Measuring your own wealth can be a tricky thing but seeing how you compare with other households can be a useful way to assess your finances. The real financial benchmarks to measure, however, are your own. Are you achieving your goals? Are you on track to keep doing so in the future? Here are a few common net worth statistics for Americans based chiefly on data from the Census Bureau and the BLS that can help you set your own benchmarks.
If you want to increase your net worth, a financial advisor can help you create a financial plan to reach your goals.
Overall Wealth Statistics
- Most Common Sources of Wealth: Depository Accounts
- Median Household Wealth: $166,900
- Largest Sources of Wealth: Real Estate
The median household has $166,900 in total wealth. This doesn’t mean they have that kind of cash lying around. Instead, “wealth” is defined as total assets minus liabilities. So, for example, someone’s bank accounts, retirement accounts, home and car would count toward their assets. Their credit card bills, student loans, mortgage and car loans would count toward liabilities.
The range here is very wide. The bottom 10% of all households have $0 or less in wealth, meaning that they owe more than they own. The top 10% have an average wealth of more than $1.6 million.
Depository accounts, like a checking or savings account, are the most common assets for Americans. More than 95% of households have money on deposit somewhere. These also tend to be the least valuable assets, meaning that a household’s checking or savings account is typically worth less than the house or car.
The most valuable asset by far is real estate, typically through home equity. About two-thirds of households own their own home and have about $174,000 in equity in that property. Rental properties, for the 7% of households that own one, are even more valuable. Households with a rental property have an average $200,000 in equity.
Overall Debt Statistics
- Median Household Debt: $8,000
- Most Common Sources of Debt: Credit Cards
- Largest Source of Debt: Student Loans
When measuring household wealth, the Census uses unsecured debt as its benchmark. The reason for this is twofold. First, secured debt is typically offset by the value of the underlying asset. If you owe $300,000 on a home worth $350,000, this is considered a net asset. Second, the size of secured debt can distort the figures. Owing $300,000 on a mortgage is not the same thing as owing $300,000 on a credit card since most households can eliminate mortgage debt by selling the house.
Americans hold about $17.6 trillion worth of debt collectively, about $128,800 per household. Of this, approximately three-quarters are held in housing debt. The remainder, roughly $4.71 trillion, is held in unsecured debt such as credit cards, medical bills and student loans.
Credit cards are the most common source of unsecured debt in the country, almost half of all Americans carry a credit card balance and the average household owes about $3,300. However, student loans are by far the largest source of unsecured debt. About two-fifths of all households owe student loans, closer to a third of everyone under the age of 40, with a median debt of $20,000 per household.
Median Wealth By Age Statistics
- Under 35: $30,500
- Age 35 – 44: $126,900
- Age 45 – 54: $186,000
- Age 55 – 64: $276,000
- Age 65 – 69: $341,400
- Ages 70+: $373,900
Americans become more wealthy through their working life. However, the sharpest jump occurs between a household’s 20’s and their late 30’s. Net worth quadruples between a household’s late 30’s and early 40’s. This may be associated with student debt, which is typically paid off between the ages of 35 and 45.
Beyond this, age demographics give two key takeaways. First, unsurprisingly, households begin to draw down on their wealth in retirement. While households over the age of 70 are the wealthiest, that begins to drop past the age of 75.
Second, despite their wealth, older households still do not have enough saved up. A median household at age 65 has, according to Census data, $341,400 in savings inclusive of their home and retirement accounts. This is a fraction of the money they will likely need for retirement, underscoring the need for households to get more aggressive about their savings.
Other Wealth Statistics
- Median Wealth Among High School Graduates: $55,030
- Median Wealth Among College Graduates: $266,600
- Median Homeowner Wealth (Exclusive of Equity): $158,400
- Median Renter Wealth: $9,000
- Median Married Wealth (Ages 35 – 54): $304,600
- Median Unmarried Wealth (Ages 35 – 54): ~$190,000
Finally, several factors beyond age and debt significantly affect or correlate with overall net worth. The most significant, and perhaps unsurprising, is education. A household’s net worth nearly doubles for each level of educational attainment. Among the most common households, those with a high school degree and those with a four-year bachelor’s degree, the gap is more than $210,000.
Homeownership also appears to correlate with significantly increased net worth. Even without considering home equity, households that own their own homes are about 17 times more wealthy than median renters. It is difficult to say with any clarity how much of this is causal, such as the financial benefits of staying in one place longer, or corollary, such as the fact that already-wealthier households are the ones in a position to buy a home in the first place.
Finally, marriage appears to correlate with significantly increased wealth. This exceeds the linear benefit of accounting for two adults, as otherwise, married households would simply be twice as wealthy as unmarried households. Instead, an average married household is about three times wealthier than a single man (at $81,240 in median wealth) and nine times wealthier than a single woman (at $28,600 in median wealth).
Understanding where you stand compared with average households can help you see what’s possible in your own financial life. Here are some of the headline statistics about wealth and net worth in the United States today. These can be great stats to pay attention to as you’re creating goals and benchmarking your own finances. You can also talk to a financial advisor to help you set the right benchmarks that can help you reach your long-term goals.
Wealth Generation Tips
- Wealth is not the same as income. Your income is what comes in the door every few weeks, but wealth is the money and assets that you own and build over time. It’s more reliable, and you can build it if you try.
- A financial advisor can help you build a comprehensive retirement plan. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
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