The Met Gala is an annual fundraiser for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute of New York City. If you want to attend, a ticket costs $35,000 and a table costs between $200,000 – $300,000. However, even if you have the money, you might not be able to go.
Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue and Gala chair since 1995, controls a tight guest list of around 600 people. These people often include celebrities, artists, politicians, and obviously very rich people.
Given tickets cost $35,000 and up, I thought it'd be fun to calculate the minimum amount of rich you need to be to attend.
How Rich Do You Need To Be To Attend The Met Gala
Before conducting any monetary exercise, it's good to take a guess at what the X variable will be. This way, you have an anchor point that helps highlight your perception versus reality. If the numbers are too far apart, you may be too out of touch.
Personally, I think you need to make at least $1 million a year and have a net worth of at least $10 million to be able to comfortably shell out $35,000 for the Met Gala. $35,000, after all, is closer to $60,000 before taxes.
I would also think it would feel too awkward to attend an event that celebrates wealth, power, and the arts without also being a wealthy, powerful, artistic person yourself. Although, I'm sure some of us can fake the feeling of belonging.
If you make $1 million a year, you're making $83,333 a month. After-tax, you're probably pulling in about $50,000 a month if you're making W2 income. Therefore, spending $35,000 on an exclusive Met Gala ticket where only 600 people get invited doesn't seem unreasonable.
Think about all the publicity you may get and the connections you may make once you're there. As a Met Gala alumni, it is highly likely that other exclusive functions will seek you out as well. Building your network is one of the key ways the rich and powerful stay rich and powerful.
As the Met Gala ticket can be considered a charitable deduction, I'm sure plenty of business owners also expense their $35,000 tickets as well.
If you have at least a $10 million net worth, the ideal minimum net worth in retirement, then spending 0.35% or less of your net worth on an exclusive event isn't a big deal. If you have $10 million in investments, and these investments go up just 1%, you've just made yourself $100,000.
Using The Average American Expenditure To Calculate Met Gala Minimum Income
My opinion on how rich you have to be to attend the Met Gala is based on me being a hardcore personal finance enthusiast. After all, I've been writing about aggressively saving and investing our money since this site was born in 2009.
For example, I have a default assumption that nobody spends more than 20% of their annual gross income or 5% of their net worth on a car. In other words, anybody buying a new median-price car of $40,000 makes over $200,000 or has at least an $800,000 net worth in my mind.
The reality is, we know this is not true. Not everybody is as frugal or as aggressive an investor as we are. Therefore, it's good to see what the average American spends on food and entertainment. Luckily, I've got this latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Check out the chart below. In 2019 (the latest year of data as of 2021), the average American income was $82,852 a year. The average American annual expenditure was $63,036. In other words, after taxes, the average American spent almost everything they made.
$8,169 or 9.8% of the average $82,852 gross income went to Food. Meanwhile, $3,050 or 3.7% of the average $82,852 gross income went to Entertainment. The Met Gala can be considered both Food and Entertainment.
Income Minimum To Attend The Met Gala
Using the average American's spending habits as the model for consumption, we can assume the following minimum income levels to attend the Met Gala:
- $357,143 minimum income needed to attend the Met Gala if you spend your entire Food budget on the event ($35,000 / 9.8%)
- $949,946 minimum income needed to attend the Met Gala if you spend your entire Entertainment budget on the event ($35,000 / 3.7%)
- $259,259 minimum income needed to attend the Met Gala if you spend your entire Food and Entertainment budget on the event ($35,000 / 13.5%)
It's impossible to spend your entire year's Food budget on one event. You'd starve to death only eating for one evening a year. However, you could spend $35,000 on a ticket and eat frugally for the rest of the year. Let's say your total annual food budget is $50,000. We can then divide $50,000 by 9.8% = $510,204.
You might spend your entire Entertainment budget on one event given its exclusivity. However, the chances of you spending no money for the rest of the year on shows, festivals, sporting events, and so forth are also low. Let's say you spend just $10,000 on Entertainment for the rest of the year. We can then divide $45,000 by 3.7% = $1,216,216.
To save up money to attend the Met Gala, you could also cut expenditures in other categories like Transportation, which seems really high at $10,742 or 13% of total gross annual income.
Therefore, based on the average American expenditure for Food and Entertainment, having an income of at least $500,000 is necessary to attend the Met Gala.
My estimate of a $1 million minimum income is high if we use the average American as an example. But that is to be expected given I'm more frugal and a more aggressive saver and investor than the average American.
What If You Make Less And Still Want To Attend?
Only around 0.1% of the population makes over $1 million a year. Therefore, it's clear that some who attend the Met Gala and make much less are stretching themselves thin.
For example, AOC made a splash by attending the Met Gala with a “Tax The Rich” dress. It was a brilliant marketing move that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. People wondered how did a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist get to attend one of the most glitzy events in the world where only 600 people can attend?
AOC only makes $174,000 as a member of Congress. $174,000 a year is a top 10% income for an individual. However, paying 20% of your annual gross income to attend an event is a pretty large percentage. Remember, the average American only spends 9.8% of their gross income on Food and 3.7% of their gross income on Entertainment.
Further, I've calculated AOC's net worth as only around $100,000 after serving two years in Congress so far. $100,000 is not bad given she had a negative net worth in 2018 as a bartender. But spending 35% of your entire net worth on a Met Gala ticket would be an irresponsible amount. But maybe not.
Can't Violate Ethics Rules
Some people believe AOC didn't pay her own way into the Met Gala. Instead, she was gifted a ticket. A reasonable assumption, given her current financials. However, the U.S. Ethics Committee explicitly states no member of Congress can accept a gift worth more than $50 per year. For Senators, the limit is $100 a year in gifts.
AOC accepting a $35,000 Met Gala ticket would be 700 times over the House gift limit. As such, she couldn't have accepted such a gift, unless she was OK with eventually getting removed from office.
If accepting a $35,000 was OK, that would mean any corporation or person with money could buy off our politicians. I understand there's an entire lobbying industry that tries to sway opinion. However, gifting $35,000 ticket is too obvious.
When I worked in finance, money management clients had strict gift limits as well. Many had to pay their own meals and certainly couldn’t have received Warriors playoff tickets or NFL Super Bowl tickets worth thousands each. If they accepted such tickets, they would be viewed as corrupt.
If you are a private citizen, you are free to accept as many gifts as you want. But we presumably have a higher standard for our elected officials. That said, politicians often view themselves as above the law.
Shadow Net Worth Rising
Perhaps naively, I choose to believe AOC and other politicians who make less than the $500,000 recommended minimum income to attend the Met Gala paid their own way. If AOC didn't pay her own way, that would be hypocritical and unethical. We can't have that in politics.
Although young politicians don't have a lot of money, they do have a lot of power. Their future wealth-creation potential is enormous.
You can view AOC's $35,000 Met Gala ticket as an investment in herself. Her actual net worth might only be $100,000, but her “shadow net worth” is already in the multi-millions.
After a couple more terms in Congress, AOC will have enough experience to sign a $10+ million book deal after her career in politics is over, if she wants. For reference, the Obamas reportedly signed a $60+ million book deal. AOC is the second most popular American politician on social media. She was third after Obama and Trump, but Trump got kicked off Twitter.
If AOC wants to get on the speaking tour after her political career is over, she could probably charge over $100,000 per speech. Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, combined to earn more than $153 million in paid speeches from 2001 until Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign in 2016, according to a CNN analysis.
In other words, AOC and other young politicians like her have enormous untapped wealth if they market themselves properly. They are strategically spending their money today to build their network for greater fortune and fame once they leave office.
Note: According to the Congressional Institute, Representatives and Senators are limited to earning 15% in excess of their yearly Congressional salary. No income from fiduciary relationships is allowed while in office.
Be A Strategic Spender As Well
The most money I ever spent on an event were two tickets to Wimbledon for $1,200. It was the year 2016 and I thought Roger Federer might be playing his last match. Therefore, I decided to splurge on my bucket list by not only attending Wimbledon for the first time, but also watching Roger for the first time in person.
The thing is, spending lots of money on tickets did my wealth no good. There was no return on investment. Instead, all I got were wonderful memories that I will carry with me forever. This is the situation with most people.
If I was smarter, I would have done what politicians do and spend more money on exclusive events to hobnob with powerful people during my career. After all, your network can be a massive part of your net worth. Not only will your network help you get more money-making opportunities, but your network can also help your children get ahead.
The $35,000 a young politician spends on a Met Gala ticket could easily return 100X in the future. Alas, it takes a special type of person to be a politician. You've really got to love fame and attention given your primary goal is to sell yourself.
I don't like fame, just fortune. Therefore, spending money on networking is an anathema in the Financial Samurai household. We would rather just live our lives in peace.
But for those of you still looking to climb society's ladder, paying to play can really provide a lift. Once you get on the radar for a couple socialite events, you will keep getting invited to more of these soirees so long as you keep paying. And perhaps eventually, you will make enough good friends so that money will no longer be necessary to attend.
Readers, how rich does one have to be to pay $35,000 a ticket to attend the Met Gala? Do you think one of the best ways to get rich is to enter politics when you're young? What do you think of politicians who attend expensive events when most of their constituents are middle class or poor? What is the legal workaround where politicians can attend such events without having to use their own money?
Note: AOC says she didn't pay for her own ticket, which makes sense given her current finances. However, I'm wondering why it's OK to accept a $35,000 gift when $50 is the annual limit? Is this similar to the public being OK with Congress members trading stocks ahead of key legal decisions?
In a Sept. 13 Instagram post showing her posing in her dress, Ocasio-Cortez, said in part: “BEFORE anybody starts wilding out — NYC elected officials are regularly invited to and attend the Met due to our responsibilities in overseeing our city’s cultural institutions that serve the public. I was one of several in attendance. Dress is borrowed via @brothervellies.”
If you're curious about my thoughts on the China Evergrande debacle, I'll be sharing my thoughts in my next free newsletter. The short answer is: no contagion, buy the dip. I spent 13 years studying Chinese equities and visiting Chinese companies multiple times during days in finance.