How long is a piece of string? How high is the sky? An equally impossible question to answer might be “Are you rich?” but a report came out a few months ago with a potential response for France. An organization called “L’Observatoire des Inégalités” that addresses inequality here and around the world says that you fall into the wealthy category if you make 3,470 € per month after taxes as an individual or 5,205 € per month as a couple. So where did these figures come from and how many people qualify?
According to L’Observatoire, the median net monthly income for a single adult in France is 1,735 € . They simply doubled that figure to arrive at their definition of “rich” for one person and added another half for a couple to get 5,205 €. About 8 percent of the population here can count themselves part of this fortunate group. That number goes up to 10% if you use the more generous figures from the government’s own statistical agency, INSEE, that says a rich individual has a net monthly income of 3,200 €. On the opposite side of the coin, the poverty level is defined as earning less that half the median income (1,735 € ÷2 = 867 €) also with 8% of the population there.
When we applied in 2016 for a visa to live in France (and each year since to renew it) we had to show that our monthly income was sufficient to support us without being a burden on the French taxpayers. At the time, it didn’t seem that any official number was enforced but it was rumored that each person needed a monthly income of at least the minimum wage. Now that many British people are applying for residency, because of Brexit, that topic is in the forefront. In 2020 the minimum monthly wage (known as SMIC—salaire minimum de croissance) was 1,539 € or about 10.15 € per hour.
The US investment firm Charles Schwab asked 1000 Americans what amount of money would make them feel rich. The consensus was $2.4 million. While that is far from the 3,470 € per month figure quoted for France, the answers to the questions that didn’t deal with money would perhaps be very close between the two countries. About one third of the respondents said that having a streaming music and/or TV service would make them feel rich. Dining out was next in line with home ownership being important half of the time. Above that was having time for oneself and topping the list: spending time with family.
Money aside, this quote that we found a few years ago from a US citizen living here explains why we do indeed feel rich. He was asked what he appreciated most about France, “Pace of life in the village, availability of high quality fresh food and wine, friendliness of the people and willingness to work with my language shortcomings, lack of rampant materialism compared to the US, secular nature of the society, ongoing traditions. I am in a winemaking village in the Languedoc.” Happy life!