Would You Rather Be A Millionaire 100 Years Ago Or Middle Class Today?

millionaire 100 years agoInflation has slowly been eroding the buying power of the dollar.

100 years ago, being a millionaire would have been a huge deal but today being a millionaire might not even allow you to live a comfortable retirement.

Even with the effects of inflation, I’d still rather be in the middle class today than be a millionaire 100 years ago.

Would you?

Why I’d Rather Be Middle Class Today

There are so many things that I couldn’t even possibly list them all. However, here are some of the big ones.

We Live More Comfortable Lives

Today our lives are much more comfortable than for those who lived 100 years ago.

Our homes are climate controlled with air conditioning systems and heating systems that are extremely efficient. We even have heating and air conditioning in our cars. Shopping for food, or anything else for that matter, is so much easier than it was 100 years ago.

We have fancy beds that allow us to sleep comfortably. We have fun kitchen gadgets that make cooking easier. We have clothes washers, clothes dryers and dishwashers that have changed tasks that were once very time consuming to tasks that were very simple.

Even if I was a millionaire 100 years ago, I wouldn’t be able to live with all of these wonderful luxuries we have available to us today. That’d be a shame.

Yes, I could pay someone else to do my laundry, dishes and cooking, but I wouldn’t have the access to drive halfway across the country in a day. The interstate system hadn’t even been implemented yet!

We Live Longer

We live longer, healthier lives today than anyone would have ever thought possible just 100 years ago. Many diseases that once were death sentences can now be cured with a simple medication. Healthcare has advanced to allow even those with chronic illnesses to lead a somewhat regular life.

I wouldn’t want to live longer unless I had a high quality of life, but even those in their 90’s often live very fulfilling lives today. That would have been nearly impossible 100 years ago, even if I was a millionaire. I wouldn’t trade away my life simply to be rich.

Technology Has Advanced Beyond Anyone’s Wildest Dreams

After living with the technology we have today, it’d be really, really hard to imagine living 100 years ago. Forget smartphones and the internet, computers hadn’t even been anywhere near being invented. There was no TV, not that TV greatly enriches our lives. Just these few technologies make us richer than those who lived 100 years before us.

The fact that I can go to Google and search how to fix my home easily saves me hundreds of dollars a year. While these technologies haven’t made me a millionaire yet, they easily could. In fact, I make money every month through these technologies in ways that would have never been thought of 100 years ago.

Some Things Are Cheaper Than Ever

While the value of the dollar has decreased over the years, on an inflation adjusted basis, some things are cheaper than they ever have been before.

For instance, shopping at the grocery store is cheaper than it was 100 years ago on many items. The same can be said for movie tickets, gas (although that depends on if gas prices stay as low as they currently are) and most clothing.

Overall, I’d say we have it pretty good today even if we are only in the middle class and we’re not millionaires. I wouldn’t trade the luxuries I have today for a million dollars 100 years ago. I’d be going so far backwards I’d have no clue what to do!

Would you rather live 100 years ago and be a millionaire? Or would you rather be a millionaire today? Heck, I wouldn’t even trade not being a millionaire today for being a millionaire 100 years ago, but maybe that’s just me. Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. Interesting perspective. You have to think that if someone from 100 years ago was able to see what the typical middle class household has, they would probably consider people very rich.

  2. This is really thought provoking. A million dollars 100 years ago represents such a substantial amount of wealth that it seems hard to pass up. But today’s middle class has so much, even those at the lower part of middle class strata. Those people who are considered in the lowest economic level have cell phones, heat and usually air conditioning, color televisions…..things that people in other parts of the world even today would consider extreme wealth. People from 100 years ago were just getting phones and electricity into their homes. So, I think my answer to your question would be …. middle class today.

  3. I’d probably be paying for all the chores and just play an instrument, have fun with the kids and do whatever rich people used to. Since I wouldn’t know about life today, I’d probably be very happy 😀

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