How much income puts you in the top 1%, 5%, or 10%?

4 mins readLast updated May 12, 2023by Rachel Carey

You’ll need to earn over six figures to be in the top 10%

You may be at the top of your game professionally, but how much income puts you in the country's top 1%, 5%, or 10% of earners?

It may be more than you think – at least six figures. A 2020 study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that the top 10% of earners nationally received an average income of $173,176 in 2020.

To be in the top 1% of earners, you’re looking at an average annual income of $823,763. The top 0.1% of Americans earn an average of $3,212,486.

These stats highlight economic inequity at a national level – according to 2018 data from Forbes, the average person in the top 1% earned an income more than 39 times that of someone in the bottom 90%.

What are the annual wages of top earners?

Want to know how much you need to earn to be in the top income brackets in the USA? The following table shows the average yearly wages of the highest earners in the country.

BracketAverage annual wges
Top 0.1% $3,212,486
Top 1% $823,763
Top 5% $342,987
Top 10% $173,176

Note that these statistics were taken from Social Security Administration data, and therefore reflect annual wages as opposed to income as a whole.

Those in the higher earnings brackets typically accrue wealth more rapidly than low earners. EPI research shows that between 1979 and 2018, wages of the top 1% grew by 179%. That figure was 389% for the top 0.1%.

By contrast, wages for the bottom 90% only grew 28% in that period.

How do top 1% earnings vary state by state?

Top earnings brackets vary considerably depending on where you live in the country. This is down to several factors within states, including the cost of living, job opportunities, and geography.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top five states with the highest earners are all on the East and West coasts. These states are also home to big towns and cities where there are more well-paid jobs available. For example, in Massachusetts, you’d need to be earning at least $810,256 to be in the top 1% of earners.

On the other end of the scale, earning $254,362 puts you in the top 1% in Mississippi, which has the highest rate of poverty in the USA.

The following table contains data from Forbes, based on 2018 IRS stats. This gives an idea of the income threshold for the top 1% and 5% of earners by state:

StateIncome threshold of the top 1%Income threshold of the top 5%
Arkansas $411,633 $183,945
California $745,314 $291,277
Connecticut $896,490 $311,589
Florida $623,736 $223,179
Georgia $543,748 $225,232
Kentucky $412,836 $184,217
Massachusetts $810,256 $314,389
Mississippi $361,462 $168,705
New Jersey $760,462 $308,976
New Mexico $384,427 $185,641
New York $777,126 $265,530
Washington $685,128 $283,574
West Virginia $350,212 $171,135

How many billionaires are there in the US?

There were a total of 2,668 billionaires globally last year, according to Forbes’s ranking of the world’s richest people in 2022. That figure was down by 87 from the previous year.

With 735 billionaires at the last count, the USA has more than any other country. Billionaires from the USA make up eight of the world’s top ten richest people. Mainland China is in second place with 539 billionaires, followed by Germany with 134.

The 2022 Forbes list placed Elon Musk as the richest person in the world, with a net worth of $219 billion. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos took second place with a net worth of $177 billion.

How can you boost your income to join the top 10%?

Growing your earnings to join those in the top income brackets might seem like a remote possibility, but it doesn’t have to be.

Annual income isn’t just limited to your salary alone. With help from the right financial advisor, you can make strategic investments in stocks, shares, and funds to ensure your wages go further.

If you’ve never invested before, have a look at our guide to getting started. Or if you’ve already got an investment portfolio and need a little help fine-tuning it to boost your income, we’ve put together some advice on choosing a financial advisor.

A financial advisor can also help you manage your wealth and assets more effectively so you can increase your earnings year-on-year. You’ll also get tax advice, tips for retirement planning, and suggestions for saving money.

Already in the top 1%, 5%, or 10% of earners?

If you’re already earning a salary that puts you within the top percentage brackets nationally, you may be looking for ways to safeguard and maximize your wealth.

A financial advisor can help you earn more interest on your savings and reduce your tax liability.

They can also offer advice on the best types of health and long-term care insurance to take out, so you can be confident that your income doesn’t take an unexpected hit in the event of health problems.

You can also get tips on life insurance and inheritance tax to make the best possible plan for providing for your loved ones.

Ready to get started and find a financial advisor who can help you maximize your earnings and get closer to those top income brackets? Find a financial advisor today.

Senior Content Writer

Rachel Carey

Rachel is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She has nearly a decade of experience writing and producing content across a range of different sectors.