to a survey done by ThermoSoft, you likely haven’t “made it” just yet. They asked 2,000 people to define what “making it” in America means to them. Apparently, it requires you to earn over a six-figure salary and have these 10 other things to call your own. How do you stack up against the data?

1. You make $147,104 per year

Man in suit with falling money

Making it in American requires a six-figure salary | Dean Drobot/Getty Images

The fact that money is the biggest defining aspect of “making it” in America is not breaking news by any means. Nearly half of respondents wished they earned more money to enjoy extra luxuries and eliminate worries such as medical bills and loans. The average annual income of respondents was $57,426, but apparently, American’s need to earn $147,104 per year to be viewed as successful.

But greed is not a driving factor here, according to data. What’s perhaps more shocking about America’s peer-to-peer success ratings is that 77% of people said they’d turn down $1 million in annual income if it was offered. The ability to live slightly above their means was deemed most important.

Next: What does your home say about you?

2. You have a large home valued at $461,000

Home Alone House

You live in a house comparable to the one in Home Alone | 20th Century Fox

The 2,000 Americans surveyed in this study believe a large home worth $461,000 is an accomplishment only the most successful people achieve. That’s a stark contrast to what most currently hold now, as the average person lived in a house valued at $248,000.

Extra points for those who lived in states like New York, Florida, and Colorado — as they were mentioned most frequently as “made it” states. The most preferred countries to call home were Italy, France, and England.

Next: The wheels underneath your feet mean something

3. You drive a car worth $41,986

The car you drive influences success. | Jeep

J.D. Power and Associates say the average price of a new car is $31,400. But in order to be viewed as successful by your peers, you’ll have to spend a bit more. They think a car closer to $42,000 is noteworthy. But most people surveyed owned cars worth only $15,700 —  a much wiser investment, since buying an expensive new car is one of the worst mistakes you can make with your money.

Next: It’s time to buck up for that wedding!

4. You’re married

Happy bride and groom in winter wedding day.

Married people have ‘made it.’ | satura86/iStock/Getty Images

Who you spend quality time with remains an influential success factor for Americans. Of those who “made it,” 79% of them were married and only 21% were single.

These results seem to mirror the typical “American dream” so many crave, including stable job, a solid house, and an endearing family unit. All that’s left is a dog to complete their triumphant social circle.

Next: Speaking of kids…

5. You have three kids

Dog walking with baby stroller

The magic number is ‘three’ | Halfpoint/iStock/Getty Images

Moms have 2.4 kids on average, according to Pew research. But many ThermoSoft respondents say a family of five, or three kids, is more in line with their ideal vision of success in America. This proves that even though young adults are getting married later in life these days, having a family is still a prerequisite for most people.

Next: You are who your friends are

6. …and four best friends

Senior party

Your network of friends is an important social influencer | monkeybusinessimages/iStocks/Getty Images

Creating the ideal family portrait is only half the battle when it comes to social and personal relationship success. Both men and women think that a person who has four best friends in their corner have “made it” over those who do not.

Data says the need for a confidant is non-negotiable, but the number of people available fluctuated slightly. Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed wished they had one more BFF in their life, while 3% said they’d be fine with fewer best friends hanging around.

Next: Do you have any letters behind your name?

7. You have a bachelor’s degree (or more)

college grauation

You’ve ‘made it’ if you’ve earn a college degree. | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The majority of American’s hold a bachelor’s degree nowadays — which is a good thing, considering it’s a major factor in determining peer-to-peer success. But educational accomplishments could have a snowball effect on “making it” metrics.

About half of respondents think people with advanced master’s or doctoral degrees have achieved a higher level of success in America than those who only earned the seemingly standard bachelor’s degree. Comparing yourself to others in this category could get expensive, since earning a master’s degree can set you back between $22,000 and $120,000 in total.

Next: Bosses: Listen up!

8. You work less than 40 hours per week

A woman working with her child in her arms

Most people would like to work fewer hours. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

America isn’t necessarily known for its work-life balance. We work longer work weeks than most other countries, usually an average of 44 hours per week. So those who manage to swing a lesser work week — say 31 hours a week — have “made it.”

If that seems unattainable, here’s some good news: 44% of survey respondents have earned this type of work-life balance already. Lucky dogs!

Next: The work commute most would consider “perfect”

9. You have a 10-minute commute to work

Commute times relate to both housing and transportation

A short commute is more important. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Aside from the poor souls in Washington D.C. or Southern California who endure hour-long commutes to work, most other American’s have only a 17-minute long daily trip. You’ll be the envy of all neighbors once you can manage a quick 10-minute work commute. But your level of success can climb even higher if you work from home with no commute and no pressure to dress in business attire day in and day out.

Next: America: The no-vacation nation

10. You have 5.3 weeks of time off work

Vacation time influences success | iStock

The United States is the only developed country in the world without even one legally required paid vacation day or holiday. In contrast, every country in the European Union has at least four weeks of paid vacation by law.

So, it’s no surprise ThermoSoft respondents would be jealous of peers who have more time off than normal. Most had just 2.8 weeks of PTO, but those who scored 5.3 weeks of vacation were considered cream of the crop. Unfortunately, only 36% of people hit that mark thus far.

Next: Have you traveled anywhere cool yet?

11. You take at least three trips per year

Taking home travel memories

How many trips have you taken? | iStock.com/Lighthaunter

Money and the ability to fund life’s unexpected curveballs surely help people feel more secure, but it seems Americans also crave the freedom to explore the world and live life on their own terms. Many don’t have the time to embark on more than a few trips per year, but those who planned 3.6 trips a year were deemed more successful than their overworked peers. Of course, very few have accomplished this feat thanks to lower annual salaries and less paid time off.

Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!