The Average American Net Worth Is Huge!

average-net-worth-2014According to The Wall Street Journal, the average net worth per person in America was $182,000 back in 2010. Then came a 2014 Credit Suisse survey highlighting the average net worth in America is a whopping $301,000 (see pic)! Now in 2017, the average net worth for Americans is even higher thanks to a bull market in stocks and real estate.

Originally, I had my doubts about the $182,000 figure, since the median 2007 net worth of all US households is $109,000 based on a Federal Reserve survey. However, could it be that everybody in America can all buy new Porsche 911 Turbos with plenty of money left over if they wanted to? After some thought, I shared the story over social media to see what the community would say, and the negative responses astounded me!


No sooner did I send the link out did people start discrediting the figure. They used straw hat arguments such as “Bill Gates skews the average” and using average, instead of median, or mean is misleading. Average is average, and we can have 10 Bill Gates in America, and the average net worth still wouldn't be abnormally skewed among a denominator of hundreds of million! Don't believe me? Do the math yourself and see how much change an average $150,000 per person net worth figure out of 200 million is once you include 10 people worth $50 billion each.

What's more interesting is that the naysayers who are so determined to discredit the Wall Street Journal and Credit Suisse all have net worth's greater than $182,000. It's the darndest thing I tell ya. It would be one thing if they were all 35 years old with only net worths of under $50,000 or something. But they aren't.

I'll admit I'm over this figure, and so are all my colleagues who are over 30 years old as well. Given this is the case, I now easily can see why the average net worth per person is around $182,000. Heck, it might even be higher!  The average age in America is around 35, and based on a sample set of around 20, there's no reason not to believe in this figure.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is at a record highs at 19,100+, the S&P 500 is at a record high at 2,200+, and real estate prices in major metropolitan areas like New York City and San Francisco have all breached 2007 prices to reach new all-time highs as of 2017. Clearly, the economy has improved a lot since the 2008-2010 financial crisis.

S&P 500 historical price chart - all-time highs
S&P 500 Index at all-time highs in 2017


There are two main ways to get ahead: 1)outperform others or 2) hope others underperform you. I always prefer to rely on myself to try and outperform because I have no control over what others do.  The only person I can control is myself!  Furthermore, the better the average does, the less you feel great about yourself.

As a result of this phenomena, it is no wonder why everybody tries to discredit the Wall Street Journal's $182,000 average net worth per person figure and Credit Suisse's $301,000 average net worth figure? The figure is an attack on their own success and makes them not feel as good about their own wealth accumulation.

See: Abolish Welfare Mentality: A Janitor Makes $271,000 A Year, Why Can't You To?

Historical stock market corrections


It's important to realize there's no escaping the bell curve. At every level of competition, there will always be underperformers, folks in the middle, and outperformers. We consistently tend to OVERESTIMATE our own success and abilities and think we're better than everyone else.  You know by definition that this is statistically impossible.

Instead of trying to keep people down to make yourself feel better, I encourage everyone to celebrate the success of others. Use their success as motivation for your own sake. The more you encourage others to succeed, you will rid yourself of that negativity that plagues your mind and flourish.

If you want to know what the average net worth is for the above average person is, here's a table for you to check out. Remember, this table is for above average people. The above average person regularly maxes out his or her 401k, saves at least 20% of their after tax, after 401k income, regularly invests in a well-diversified portfolio, and believes they deserve to be rich.

The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Person by Financial Samurai


Stay On Top Of Your Money: If you want to build wealth, you need to know where your money is going. Sign up for Personal Capital, a free online wealth management tool which keeps track of your income and expenses, tracks your net worth, and provides portfolio analysis tools to see if you are properly positioned and paying too much in fees. I personally am saving over $1,700 in annual portfolio fees I had no idea I was paying after running my 401(k) through their Fee Analyzer tool!

Another excellent tool they rolled out is their Retirement Planning Calculator. Unlike other retirement calculators, Personal Capital's takes your real data from your linked accounts and runs thousands of algorithms through a Monte Carlo Simulation to produce the most realistic future financial scenarios possible. You can recalculate with multiple variables. I definitely recommend running your current finances through various scenarios to see how you're doing. Everything is free.

Retirement Planning Calculator
How does your retirement planning calculator results stack up? Click to sign up for free

About the Author: Sam began investing his own money ever since he opened an online brokerage account in 1995. Sam loved investing so much that he decided to make a career out of investing by spending the next 13 years after college working at two of the leading financial service firms in the world. During this time, Sam received his MBA from UC Berkeley with a focus on finance and real estate. He also became Series 7 and Series 63 registered. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $200,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, hanging out with family, consulting for leading fintech companies and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom. was started in 2009 and is one of the most trusted personal finance sites today with over 1 million pageviews a month. Financial Samurai has been featured in top publications such as the LA Times, The Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. Post has been updated for 2018 and beyond. 

165 thoughts on “The Average American Net Worth Is Huge!”

  1. Karl Luxemburg

    ” Clearly, the economy has improved a lot since the 2008-2010 financial crisis.”

    I laughed at this reading it today as the World Bank warns of “darkening skies”. Government propped up the banks with free money that they then squirreled away or chased after speculative investments with. Here we are a decade later and the crisis reemerges on a more powerful basis. It was only delayed, not eliminated.

    Just you wait for what’s to come: a repeat of the Great Depression but on a more international level.

    Read Paul Mattick.

      1. Karl Luxemburg

        I don’t invest, because I don’t want to blood suck the exploited workers which are the real source of all profit. I’m not a parasite or mosquito. I’m a human.

        I’ve move out of the United States and I live a better life for 1/10 of the cost, and without fear that I’ll die in a mass shooting spree or at the hands of a killer cop.

        I’m betting that capitalism will collapse in my lifetime. So the only thing to plan for is a new form of society based on human needs instead of greed.

        1. Good luck with your new future. I suspect your negativity mindset won’t serve your well in the long term.

        2. pseudogrammaton

          I don’t blame you, the triumphalist tone of these investment blogs belie an insular view of the world …

          But in the real world… millennials are incurring an extra $5200/yr in total costs, more than offsetting the putative $3000/yr gain in income over their parents’ first jobs.

          Everyone’s feeling the pinch, w/ corporate rent-seeking imposing a not-so-invisible tax on everyone … just from healthcare & ISP/telco’s alone, we’re talking easily $500/yr overhead per capita. Just plain ol’ monopoly gouging.

          Wither the infrastructure spending? It went to a big fat $trillion tax break to the ultra-wealthy, the 8 million families who make up the 1% & believe the bobble-head blondes on Faux News…. Reactionary politics almost always have their origin w/ the classic rentier obsessions.

          And wage suppression is what happens to somebody else & excessive gains-taking without consideration to the burden it imposes on society is just fine, so long as we have our comfortable lies to salve our consciences….

  2. The per capita median income which the last I saw said was $49,000 is a better measure of wealth in the US. That means half of the people are below $49k and half are above. The average is heavily skewed by the multi-millionaires and billionaires in the US. A simple example. Let’s say you have 9 people who have $1 in wealth and 1 person who has $91 in wealth. The average wealth is $10 which doesn’t come close to measuring the reality for 9 of those people. The median of $1 does a far better job. Wealth in the US is not normally distributed because of the vast wealth held in the US by a very small percentage of the population which skews the average wealth number.

    1. “The per capita median income which the last I saw said was $49,000 is a better measure of wealth in the US.”


      Median income is not a measure of wealth at all. Neither income nor wealth are normally distributed, but they are entirely different things.

      As for the original post, the part that says “using average, instead of median, or mean” is quite odd considering that the average, as used here, IS the mean. Also, as others have noted, the fact that the extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a small proportion of the population accounts for the mean being much higher than the median is hardly a “straw man argument.” Statistics do not seem to be a strong suit of the author.

  3. basicstatistics

    Average net worth is pretty meaningless for talking about most Americans’ financial situation. That’s because you have crazy outliers.

    The top 1% of Americans hold about 20% of the wealth in the nation.

    I bring that up not as a political rant, but just to point out that it explains the difference between the average and the median values. Warren Buffet walks into a bar, and the average wealth of people in the bar goes through the roof.

    Hustle and save is always good advice, no matter where you’re at on the income ladder. Still, income inequality is the reason for the sky-high average and a persistently low median. Framing these numbers as a matter of disbelief, and not the result of the current structure of our economy, is misleading.

  4. The people that have money at the top absolutely skew the numbers for people at the bottom. Let math put things into proper perspective

    There is a total of $85 Trillion in wealth in the US
    The top 20% has 80% of that wealth.
    That is $68 Trillion for them and $17 Trillion for the rest
    The top 20% represent 62,000,000 people
    The bottom 80% represent 248,000,000 people

    The Average for the top 20% is $1.097 Million per person
    The Average for the bottom 80% is $68,500 per person

    You see how they skew the numbers? If rich people didn’t skew the numbers, you could pretend they didn’t exist, take their wealth out of the equation and the average wealth would be $274,000 per person. But they DO skew the numbers because if you take them out, the average is much, much less. Hardly more than the price of a brand new truck while the average top 20% person has enough wealth to spend $3,000 per month for 30 years.

    The majority of people in the US are poor, and the ones at the top have their wealth largely calculated by assets that have hugely and falsely inflated values. Most Americans can’t cover an unexpected $1000 expense – isn’t that more meaningful than a simple average?

  5. This article made me laugh. It’s so naive.

    Claiming Bill Gates or a few millionaires don’t skew the data must be the stupidest thing ever. The wealthiest top 1% own around 40% of US wealth. Basic maths shows that the very rich are massively skewing the average wealth when calculated over the entire population.

    Even worse, the value of the average house is about $180,000 – $190,000. That means average net worth of $182,000 is equivalent to the average American having nothing but their home paid off an nothing else. (And since money is fungible this comparison is perfectly suitable as net worth doesn’t distinguish what the worth is from, just what the sum is).

    Combine the fact that a big proportion of wealth is held by 1% of the population, and the average net worth is about the same as the average house, and you can see that the vast majority of people have very little actual wealth.

  6. This article is misleading. Only the simplest math is being used in this article which is why the author is coming to irresponsible simple-minded conclusions. What makes this article virtually irrelevant? Consider this: 1) The bell curve mathematics that are being touted here WERE NEVER EVEN APPLIED in this article and therefore are only being speculated about. Furthermore, 2) a bell curve is not really the mathematical formula that would be helpful in understanding the distribution of wealth discussed in the article. Finally, 3) the bell curve model goes completely against the ideas expoused here about “hustling”. Bell curve mathematics begins with the postulation that distribution throughout the entire curve is required. This ultimately means that if there is a top 1% in wealth, there MUST also be a bottom 1% in wealth such that your efforts at climbing the income ladder only result in someone else HAVING to be forced down to a lower level because you “came up” by our own hustle.

    Points debunked by responsible mathematics:

    (Error number 1) The author says, “Average is average, and we can have 10 Bill Gates in America, and the average net worth still wouldn’t be abnormally skewed among a denominator of hundreds of million! Don’t believe me? Do the math yourself and see how much change an average $150,000 per person net worth figure out of 200 million is once you include 10 people worth $50 billion each.” – See more at:

    Well, I did the math based on the research, and according to an article on,, the wealthiest 1% of American households make up 43% of the net worth of all Americans. That is approximately $36.5 trillion of the total $84.9 trillion total net worth. Add in the next 4% weathiest American households and the top 5% of all American households own 72% of all net worth in America or approximately $61.13 trillion of the total $84.9 trillion networth for the whole country.

    So, billionaires, even in limited number, do have the ability to greatly skew the numbers.

    The numbers indicate that within the top 1% of American households, there are 2 million households with a net worth range from $9.2 million to upwards $50 billion. If all 2 million of the top 1% of households had the same bottom level $9.2 million net worth, it would still represent $18.4 trillion of total net worth. Since the actual net worth of the top 1% is closer to $36.5 trillion, it’s apparent that even within the top 1% of all American households the top earners do greatly skew the numbers higher as wealth disparity becomes more and more of a factor.

    (Error number 2) Author’s comment: What’s more interesting is that the naysayers who are so determined to discredit the Wall Street Journal all have net worth’s greater than $182,000. It’s the darndest thing I tell ya. It would be one thing if they were all 35 years old with only net worths of under $50,000 or something. But they aren’t.

    I’ll admit I’m over this figure, and so are all my colleagues who are over 30 years old as well. Given this is the case, I now easily can see why the average net worth per person is around $182,000. Heck, it might even be higher! The average age in America is around 35, and based on a sample set of around 20, there’s no reason not to believe in this figure.

    – See more at:

    This is a complete failure in statistical mathematics and his conclusions would be laughed at by any first year statistical mathematics student. The author’s own statements make it laughably apparent. The error here is one of improper conclusion based on statistically unreliable data. The first point shows that he did not do the math. This point shows that his conclusions are based on bad math. The mathematical error here is the attempted a=b=c conclusion that the author tries to make. What is the a=b that the author is postulating? He is stating that his sampling of 20 people is akin to an unbiased scientific poll, and that based on this highly unscientific and less than random sampling, he can make a reasonable conclusion about all 200,000,000 American households.

    Let’s discect this argument. The author places the statistic that he has found on what he perceives to be an engine for scientific study, Twitter. Apparently, he forgoes the need for at least a controlled randomness in his sampling, which is a requirement for reasonable accuracy. While Twitter does contain millions of users and can reasonably be used to conduct somewhat scientific research that can give insight to America as a whole, it’s obvious that the author’s research falls far short of the mark.

    First, the author indicates that he knows that the “naysayers” have incomes above $182,000. He can only know this if he has intimate knowledge of the particpants. The second reason to disavow the value of his conclusions is that his access to Twitter would only be limited to people that he has connected to which indicates that there is likely not much variety in the sampling. Furthermore, he admits that all of his colleagues over 30 have more than the average American household’s networth. The combination of these things alone represent statistical bias in the research thereby rendering the conclusions totally invalid. The author gives no indication that he employed Twitter’s help in reaching its total community. Hence, the randomness of the community to which the author submits the link to the article’s statistics FAILS to meet the mathematical requirement of being EQUAL to a properly conducted scientific study. Thus, ‘a’ is not equal to ‘b’ and therefore, his conclusion, ‘c’ cannot be understood to fall within the tolerances of statistical reliability.

    Like I said earlier, this is just bad mathematics! The only thing that we know is that the author lives among a priviledged group in which everyone 30 years old and older has exceptional net worth. This is hardly a person well rounded enough to give anything less than an elitest interpretation of a very simplistic statistical calculation. My conclusion, this article is not to be taken seriously!

    1. Thanks for your comment. This post is meant to be a little facetious, as I couldn’t believe the number either.

      Check out these three posts:

      1) The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Person
      2) Financial Samurai Reader Demographic – With 80+ surveys and thousands and thousands of entries. I think you’ll realize a lot more people are a lot wealthier than we all think.
      3) The Median Net Worth Of US Households Over Time Has Gone Nowhere – A good look at the data over time.

  7. Hmmm if you’re here to learn about the financial situation of most Americans you should be wary of what this guy is saying.

    I’m pretty sure he’s right about average net worth, but when he argues that that figure isn’t skewed significantly by the wealthiest class of Americans because there aren’t many Bill Gates types, he’s being crazy. There millions of millionaires in America that skew the average, and many many more millions of Americans with significantly lower net worths who’s impact on the figure is outweighed.

    If you want to get a sense of what a typical American’s net worth is based on average, you should check out the average net worths of people in the 99% (or whatever percent) of people. Like what is the average net worth of the person who is wealthier than 80% of all americans and everyone below him? Probably wayyyy lower than that figure this dude gives. If you saw it on a graph probably at some point the graph would spike hugely, probably when you hit the 90th percentile-ish.

    Anyway this guy isn’t wrong, just pretty misleading.

    1. Instead of blaming Bill Gates and other billionaires for skewing the numbers out of your favor, why not just save more, invest more, make more to accelerate your own net worth? Why be average? The moment we stop making excuses is the moment we soar. Everybody knows about median and averages, and how they are different.

      Read: The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Person

      Now, share with us your age and net worth so we know where you are coming from. thx

  8. Julio Altamiranda

    To jump from 182 to 301 in 4 years… how does that happen?

    Stock market gains.

    Look up S&P500 gains from 2010-2014. I know my net-worth doubled. The few measly bucks I have invested did very well in the past few years.

    Now look up how many Americans own brokerage accounts and have money invested in retirement accounts. Unless you live in a hole, or in another country, you must not see the same America we all see.

    There are plenty of Americans with 0 dollars. More with negative net worth because of student loans and credit card debt. I think it is safe to say, that because you truly believe the average American has that much money you either know very few people or you do not understand averages and medians.

    Crazy. Financial Samurai… please

  9. Believelander

    Sadly, analysis based on average wealth is painfully divested from reality.

    While it is true that 10 people worth $50 billion dollars would hardly tip the scales of average net worth of several hundred million people (although for ten people to tip the scales by several thousand dollars per American is still rather impressive), the fact remains that the upper 1/5 of the U.S. owns ~6/7ths of the wealth. That means that the average for the remaining 1/5 is about 1/7th of the wealth between them. If the average American is worth $300,000 and there are 300,000,000 Americans, that means there are 90 trillion dollars of wealth. 1/7 of that is about 12 trillion (generously), and if you split that between the 240,000,000 people left over, the total average net wealth of that 80% is ~$48,750. Considering that half of that 80% of the populace (the ‘middle’ 40%) possesses 99% of that net wealth, that leaves an average net wealth of the bottom *forty percent* of the American populace of around $500. Granted, there are probably plenty of folks in that group who live plenty well but are underwater in debt, but that doesn’t change the fact that snappy one-liners like NOBODY BELIEVES IN REALITY don’t really apply, since for the staggering majority, the figures pictured above aren’t reality.

  10. Thank you for the data. I use the data to see if I fit roughly into the mainstream, more like goal setting. Retirement financial calculators often asks us to enter our spend level in retirement. That could be almost as uncertain as it is with our portfolio value over the decades of retirement. Even professional money managers may have a challenging time managing money for 30 to 40 years to meet some abstract life style that is defined over three to four decades, let alone an average citizen. We have some rough idea of what average US life style is, even with its variations. If I fit the general center of bell curve, I can probably expect a life style more like the retired folks today. The figures also fit with my belief that $3M networth is needed for a comfortable, not luxurious, retirement life style, where one doesn’t have to watch every penny. I wish financial advisors would just make things super simple, not accurate, but simple, by stating that US$3M networth is needed to have a comfortable retirement. Instead, we always hear that goal depend on many things. Short of that, some budgeting is required during retirement. The lower the network is from $3M, the more one has to pinch’s one’s life style. In this case, having an unclear goal could lead to a much worse consequence than having a rough and not so accurate goal. If we could possibly share this data with high school kids and let them realize this is the goal in life, it might help our citizens to be more self sufficient financially when they retire.

  11. Kevin Shryock

    Interesting data to throw on the fire or rich vs. poor:

    “In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.” (Source:

    I’m all about helping the poor (it’s what I do), but the truth is that the best help we can give is education- like Financial Samurai. But most (and I say most) of America’s poor is not too distraught to pick themselves up. They just don’t yet know which direction to run.

    And in the mean time, let’s focus on directing charity to those who actually need our help. Not those whom falsely claim to be a part of the bottom 95%, but those who actually are (individuals making under $17k USD a year).

    Let us focus on improving our standard of living through innovation, business and charity. After all, they’ve helped us get to where we are today.

    As James Q. Wilson puts it, “The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago.”

    1. I like that last quote. It is so true. We’ve got it GOOD in the States! I just got back from Cambodia, and wow.. talk about poverty. We all need to go travel and see the world!

    2. that honestly doesn’t mean much. america has the largest wealth inequality of any first world nation in the entire world. we have the most total wealth of any nation yet we are ranked 22nd by median wealth, with the average joe sixpack in slovenia having more to his name than the average joe american. and the median australian man / woman having over 5x as much! the inequality is absolutely disgusting, and needs to be changed.

      wealthy republicans will act like your typical american is asking for a handout whenever the proposal for more public services such as free public university education are made, when they are the very same people who stole all the wealth necessary to pay for such things in the first place. it is like a robber breaking into one’s house, stealing all of their stuff, and then expecting that person whom was robbed, to be grateful to the robber for giving them their tv back. saying that we should bow down to the wealthy because they “pay the most taxes” is a joke. where did they get that money from in the first place? oh yeah, as a group they stole it. 8.5 trillion missing from the pentagon since 1996 anyone?

      src for median:
      src for pentagon:

    3. lol. That’s like an anachronism. A feel good one at that.

      You cant compare different times because human civilization will continue to progress & devices that were non-existent few decades ago are commonplace now. Does that mean the poor should compare themselves against living standards of the 19th century and feel better ? Hardly.

      If we have to deal with inequality, the only sensible comparison is contemporary.

  12. saying that mathematically the average wealth in america is x dollars, is a fundamentally different statement than saying that the average person on the street is actually making x dollars. if i have a village with 10 people in it, and nine of those people make a dollar a day, while one person in it makes one million dollars a day, then the average income for that village is $100,000.90 per day. but the median income is one dollar per day, the actual dollar amount that 50 percent of people make less than, and 50 percent of people make more than. so YES the average income IS misleading. it is not a reflection of how the actual *average* person on the street is doing. just because one person is doing really well doesn’t mean that nine out of ten people aren’t suffering, like in the example i just gave.

    all looking at the average does is tell you that those making more than the median are making WAY more than the median. that’s how math works.

  13. I came across this site while researching American’s net worth for a college class. None of the other sources came close to $182,000. Most say the number is $77,300, and that that is according to the Federal Reserve. I am not close to either number but it’s amazing how much this number varies from one source to another, and reminds me not to believe everything I read on the internet.

      1. Charles Zuckerman

        Again, there is a fundamental difference between average and median. I can easily believe the average to be $182K and the median to be $107K. They are two entirely different measurements.

  14. uh, dont forget that the millionaires and billionairs at the top blow the curve. What would really be more interesting would be the median. This would let you know what the average American makes.

    1. Kevin Shryock

      “What would really be more interesting would be the median. This would let you know what the average American makes.” Do you hear yourself?
      Median= the middle number; the number that 50% make below and 50% make above.
      Average= the equal distribution of the total amongst all who were polled.

      It is a statistical, logical, grammatical and every-other-kind-of fallacy to say that the median would let you know the average.

      Argue, if you want, that the median provides a better impression of the situation, but do not argue with terms unless you understand the definitions.

      1. Of course the median provides a better impression. If 5 people are standing in a room; One has a net worth of $5M and the other 4 have a net worth of $0, then their average net worth is $1M. How is that anywhere near an accurate representation of the situation? Like… at all?

          1. But that doesn’t change the equation. There is incredible disparity between average net worth and median net worth.

            If you can’t comprehend the story being told when the median net worth is a fraction of the average net worth, then quite frankly, you’re clueless when it comes to economics.

          2. Actually the top 10% control 77% of the wealth… so the difference between median and average is huge.

  15. Why do you ask what each commenter’s net worth is, and why does it matter? Do facts change depending on who is presenting them? Is this like the Heinsenberg uncertainty principle or the theory of relativity?

  16. This guy is nuts. Over 24% of Americans have no net worth or a negative net worth. So then the average is much higher for those at the top. Apparently some people are ok with the greed mentality over compassion for human beings.

  17. Gary Geesman

    I am retired and would like to ask the community whether it is legitimate to figure my SS and my wife’s SS as an annuity in our net worth?

      1. Charles Zuckerman

        That is why median net worth and average net worth is different. If four people have $5 and 2 people have $6 and three people have $7 and one person has $1,000,000, the average worth of the group is $100,000.30/person. Whoo hoo everyone is rich!

        Oh wait, but 9 people are way way way below that and one is really really far above that. But the mean is $6/person. Half are equal to or below $6 and half are equal to or above $6. Pretty different.

        On the chart the US ranks 4th in average but 19th in median because the distribution of wealth is so great with such a small number of rich and a large number of poor. Countries where their average and median are close show balanced wage distribution.

        Now the chart doesn’t give numbers so we cannot accurately asses the scales of distribution variance, but the closer the average rank and the median rank the more equal the distribution. On this scale of twenty the U.S. has a 15 place delta between average and mean. However only Finland(10) and Sweden(12) join us with deltas above 10. The rest are 8 or below with 60% having deltas equal to or less than 5 (Australia – 1, Canada -1, Israel – 1, Singapore – 2, Taiwan – 2, Netherlands – 3, Ireland – 3, France – 4, New Zealand – 4, Switzerland – 5, Norway 5, Germany 5) . In other words we are rich but not universally so. Everyone appears rich in Australia and everyone is sharing the pain in Israel and Ireland.

  18. The median – mean discussion is important, and those posting that the median is probably more informative are correct- the skewness of income distribution is legendary. And of course, even if one does include “negative net worth,” there are a LOT fewer with negative net worth in the 100 million dollar range than those with a positive number in that range and above.

    I suggest people take a look at some information put together by the US Census, which looks at median net worth (by quintile, so you get five numbers- the median worth for those in the bottom 20%, the next 20%, and so on ,up to the median net worth for the top 20%). It also provides information breaking things down by age, whether people are married, etc. The data are from 1999 and 2000, but the basic information is extremely robust. Check it out at–88.pdf. A couple of major points- the median for the bottom 20% is a little less than $7500. The median for the richest 20% is…. $185,500. That alone demonstrates the skewing issue and why it is so important in figuring out where the majority of people are.

    Note that for most people, the largest component of net worth is home equity (sensible, really- for an avaerage person, at least. The importance of home equity decreases as net worth increases. The often cited Bill Gates could not spend enough on a home to make it the major source of his equity). In 2000, home equity accounted for about one third of all household net worth. Obviously, as real estate prices decline, net worth declines- and the percentage decline in net worth is greater for those most relying on home ownership to boost net worth.

    Median net worth when you exclude home equity, according to the Census data, for those 55 to 64 years old, was only $32,314. That is the highest figure once you look at things like age- for those under 35, it is about $3300. For those over 75, it is a bit under $20K.

    Another point- $182,000 may sound like a lot of money, and it is. But, when you look at the decreasing percentage of Americans who are part of any defined benefit pension plan (from what I can see, usually not included in net worth calculations, and not included in the Census calculations) and recognize that the WSJ and other calculations DO include things like IRAs, Keoghs, etc, you start seeing how much most people have saved up to help them in old age. Does anyone think that Social Security plus a cushion of under 200K is enough for retirement (bear in mind that 200K also includes home equity, so if you have 200K in the bank, you are renting)?

    Additional, and a bit more recent, data from a Federal Reserve Boards “Survey of Consumer Finances” (2007) seem to agree largely with the Census figures. The Federal Reserve Board uses averages instead of medians (easier to get the information, I suspect). Here is what they reported – remember, this is 2007 data.
    Bottom 25%- average net worth $4600
    25 to 50%- $21,700
    50 to 75%- $78,900
    75 to 90%- 242,800
    top 10%- $1,606,600

    Again, the skewing is pretty clear- just compare even the top 10% to the bottom 25%- if you see a bell curve there, it is a pretty oddly shaped bell.

    I would love to see some good statistics of more recent vintage- I suspect we will be gettign some in another year or two from the US Census- and I suspect they will indicate that for most people, net worth has decreased over the past several years, and that the %decline will be greater for those on the lower end of the economic scale. I hope I am wriong, but that is certianly what it looks like.

  19. $182K is considered high? Let’s have some reference points to compare with:
    Our national debt about $500K per capita.
    The average Taiwanese net worth is $282K in 2007. Taiwan has lower standard of living than the US.
    Singaporean publications suggest citizen needs to save up US$3M to retire in Singapore.

    1. If that’s true for Taiwan, that’s awesome! Happy for them.

      And, I assume you think $182K is low, and it’s actually much higher. Makes me all the more bullish on our economy.

      1. Yes, I believe the US is OK. We are going through changes and not on a path to demise. Ultimately our competitive differentiation is our creativity and our ability to convert creativity into wealth. That has not changed.
        The wealth distribution around the world is changing. Our industries know it and will take advantage of it. At least the capitalist theory is that wealth among nations is not a zero sum game. US is not getting poorer. Many other nations are getting wealthier.
        We’re sort of in-between the European socialist system (heavy tax and benefits) and the extreme right system of the East Asian nations (low tax and benefits). East Asians have to save a lot partly because many of them do not have the benefits of a social security system like ours.
        I believe our gov’t is doing the right thing – trying to sustain the social security system, joggling the priorities among items such as defense vs welfare cost.

  20. The top few % control about half of America’s wealth. Once you remove them (how many 50 millionaires are in YOUR circle of friends?), the average drops close to the Median net worth of about $80k. Net worth does NOT mean cash. Much of that is trapped in retirement and pension accounts as well as difficult to extract home equity.

  21. Fact is though, that 80% of Americans own less than 7% of America’s net worth. So 4 out of 5 Americans have the average net worth of $13,340, not $182,000. America is decaying from ineguality it would seem.

      1. david james

        the way that this average was calculated is about as contrived as a CNN Poll, Most of the rapidly dwindling class of “haves” ( unless you owner of a “financial Samural Bot ) in this country are living so far beyond their means, that if some how they manage to catch up by the time they retire, the medical cost from the stress related illness caused from years of play musical chairs at the “HAVES” table will take any assets they have anyways The reason that there are “haves and have-nots” is simply because most people dont have the ability to display high virtues without being burdened with having any virtues at all or we would all be politicians or media jesters

  22. The average net worth says nothing about the financial state of health for most Americans since the net worths of America’s mega-rich heavily skew these figures upwards. A more reliable indicator is median wealth. That figure is MUCH lower, well less than 100K.

    If you look at these more indicative statistical indicators, your boy oh boy cheery optimism might be due for a reality check. But it is much easier living in ignorant bliss, I guess.

    1. Well, when I happily invested another couple hundred thousand in the market last summer, my cheery optimism 8 months later has made about a 33% return. I’ll take it :)

      1. good for you, that’s great–I did pretty well myself–but that has nothing to do with your claim that the average American net worth is huge. It is clearly not.

  23. The dollar will cease to be the world’s reserve currency before the end of 2012. China is unloading all of it’s US money as we speak and pushing in private meetings for the Euro or Japanese Yen to replace the dollar as the new reserve currency.
    Like you said yourself, look at the bell curves (history has them too); a graph you might like to overlay are the financial graphs of stock trends in the dip before the great depression through the great depression itself, and what we have gone through the past few years. It is an almost perfect overlay; we have reached the peak of our post ‘pre-depression dip’ recovery and are about to dive. With these two facts stated, understand that the United States is TRILLIONS AND TRILLIONS of dollars in debt, while we’re also facing trillions of dollars in internal deficits over the next few years. China has already started collections of the majority of the United States debt over the past few years; what most people don’t understand is that because the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency it is the only country legally allowed to print it’s own money, and that’s what we’ve been doing since 2009 to pay off our debt. This will not last forever though because the dollar is quickly becoming obsolete, as facilitated by own government (intentional or not).
    Furthermore, the media has never been obligated to tell the truth and it is naive to assume that they will. The fact is that the richest people in the world, and the government, control the majority of the media– and they already know all the facts I have just stated to you. If they let you know what’s going on then you would be more likely to try and protect your own money. That is the exact opposite of what anybody in their position would want however, because the only thing it would do is make it more difficult to protect their own money by trying to unload all of it on you ‘the peasants’–( a phrase used to refer to working-class Americans in multiple business and legal documents, look it up!).

    In conclusion: people are perfectly ALLOWED to lie to you about the fact that ALL the money you have today will likely be worth next to nothing (.000001). in around the span of a year. Like I said earlier, look it up. AND check who has a stake in telling you what you’re seeing. Please.

  24. “Maybe that number takes into account share of the debt too? ” when calculating your net worth, you have to factor in your share of debt. Are you talking about taking the nations debt, and dividing it up by the people? ooooo never thought about that… the 150k average net worth probably doesn’t take that into consideration.

  25. If you think $182,000 is “huge” you’d better think again. If you had to RETIRE on that much money, it would not be much of a retirement – for very long.

    While you could go out and buy a Porsche, once you retire from working (or more likely, laid off at 55 and never work again) you can’t EAT a Porsche.

    If you want to retire comfortably, you’d need at least five times that amount.

    And bear in mind, this “average” includes the top 1% (average net worth $14 mil) which tends to skew the numbers. Many poor people have negative net worths, and your median is a lot lower than the average numbers shown above.

    You can’t be too rich or too thin….

    1. Who is retiring with only $182,000? I would say only a small minority. This is the AVERAGE net worth for Americans who AVERAGE 31-33 years of age. Not bad if you have $182,000 at that age and can accumulate for another 20-30 years for your retirement.

      America is living large!

  26. I actually think this should give faith to America’s creditors. 182k > than our average national debt per person (13 trillion / 300 million = 43k per person). Quantifying a nation’s assets is beyond a quick post here, but based on the populace alone – we’re below 25% of our net worth. Thoughts?

  27. I think average is a bit misleading.

    The top 20% [61.6m people] hold 85% of the wealth [$47.6 Tr] for an average of $773.5k per person.

    The bottom 80% [216.4m people] hold 15% [$8.4 Tr] of the net worth in this country for an average of $34k per person.

    I’m not saying this distribution is wrong because further analysis of the above link will show that the top 20% put more of their money at risk in the market, and given that risk and return are proportionate, it’s not surprising that the wealth distribution ends up this way.

  28. Kevin@InvestItWisely

    Looks like I’ve already left my fair share of comments here. My net worth is nowhere near that, but I’m also not an American, nor do I live in a place like SF where engineers get paid 6-figure salaries. Am I a bit green? Perhaps. :P

  29. Sam, hate to be pedantic, but $182K or $77K net worth doesn’t really matter, what matters is cash flow and disposable income. As the checkbook at the end of the month or pay period gets closer to 0, that $90K of home equity is not of much help. You can’t eat sheetrock, not even with hot sauce.

    But the WSJ article was indeed typically silly. The featured retired insurance executive was going get down and dirty frugal, and cut out the golf outings and membership to a California wine club (!!??). Household cuts do hurt, I presume the Swedish au pair was next in line for the axe.

    1. Is that the Swedish au pair, with hot sauce?

      $182,000 PER PERSON! I have two kids (with $0 networth), so my family is FAR, FAR, below the average — and I make 6 figures.

  30. Sir, I am a gentleman and gentlemen do not discuss their financial wherewithal like common jobbers. I will say that I do have the means to live the life of a gentleman.

    it is quite obvious that you take some modicum of pride in your concept of an acceptable net worth or beating some benchmark or keeping score. Tis clear to me you are one of those khaki and polo shirt wearing fellows that spawn more khaki and polo shirt wearers by the litter.

    1. Again, I think it’s fine if your net worth is below $182,000. Like you believe, the $182,000 figure is overstated, hence there’s no shame at all in being below average especially if you’re under 30. You’ve got your whole life to make money so it’s no rush. Cheers

  31. Worthless number and statistic particularly if u consider that 1% of the population control roughly 40% of the national wealth so 3mm people out of 300mm control 40% of our national wealth. Expand it a little bit more and we have 10% controlling 70% of our wealth.

    If u have studied finance and economics you should know that a wealth concentration of such a magnitude creates a volatile, unsustainable and unstable economy. At some point there will be a redistribution of wealth. America needs to find a way to rebuild its middle class and reduce the polarization of wealth between the ultrarich and the ultrapoor.

    Free markets is not the solution nor is govt policy; what u need is an intelligent partnership between the markets and policy that benefits the entire country.
    Our politicians and intellectuals have completely lost the plot

  32. I’m sorry, mr. samurai, but your perspective is frankly ridiculous. To claim that the average cannot be skewed because there are so many people in the denominator shows that you have not only a basic misunderstanding of statistics, but also of the income (and wealth – not the same thing) distribution in america. It just came out that the 74 highest-income people in the US in 2009 made more than the bottom 19 million workers. I’m not making a mistake, income of the top 74 people is more than the bottom 19 million workers combined.
    And it is widely known that the wealth distribution is far more uneven than the income distribution.

    Also, you end your article by saying “Do you think $182,000 per person is actually low for net worth now that the good times are back?” Employment markets remain incredibly weak, demand is non-existent, and we are in a liquidity trap. What good times are you referring to?

      1. I think I’m more likely to believe Gerald. I simply don’t know anyone who’s well off, other than my parents, and they’re well off due to my dad having been in the Marines for 20 years (so the Gov. pretty much takes care of him).

        Myself and all my friends have far less than $182,000, and we’re all frugal (and I’m debt-free).

        For the record, I’m middle-aged, unemployed and have been looking. Poverty level. Going back to school for a Master’s in Accounting in hopes I’ll be able to secure a job eventually.

        1. I’m sorry about your situation BD. Education is great, however I thought a Masters in a business related field is very expensive? Perhaps you can do it part-time? What about taking on minimum wage jobs in the meantime? Has the government’s unemployment program been able to help you? Hope so!!

  33. Huge? Are you kidding?
    The median would obviously be the more important figure here (as pointed out by another comment) and it’s at $77k. So a family right in the middle is worth about one year’s pay. Hurray.

    Or let’s go with the average- If the average household sold absolutely everything they had, including their house, they could buy a small house or maybe live off of the money for a few years.

    And you see this as a good thing?

    1. $182,000 sounds like a good thing to me! I’m proud of the American people for averaging this amount. Move to the inner states and live like a king! Move to another country and live like a Sultan!

  34. That is really huge! It is better rather than nothing! People should be satisfied in everything they are having and make more out of it.

  35. Khaleef @ KNS Financial

    Sam, I love your posts! You just keep pushing people a little further with every comment!

    I’ll add another comment about mean vs median. Of course mean isn’t appropriate for this type of analysis, even the article stated that when bringing out these numbers:

    “…left average net worth at about $182,000 a person – though the average is pulled up by a small group of the very wealthy.” So it seems like they believe that the average isn’t the best way to get a true picture.

    It’s clear that the numbers would be skewed toward the high end, especially when we talk about net worth considering all sources. Money tied up in a retirement account or assumed equity in a home when you live in an area where no one is buying doesn’t do much to boost your current financial situation.

  36. Roshawn @ Watson Inc

    I don’t most people are suggesting that the average is inaccurate as much as they are arguing that it doesn’t represent the middle. That’s not denying reality as much as limiting the ability extrapolate from the data: since the average net worth is X, why don’t people do Y and Z. You definitely keep things entertaining my friend.

  37. Even my mom has a higher net worth than $182K (from her pension lump sum and house sale) and her taxable income is below poverty level. She qualifies for no tax status and is retired so she gets a lot of credits. I think this amount of savings is quite low for a retired person who needs to live off it for the rest of their days.

    I would expect most baby boomers are above this number too because of their age and hopefully not all of them used their home as an ATM, so if nothing else, their home equity alone could make up that number.

  38. Budgeting Money

    I don’t know when I ever gave off this impression, but that is certainly not my position at all! I am all for savings.

  39. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom

    As a Canadian, every time I travel around the US – and when I lived there, I’m struck by the poverty – and wealth disparity. I’ve only been to about 25 states or so, but it seems to hold true in every one. There are small pockets where things appear fine on the surface – but I’m not sure that the savings are there or people just have nice houses and no cash.

    In 2005, the median net worth of Canadians was just under $150k.

    With respect to a breakdown for Canadians by age group (again, 2005):

    < 35 – $15,000
    35 to 44 – $140,000
    45 to 54 – $230,000
    55 to 64 – $407,000
    65+ – $300,000

    And here it is for the US (median) in 2003:
    < 35 – $11,600
    35 to 44 – $77,600
    45 to 54 – $132,000
    55 to 64 – $181,500
    65 to 74 – $176,300
    75+ – $151,400


    1. Thanks for the stats! Looks spot on, especially since there has been an increase of wealth since 2003.

      I think the poverty you see is just the American way of humility, ironically. We are less showy than the world thinks.

      1. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom

        Sam, you kill me. ;-) I only lived in the US for a few years, but I never would have thought that humility was the answer. LOL
        My dad used to call it “Big hat, no cattle.”

        What I find interesting is that the Canadian net worth goes up with age to a greater degree than Americans – so much for being presumably overtaxed due in part to socialized medicine!

      1. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom

        Ha! The Huffington Post did an article a while back on US citizens immigrating to Canada. We didn’t experience the same recession you guys did. You all just need to take some lessons from your northern neighbors.

  40. Kevin@InvestItWisely


    The world still benefits from their existence! Lots of people commit suicide and the world never even knows their name.

    There are cities in Asia that dwarf most American cities except for NYC and are very well managed. The problems of the US are political. In the current political structure I agree with you that the country will probably not benefit from more people. This is a political problem though, not a resource problem. The country is very rich, just very mismanaged.

  41. Kevin@InvestItWisely


    As for the US’s problems, they are wholly political. The US could be an incredibly productive place even without population growth.

    Were it not for the giant social and physical barriers, immigrants could provide a very useful service in whichever tiers of society they could fit. Maybe you guys don’t remember, but the US is an immigrant country and was built on the backs of immigrants. People came to this continent with nothing and, through hard work, made a life for themselves.

    Today, due to insane regulations and restrictions as well as a welfare state, they are either a drain on society or are forced to work in shady places underground without legal protections. The rest are excluded from coming in the first place. That is really a shame.

    Places like Canada and Russia are very sparsely populated and wouldn’t hurt much from additional people, either. It’s not so much about total population growth as people moving from where there are too many people to where the social and legal structures are much better and where they can be much more productive.

    1. You can’t change simple supply and demand laws, though.
      I found a statistic somewhere that the average number of applicants (PhD’s all) for College Professorships last year was something like 600. That’s 600 people for *every* job. So, if you are lucky enough to land one, and believe me, the higher ed industry is one of the worst of all when it comes to equal opportunity and fair hiring practicies, you’ll have beaten out over 500 other applicants.

      Sure that PhD’s worth it? And *why* is this happening?

      1. H1B’s. What a farce. How about that program simply goes away. There’s more than enough applicants per job – but the infrastructure that supplies them (esp. from India) is so corrupt and profitable that the program will last forever.
      2. Too many people. Been over this again and again. If you can’t *afford* a kid, don’t have one. And if you do, expect to pay around $500,000 to raise that kid to college age, especially if you consider the opportunity cost of one parent abandoning the workplace to stay at home.
      3. Solving overpopulation isn’t just a matter of shuffling people around on the planet. They need food. Clean water. Places to live. Jobs. In Russia, where you can earn a living, it’s packed (Moscow, for example, is 3d world infrastructure brimming with people.) Sure, Siberia’s empty, so “on average” it seems pretty empty, but there’s nothing there, it’s a giant ice-desert. And, not surprisingly, the bulk of the Canadian population is near the border with the US. I imagine igloo space is plentiful in the upper Yukon.

      It’s just mathematics. More and more mouths to feed, less and less resources (look up Hubbert’s peak if you really want a good intro into what’s going to happen), and the result will be economic collapse. The US is consuming much more than it produces, had a brutal trade deficit and national debt, and until the resource demanders (population) gets under control, we’ll continue to spin towards badness.

      1. Kevin@InvestItWisely

        Without an increase in energy supply and energy efficiency, total population growth will reach a limit. No argument from me there. I’m not one of those guys that thinks there will be no problem in everyone consuming like an American. :)

        I don’t exactly say to shuffle people around, but instead, people should be allowed to go to where the opportunities are better. Is Sam saying that instead of having children, you should consider adopting an orphan? If you can provide the child with proper care, then I think that would be a very noble thing for anyone to do.

        1. Kevin@InvestItWisely

          First time I see this post, Sam. I agree that people should only have kids if they are going to be responsible and will be able to take care of them.

  42. Kevin@InvestItWisely


    “Surely Kevin’s not advocating the US as a model for savings?! Until recently we had a *negative* savings rate. We’d not be in this mess if we saved as well as China”

    I don’t know when I ever gave off this impression, but that is certainly not my position at all! I am all for savings.

    Of course, to play devil’s advocate… if you listen to the MMT guys, savings are responsible for deflationary depressions :P

  43. I don’t understand the relevance of that question at all. We’re talking about “America”, not Darwin. Much would depend on how the calculation is performed. Do you count a large mortgage against you? Do you count unexercised stock options? Do you count the future cash flows from my online activities? If I move into a larger home (mortgage higher) tomorrow, does my net worth drop? Do I count the present value of future cash flows from my pension and social security (whatever’s left)? This would become a real science project and it really depends on the definitions used, which are never covered in big media fluff pieces. In essence, my net worth is a dozen different numbers depending on how you classify net worth. I don’t know why the WSJ published what they did, but it appears to be deceptive based on an obvious error in using mean instead of median.

    1. The calculation used the same variables for everybody. So if all our net worths are greater than $182,000, including yours, why would you even think twice that $182,000 isn’t a plausible number?

      1. Robert Muir

        Not to speak for Darwin, but while it’s a perfectly plausible number it just is NOT that *huge* a number, given yours and the WSJ’s definition of “net worth”.

      2. Because most of the people I KNOW don’t have that high of a number. People generally hang out with people in their net worth bracket. So yeah…… You lie in one of the richest places on earth, so you assume everyone is like you, and it’s far from the truth.

  44. Sam,
    I don’t think people are trying to “discredit the WSJ”. I think you are misunderstanding the significance of median vs. mean. It is VERY significant. If you don’t like the Bill Gates example, which is quite relevant, let’s look at the hard data. Here’s an independent listing that shows median AND mean net worth in the same table across various years. You can say, “It’s not recent” but in fact, the distribution of wealth has only worsened in the past few years, so you don’t want to use that argument. Here’s wiki:

    Check out the table at the bottom.

    Median net worth is always about 1/4 to 1/5 of Mean net worth. So, in this recent figure, with mean net worth at 182K, assume the typical American has about 50K net worth or so.

    Big difference and nothing you can plan on retiring on any time soon.

    I think you’ve gotta make sure you understand the difference when our wealth distribution is so skewed toward the top. Not making judgments on that fact, but that’s how it is in US vs. say, European countries.

      1. Because the WSJ is a tool of the pro-natalist, pro-corporation universe of greedy banksters and avaricious wall street sleeze that invents CDS’s and, as was memorably quoted in “The Giant Pool of Money” NPR podcast, gave out mortgages to people who “Couldn’t get a loan from a local loanshark!”

        So sad there’ve been so few jailings. But, as long as we keep cranking out offspring to throw into the Corporate maw that runs this country, we’ll never be free.

        1. Wow! What is a “pro-natalist” though?

          You are saying it’s the banks fault for the homeowners who borrowed, and not the borrowers who borrowed more than they could afford?

          Can I blame my gym for why I still only have 4 pack abs instead of 8 packs like I see on TV?

      2. WSJ is a conservative news outlet which promotes smaller government, less handouts, etc. They have a vested interest in making it seem like the average american is doing very well, people have plenty of opportunity, no gov’t assistance is needed, etc. That’s the reason they use mean instead of median.

    1. Darwin’s Money’s got it right I think. America has a huge wealth inequality problem which explains the huge difference between median and mean net worth.

  45. Do you concede the significance of the difference between the two then? Sometimes, it’s insignificant, other times it’s not. This is one of those times that it makes a HUGE difference. As to why WSJ, why your college professor, why a politician cites one over the other? I’d outlined it here at DarwinsFinance back in the day. Most people don’t really ponder the difference or examples; here are some clearly laid out examples and why it matters.

    Essentially, sometimes it’s intentional to try and prove a point when the alternative route would not show what you’re trying to prove, and sometimes it’s due to lack of understanding.

    Sam, the title of your article is that the average American net worth is “huge”. By average, if you’re referring to the arithmetic mean, I would not even concede that. But more importantly, the more telling measure of what “most” Americans look like financially shows that their net worth is about a quarter of the number you’re relying on in the article – thus, anything but huge.

  46. Robert Muir

    Median non-home net worth of $13,000 seems a lot more accurate. You have to live somewhere. If you really want to be humbled, calculate your total liquidated non-home net worth. As I mentioned in my previous comment, if you had to liquidate all your investments (and if you’re married cut it in half), including retirement accounts.

    I conservatively estimate my liquidated retirement accounts at 60% of their value since much of it is in Roth accounts. Of course, once I reach 59 1/2, it’ll be better.

    As for China, I see a revolution in their near future. The peasants are growing restless. The longer they keep the yuan low, the worse off they’re going to be. With the huge imbalance of trade, China has been collecting hundreds of billions of dollars that they can’t or won’t spend. It cannot continue indefinitely. They’ll eventually have to allow the yuan to rise, which will lower our standard of living, but it should allow US small business to grow again.

    1. Kevin@InvestItWisely

      China lets Yuan rise: Middle class Chinese sees value of investments drop. However, everyone has higher purchasing power.

      Does the US actually want the US dollar to fall? First there is the sabre-rattling against China’s peg, but more importantly, in case anyone hasn’t been noticing, it’s been falling for a while now; whenever it gets too low, other countries (*cough* Japan *cough*) intervene so Americans can continue to afford their exports. It’s a ridiculous game, and I don’t know what the final outcome of all this will be, but economic power might shift to China a lot faster than we expect.

  47. The US population according to the CIA factbook is around 307 million (today). It’s growth rate is nearly 1%/year (Wikipedia and Census data) this means a 10% growth (roughly) every ten years.

    Chinese are among best savers in the world. It’s no coincidence that their economy boomed when the number of children dropped. Parents could put much more resource and energy into 1 child versus many. People chose *not* to have children and instead, have careers.
    Surely Kevin’s not advocating the US as a model for savings?! Until recently we had a *negative* savings rate. We’d not be in this mess if we saved as well as China!

    The Yuan/USD issue is a tricky one, because, in our pro-natalist, hyper consuming style, we are in such huge debt to China if they decided to ruin the dollar, they could. We’ve borrowed way too much as a nation to finance wars, entitlements and, sadly, to service our debt. Promoting a ‘pay for it later’ lifestyle has gotten us into the mess we’re in.

    If you advocate for more population in ‘prosperous’ areas, where are they? The US? Growing at 10% a year with a staggering, long term debt, more people than ever in poverty, hunger, with one of the lowest life expectancies of a Westernized country? Is that prosperous? Let alone the enormous crowding we all experience as part of our daily lives. Ever try to get anywhere in LA traffic? NYC? Seattle? I’ve lived or visited all of them. There’s just. too. many. people. THe environment can’t support them, the economy can’t support them, the planet is bursting at the seams. The Chinese came up with a solution that seems to work. I expect the US to do the same in our lifetimes.
    As for Van Gogh, he committed suicide at 37 when he was penniless. Is that what you’d want to happen to *your* kid? Einstein nearly didn’t make it out of Nazi Germany..

  48. I have an average net worth, live in a average house, drive an average car, have average looks and weight, have an average job in an average midwest city. You just confirmed my AVERAGENESS. Now I’m depressed. Thanks a lot man!

  49. Hmmm… Maybe my standards are too high, but $182,000 doesn’t seem like much. In a paid-off house and with no car payments, it costs me about $29,000 gross to live in moderate comfort. While I don’t furnish my life with thrift-store goods, that means rarely eating out, never going to movies or concerts, never traveling, and buying most of my clothes at Costco. That means $182,000 in cash holdings would support a retired person for 6.27 years. If the person were collecting Social Security, it might support her for about twice that long…and given that our longevity (many people now live into their 90s and 100s), if she retired at 66, she would very likely run out of savings before she ran out of years.

    If Igotadose is correct that the median net worth is $77,000, that’s even scarier, since median net worth is a more credible figure than average net worth. Seventy-seven grand will support you for almost two years and eight months. Assuming you don’t pay a mortgage or rent and your car is paid off. Take real estate equity out of the figures, and the remaining 18 grand will last you one year and seven months — if you can keep expenditures down to $29,000 while paying a mortgage or rent.

    A paid-off house provides a de facto return on investment equivalent to the amount you would have to pay for a mortgage or for rent. In my parts, $300/month will rent you a hole in a dangerous firetrap; $800 will rent a modest two- or three-bedroom house. So if the theoretical American is paying for the roof overhead, you have to adjust the number of years or month the average or median net worth would last in retirement downward. Way downward.

    To generate $29,000 a year from a 4% drawdown from savings, you would need cash savings of $725,000. If you were getting $15,000 a year from Social Security, then you would need a retirement fund of $350,000. That’s cash, not including the value of your home or car.

    With an average net worth (possibly including the you-can’t-eat-it value of home equity) of $182,000, a median net worth of $77,000, and a median net worth not including home equity of $18,000, most Americans are looking a future of poverty.

    1. think outside the box, who says you have to stay in the country? There are many countries with a lower cost of living, with near equal standards and all the amenities.

      1. Maybe public education is better in your part of the country than in mine. But few of the Americans I know speak any language other than English fluently (or, for that matter, at all!), unless they happen to be native speakers of Spanish. It’s not easy to pick up a new language in your 60s — research shows that the older you get, the harder it is to learn new languages.

        How many people really want to relocate — leaving family and friends behind — to a country where they don’t even know how to order a week’s worth of groceries?

  50. Kevin@InvestItWisely


    I should add, Chinese policy also screws over savers. Because of the high inflation rate, people dump their money into properties (which has led to the property bubble) and now gold and jade. Were there a sudden change of policy, that would mean that relative to yuan prices, gold, property, etc… would experience a sudden decline in value. A lot of Chinese would not be very happy about that…

    1. why are you blaming the chinese for US inflation? Just because they are buying our bonds? blame the proper people, the US government for the inflation.

      inflation is used by all nations with a fiat currency as a hidden tax.

  51. Kevin@InvestItWisely


    Overpopulation in poor areas is a very serious concern, yes, but in the end, does one additional human being add to or subtract from the society’s net worth? I would argue that one additional human in a more prosperous area will tend to add to the society’s net worth.

    After all, you don’t know how many Einsteins, Vincent van Goghs, or Edisons haven’t been born. ;) So overall, I see population growth as a mixed bag. In some areas of the world, it’s bad, but in others, it’s good.

    As for China and their currency manipulation… it will be interesting to see how this one plays out. A lower yuan means lower prices for Americans but it also means that the Chinese have to pay more for imports. They’re not entirely getting a free lunch. An end to currency manipulation would be fairer, but you know that saying, “be careful what you wish for…”

  52. Sunil from The Extra Money Blog

    Keigu – kudos to a wonderful post. humorous indeed . . . numbers aside, this post brings up a very important concept of relativity. looking at some of the comments that conclude whether the avg is poor or not, it’s all relative to the benchmark isn’t it?

    good post

  53. Well I know one thing – I’m psyched that the markets crossed 10800! Even though I sold a bunch of stock I hope the market keeps climbing. That is a hilarious picture by the way. If the avg net worth is really 182000 that’s great! It’s better news than having it be a figure 1/3 the size b/c it means more people are getting paid well. Whether or not the average person knows how to keep a budget and manage debt is a whole ‘nother story though.

  54. Hello again, Sam.

    I dug into the WSJ article. One has to be *very* cautious when reading a capitalist tool rag like the WSJ. They belong to Rupert Murdoch of “Faux News/Fox Noise/…”

    Take a look at table 1 in

    An average isn’t a great number for ‘net worth’ when you think about it, as it’ll be skewed by a few data points, like the net worth of the ultra-rich. A median is better (the number right in the middle).

    And, Levy’s use of ‘non-home net worth’ is interesting, since a home isn’t anything you can spend (ATM mortgages and the excesses spurred on by the REALTOR industry and their bankster budwans notwithstanding.)

    Median ‘net worth’ was about $77k in the data Levy has, from the same sources as the WSJ article, as of 2004. Median non-home net worth, about $18k.

    And, if you troll the blogosphere and sift through the noise, I don’t think with all the increases in people living in poverty, high unemployment rates and so on, that these numbers will have substantially gone up since 2004. I imagine they’d drop.

    Oh – another interesting blog with lots of great data links:

    And, as always, remember that the biggest threat to our (dwindling) prosperity is overpopulation. It’s not surprising that a generation after imposing draconian limits on family size that China is becoming the world’s leading economy. As the economic collapse blog poitns out or links to, Chinese manipulation of the price of the yuan vs. the USD is a direct threat to our economy, but as long as we keep breeding and buying crap from wal-mart we don’t need, they’ll succeed.

    1. “And, as always, remember that the biggest threat to our (dwindling) prosperity is overpopulation. ”

      funny you should say that line, then use China as an example… are you serious? There are more chinese than there is water in the ocean.

      Guess you would have to define overpopulation…. I would argue that overpopulation is only a problem if you can not make your nation productive, or if you do not have the means and support to feed/house or take care of your populace.

      China is doing so well, because of international laws sending jobs to China. They basically are taking the wealth from the rich nations, and making themselves richer while at the same time develping their country and infrastructre… lining themselves up to be the next word super power.

      1. China’s growth rate is approximately half that of the US. Yes, there’s like 1.5 billion of them.
        However, 30+ years of ‘1 child per family’ has led to:
        1. Dramatic reduction in the people living in ‘abject poverty’ – less than $2 day. Something like dropping from 60% of the population to under 15% today. Impressive.
        2. A much stronger economy as you point out.

        Think of it this way: imagine if they had not imposed their population control a generation ago. There’d be twice as many today. Scary.

        Population growth rates:

  55. Robert Muir

    As Little House mentioned, it really depends on how net worth is defined.

    1: How much you’re worth if you had to liquidate all investments including retirement plans. Home equity either would or wouldn’t be included so that might be 1a and 1b.

    2: How much you’re worth counting all investments as they stand, i.e. unliquidated, but don’t include home equity.

    3: The highest (which is what I think this number refers) would include all investments and all home ownership.

    If you include home equity in net worth, then I can easily believe this number. In fact, it seems rather low if all retirement accounts and home equity are included.

    1. Sounds good. This is what the WSJ article said, “The Federal Reserve reported Friday that household net worth—stocks, bonds, homes and other assets, minus mortgages and other debts—”

      So yes, home equity is in the figure.

  56. $182k isn’t enough to buy the average house. $182k will generate $7280/yr = $607/mo income (using the 4% safe withdrawl rate), which is well below the poverty rate.

    So the average American is POOR.

  57. Kevin@InvestItWisely

    Americans are indeed amongst the wealthiest on the planet, but income inequality has been growing due to all sorts of pork-barrel legislation that tends to favor the politically-connected and the powerful at the expense of others.

    Sam, you work in IT and live in San Fran? While it’s good for you, you’re living in an outlier.

    1. Am I an outlier, really? I don’t believe I am anybody special. Millions of people live out here in the SF Bay Area, and millions more around the country who are doing fine.

      1. Kevin@InvestItWisely

        Wouldn’t SF be one of the richest countries in the world, if it was a country? You are in an area that is doing relatively quite well, but it doesn’t mean that the whole country is doing as good.

        You sure you don’t have confirmation bias? ;)

        1. Kevin@InvestItWisely

          What’s with you and this renter’s tax :P

          Sam, what would the renter’s tax honestly accomplish? Unless you are proposing a double payment of property tax, what’s the difference? You’re simply calling part of the rent payment by a different name.

        2. No, because Renters, who are the majority in SF aren’t willing to pay a Renter Tax directly to the government to help fund infrastructure!

          I am an optimist at heart. That is my nature. Yet, I’m a realist. When I see everybody and their mama with Apple products and $700 iPads, I do not believe in a recession.

          I believe my eyes, not my ears, which is why I am so bullish!

  58. Sam,

    Here is by far a more sobering number:

    Given the government’s (read: ours) debt as of today and the entitlement burden the average share of this debt per person is about $250k. So in spite of a net worth of $182K we are, on average, still negative.


      1. Not at all, Sam. Our share of the national debt just hangs out there like a smelly ugly turd.


        1. I’m saying our average net worth is still less than our share of debt we owe as a nation.

          That’s a really bad thing!

        2. It doesn’t matter until it does.

          Look at Greece, Ireland and Iceland.

          After Japan gets whacked the USA is up next.

          Remember this comment in the future, Sam…

  59. Is this figure factoring in property? I’m just curious because I know I’m well below this amount for retirement savings and personal savings. I’d be curious to know if property raises the number to that amount.

  60. I am not saying I don’t believe the number, I am just surprised. We are above the number, but I know many that are not.

    I wonder how they figured the average though. For instance, if you didn’t have net worth, did they figure it as 0, or did they include your net debt? Probably doesn’t matter much I guess, but I can see where multi millionaires could skew the number.

    I wonder what the number was 10 years ago.

    1. But isn’t that strange? You’re over the 182k networth figure, and so are like 20 other people on Twitter who responded yet why r u surprised? This is where the discussion gets interesting!

      1. Well, I grew up in a neighborhood that was more about drinking than saving. So, a lot of people from where I grew up are probably no where near that number. And, I know there are a lot of people just like them in the world. Plus, I live in one of the most depressed areas in the country.

        In addition, I know a ton of people who are recently divorced, and their finances have been destroyed. Not to mention the number of people foreclosing on their homes, etc. When you are surrounded by bad news, it is sometimes hard to absorb a somewhat optimistic number.

  61. Sorry for double post, but I just caught something else…

    “It’s important to realize there’s no escaping the bell curve”

    Yes, there is. The bell curve cannot be applied to all statistics. Wealth is one of those measures that cannot as it is not normally distributed. For one, the downside is limited while the upside is unlimited. Secondly, it is highly skewed. Thirdly, assuming a normal distribution, the standard deviation of wealth 50 years ago would likely present today’s top 100 as statistically impossible.

    don’t try and fit the model to the data. if the model doesn’t fit, scrap it

    1. Money Reasons

      Hi Sloan,

      I questioned the usage of a “Bell Curve” too until I remember that debt can bring a person’s net worth deep into the negative numbers. So I totally believe that “Net Worth” can be represented by as a normal distribution.

      Average in math lingo, can be either median or mean. But outside of mathmatics, it’s most commonly used in place of mean.

      I’m not trying to be nit picky, but I just wanted to throw that out there… :)

    2. There is no escaping the bell curve. You can be in the top 1% of your HS class, but once you enter Harvard, all your peers are smart and there will be another bell curve.

      1. I don’t think you understand my point. the data is not normally distributed for wealth, hence the bell curve is inappropriate. class rank also doesn’t fit a bell curve as it is linear with equal distribution, rather than grouping around the mean.

        i’m wondering if you really understand the assumptions behind the bell curve

        1. No, he’s talking definitions. There’s always a curve for finite data, but that if the distribution isn’t normal its by definition not a bell curve because its not symmetric [50% of area to one side 50 to other side].

          The curve would graph number of households vs average worth. The peak of the curve is at the median, not the average net worth. When the average = median you have a bell curve. Otherwise you have a skewed curve. America as a whole is worth a lot so its no surprise that the average worth is high, I’m actually surprised that its that low right now! It makes me wonder if there’s disagreement on how to calculate net worth.Maybe that number takes into account share of the debt too?

          However the graph is heavily skew right. In 2007 net worth median = 85k (so half of america had that net worth or lower), and average at 536k (those are numbers taking into account home worth. The big disparity is because twenty percent hold about 60% of the total wealth.


    3. I could argue the downside is also unlimited… you can borrow a lot of money, the housing market crashes, and your assets depreciate, and you’re in for a lot of debt.

  62. “average, instead of median, or mean is misleading”

    the average you are talking about IS mean.

    1. Not only that, the median net worth IS an average. Means, medians, midranges, and modes are all types of averages.

      When the article says “average,” it presumably means the arithmetic mean. It’s fair to assume that a person means the arithmetic mean when saying mean, but a mean could be a geometric mean.

      It’s also fair to compare one average to another, but saying that one is “the average” reduces it to nonsense.

      Colloquially, the term “average” is used for the arithmetic mean, although the lexical definition of “typical” is also valid, but in and article that compares types of averages, it makes no sense to use a colloquial term ambiguously.

  63. Average networth doesn’t really tell you very much at all. In order to get a proper measure you have to take into account age. earnings and earning capacity, life circumstances (kids or no kids). A young married couple with two young kids would be expected to have a lower networth than $182k, while someone nearing retirement has (hopefully) a much higher networth.

  64. Interesting. That does sound really high! I suppose a lot of people count their cars and other pricey toys in that calculation.

    I sat down and tallied up my net worth for the first time this month. Surprised to find it at $14k! I’ve been able to save at a good rate as I’m making decent money due to the hours I work. That won’t last forever though.

    1. $14K is better than negative $14K! Go, go, go!

      ” The Federal Reserve reported Friday that household net worth—stocks, bonds, homes and other assets, minus mortgages and other debts—”

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