The sum of $1 million failed to impress the United Nations when it came from Dr. Evil's mouth in 1997's Austin Powers. Now, 16 years later, a new study suggests it elicits an equally ho-hum reaction from those discovering the total in their bank accounts.
The investment bank UBS found only 28 percent of people with $1 million to $5 million in liquid assets considered themselves wealthy. That means more than 70 percent of those polled in that income bracket identified as middle class or below.
"I think a million dollars used to be something that was going to be a comfortable retirement for somebody," said Larry Seigelstein, a financial adviser with EisnerAmper Wealth Management.
Seigelstein attributed that change to a rising cost of living, inflation, market instability and more expensive social expectations for the wealthy.
"[It's] all these things when you add them all up," he said. "It's not just the one item. It's all of them increasing at the same time. And it's overwhelming for our clients."
That doesn't mean the thought of a New York City millionaire singing the blues, pining for a more comfortable future, feeling anything less than wealthy sat really well with people Fox 5 found on the street.
"I'm a regular-day working man," a man wearing a suit on the East Side said. "So if I were able to acquire a million dollars, I'd definitely consider myself wealthy and be very happy with that money."
Others turned more philosophic.
"Wealth is based upon internal values: love, joy, happiness," a man in the same neighborhood said.
"If I had a million, I'd be spending it," a woman said, pausing, "on shoes."
But all agreed $1 million in New York City meant less than nearly anywhere else.
"It's one of the most expensive cities in the entire world," Seigelstein said.