Become the One Percent

Become the One Percent

Joseph Darby

How to tell if you’re in the top one percent? Plus: how to get there if you’re not

Being the in the top few percent of anything is commendable. But, before we explore this topic, let’s keep it real with some perspective.

Reality Check: We’re Probably Already in the Top One Percent

Thinking from a wider standpoint might go a long way.

If you earn more than the average (median) annual New Zealand income of $59,000, then you’re probably in the top 1% of the earth’s population, income-wise.

So, most people reading this are probably better-off than 99 of every 100 people alive on the planet.

The luck of where you’re born, according to the late Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon, is one of the most crucial factors when determining wealth. Simon estimated that the benefits of living in a well-functioning economy probably account for 90 percent of individual income.

Define the Top 1%

Entering, or wanting to enter, the top one percent at anything is commendable. But money isn’t everything.

Some of the hardest things in life to measure are the most important. So, there’s little or no way to know if you, or anyone else, are top! These areas might be better considered as questions:

  • Are you a good person?
  • How happy are you?
  • Do you have a loving family?
  • How healthy are you?
  • How do you value your inner self? Do you have a sense of confidence, a sense of self-worth?
  • Do you have supportive friends and colleagues?

But, when most of us think about making it to the top one percent, we’re probably thinking about easy-to measure financial matters. Perhaps:  

  • Annual earnings
  • Net worth (the value of everything we own, after subtracting all the debts we owe)
  • Properties or businesses owned, and so on

How To Compare Your Wealth With Other New Zealanders, but Should You?

There is a handy online tool that enables us to measure how we stack up financially against other Kiwi’s, though before we get to that, let’s ensure we’re using it for the right reasons…

Comparing Our Riches – Why Would We?

Humans are designed to understand ourselves and the world around us. The ability to reflect upon things is one of the defining characteristics of humankind.

This is what makes us look up at the stars and ponder our purpose, keeps us from acting out of turn at a work Christmas party, and pushes us to cooperate and compete with the other highly evolved primates (humans) we interact with every day. This means we constantly evaluate ourselves and others in domains such as attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, and success. According to some psychological studies, as much as one in ten of our thoughts involve comparisons of some kind. Psychologists think we determine our own social and personal standing based on how we stack up against others.

Wealth Comparisons: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Good Comparisons

Comparisons can be beneficial when we compare ourselves to others as a way of measuring our personal development or to motivate ourselves to improve and, in the process, develop a more positive self-image.

In addition, many studies have shown that friendly competition can be highly effective in pushing us to do better, for instance, to consistently exercise.

Bad Comparisons

Just as comparisons can motivate us to improve, it can also lead us to judgmental, biased, and overly competitive or superior thoughts.

Ugly Comparisons

Most of us have the social skills and impulse control to keep standards for social comparison to ourselves, and not to act on any envy or resentment spurred by comparison-making. But our true feelings may brood under the surface, or perhaps be expressed in non-verbal ways. At worst, we could hold on to simmering guilt, envy, or remorse, or perhaps engage in destructive behaviours like lying.

How Rich Are We?

To summarise, before we figure out how rich we are compared to other Kiwi’s, hopefully we’ve now confirmed:

  1. We’re comparing ourselves for the right reasons
  2. We’re aware that financially, we’re probably in the top one percent of the world’s population
  3. The most important things in life can’t be measured!

New Zealand Wealth Comparison Tool

We can all see how our wealth measures up against the rest of New Zealand with this simple to use online tool provided by Stats NZ. We need to input our:

  • Household type
  • Annual earnings
  • Assets – what we own
  • Liabilities – what we owe

Of course, this tool is imperfect, as age can’t be factored-in – generally, people are wealthiest when they’re closest to retirement age – and there is some doubt that the wealthiest New Zealanders would give their information to Stats NZ anyway. If the wealthiest among us haven’t then that has altered the overall comparison data.

Another Comparison – Comparing Ourselves with Ourselves

The famous book, The Millionaire Next Door, was written after the authors conducted exhaustive multi-year research on self-made millionaires. They eventually determined a basic formula based on our age and income so we can all see how we are tracking wealth-wise. It goes like this:

[Your age] x [pre-tax annual household income from all sources, except inheritances] / 10 = your “expected” net worth.

For example, a 30-year-old with an income of $75,000 would calculate it this way:

30 x 75,000 / 10 = $225,000

From there, the authors categorise us all in one of three ways:

  1. Under accumulators of wealth (UAWs) are those whose real net worth is less than one-half of their expected net worth.
  2. Average accumulators of wealth (AAW) are on par with their expected net worth.
  3. Prodigious accumulators of wealth (PAWs) have a net worth twice their expected level. This group are what the authors called “builders of wealth”

How Did You Compare?

Depending on our age group and situation, the goals we all aim for can vary widely. If someone thinks they’re lagging behind: there are plenty of ways to increase wealth and improve the situation.

How To Enter the Top 1%

If you’re motivated to enter the top 1% of all New Zealanders, or to just be a whole lot better when comparing yourself now with yourself in five- or ten-years’ time, here’s how.

Attitude Counts

Attitude is one of the most important factors in helping you get through the highs and lows of life.

Since attitude spells how a person copes, whatever perspective you may hold will invariably have an effect on your performance and the way you handle rejection, setbacks, heartbreak, and failure.

Success requires a predominantly positive attitude due to success at anything requiring the ability to work through setbacks. Few people, if any, remain at the top their whole lives. It is unavoidable that one will undergo phases of trials and tribulations, especially pursuing a worthwhile goal.

Our attitude about any state or condition in our life is always within our power to choose. Attitudes are rooted in one’s own beliefs and are unique across most individuals. They do not form overnight but rather, throughout the course of our lives. If we’ve made a firm decision to do whatever it takes to be great at our field, then a firmly upbeat attitude is the best way to get there.

Learn From the Success of Others

Each of us can learn from the experiences of financially successful people. One of the most instructive things we can do is place ourselves in proximity to those who have mastered the necessary skills of success.

Who can we get close to, learning from their mastery of business, investing, or another field?

Build a Winning Team

Once we have the right people in mind, it’s about building a winning team.

Nobody wins alone, but plenty of people fail alone!  


According to Visual Capitalist, nearly half of the assets of the top one percent of America's wealthiest households are in the form of business or real estate ownership. Given the traditional New Zealand love of property investment, we think the data would be the same, if not greater, here.

Make a Start

We don’t need all the steps figured out to make progress, but we do have to get cracking!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Chinese Proverb

Are You in the Top 1%? The Bottom Line

Hopefully, we all enjoyed making a harmless little comparison or two.

Though even if we’re comparing wealth, we should be mindful there’s a lot more to riches than just dollars and cents. For most of us, health and happiness are probably top of the list – anyone who has those is as rich as can be!

It’d be the pleasure of one of our trained professionals to help you work through any of the topics mentioned above, so get in touch today.

You may also like: