Leading article: How much is enough?

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The Independent Online

Almost one in 10 households is now defined as wealthy, with an income nearly three times the average. Alas, most families do not feel well-off. In fact, they say they would need twice as much as they currently bring in (just short of £90,000 a year) to feel as rich as the raw figures suggest they should.

This is bad news for the Government, because it means the feel-good factor it might reasonably expect to radiate from so many wealthy households is practically non-existent. It is even worse news for the families themselves, where the perpetual striving must presumably go on. These households will only feel well-off – or so the researchers say – when they have paid off their mortgage, bought more than one home and are sending their children to private school. To the average household on £33,000 a year, not to speak of those on less, the response must be obvious: what on earth are these people doing with their money to feel the pinch at £90k? Or is there a distinction between a comfortable life and wealth, which the analysts have not caught up with – wealth here denoting luxury rather than mere comfort?

Part of the answer is surely expectation and an awareness – via television - of how the even more wealthy live. We gain the impression that there are more super-rich than there really are, and don't appreciate that "wealth" goes from £90k to infinity. But maybe something else is at work here.

Wealth carries a connotation of financial security. If this much money is bringing so few British households a sense of security, perhaps some household financial compasses need resetting.