Category Archives: net worth

Net worth of the middle class from 1992 – 2013

One recurring request for the net worth percentile calculator on this website to show a break down of what makes up that net worth value. Here it is for a typical middle class household!

Here are the results of that request for a typical middle class household with comparisons for the past 20 years.  The overall trend for the shows that net worth has increased slightly, but assets and debts have also increased at almost the same rate.

Housing is by far the largest contributor to middle class wealth with investments contributing a far lower amount. In 2013, real estate contributed 54% of net worth ($110k in real estate assets – $64k in real estate related loans).

Net worth peaked in 2007 prior to the recession, and as of 2013 has not recovered yet. The 2016 data should be available over the summer in a few months, so we’ll see if the downward trend continues.

Net Worth Component Definitions

  • Real Estate : House(s) and other real estate
  • Investments : Retirement funds, stocks, mutual funds, stock options
  • Low Risk Investments : Cash, bonds, CD’s, and cash value of life insurance
  • Other Assets : Cars and other assets
  • Real Estate Debt : Mortgages and other real estate related loans
  • Student Loans and Auto Loans : These were already combined in the source data as installment loans.
  • Credit Cards and Other Debt : Credit cards and other debt

The data is sourced from the Federal Reserve and all values are adjusted for inflation to 2013 dollars.  The 2016 data will be published over the summer and I am planning to update the calculators and this chart to show additional trends.

We used the data for the 40-60th percentiles to create a weighted average net worth of what makes up the wealth of an average household, and to represent the middle class. Because it is a weighted average (mean), the net worth values are skewed slightly higher than a median based calculation.

Summary Table of Net Worth for the Middle Class

Note: these values are adjusted for inflation into 2013 dollars.

Year Total Assets Total Debt Median Net Worth
1992 $131,000 ($48,603) $82,397
1995 $152,434 ($63,897) $88,537
1998 $171,146 ($67,091) $104,054
2001 $185,715 ($68,590) $117,125
2004 $213,655 ($93,009) $120,646
2007 $250,588 ($111,403) $139,185
2010 $185,185 ($97,994) $87,191
2013 $161,126 ($76,052) $85,074

If the graph doesn’t load here is an image:

My 4 Favorite Personal Finance Calculators

There are a lot of personal finance related calculators out there, but there are only a handful that I would recommend using on a regular basis. Here are a few of my favorite tools that have easy to use options and clear results.

Rent vs Buy Calculator : New York Times

NY Times Rent vs Buy Calculator
This rent vs buy calculator balances all the costs you could thing of related to buying a home versus the monthly rental costs. One of this calculator’s great features is that it accounts for the opportunity cost of the mortgage down payment. The opportunity cost is the cost of what you could have earned from that money if you hadn’t bought the house. The calculator also builds in costs to account for rising rent prices, home appreciation, and inflation. Also, the controls are easy to adjust how long you plan on staying and your home price budget. I know it sounds like a lot of options, but if you aren’t sure about one of them just leave it at the default value.

Vanguard Retirement Income Calculator

Vanguard Retirement Calculator
This is my go to retirement calculator. I use it as a simple and quick check to make sure that my savings rates are high enough to meet my retirement goals. The calculator is completely free and doesn’t require registration or anything like that. It automatically does not include Social Security, so you have to manually key in a number for that. In general, I like to pretend that Social Security will be tiny by the time I retire. I just put in $1,000 a month at most ($2,000 if you’re married) for a very conservative estimate of how much SS would actually pay out.

When can I retire? : Networthify

When can I retire?
This calculator has pretty similar results to the previous Vanguard one, but it’s tilted more for figuring out how quickly you can retire. I really like the chart on this one, and that it emphasizes controlling spending in order to retire more quickly.

Savings Rate Calculator : Physician on Fire

Savings Rate Calculator
This is a great spreadsheet to help you understand that components of your savings rate in order to calculate it. It’s not as spiffy as some of the other tools, but it’s pretty straightforward and has a very detailed breakdown of how to tally up your income and savings.

How much of the US could the top 1% buy?

If the top 1% of the nation put all of their money into land they would own 40 states.  In contrast the bottom 80% of the nation could only afford to own all the real estate in 3 states.  All the real estate in the contiguous US is estimated to be worth nearly $23 trillion. The top 1% of US households is estimated to be worth $19.2 trillion.  This means that only 1% of the US population could literally afford to buy almost the entire country if it were for sale.

These numbers are based on the top 1% by net worth, instead of income.  Sources and tables are at the bottom of the page.  If you’re curious how close you are to the top 1%, try out the net worth percentile calculator or the income percentile calculator.  They are based on a different data set, but the general trends are the same.

I filled in the maps starting in the west coast and moved east.  I removed states that the 1% couldn’t afford in their $19.2 trillion budget starting with Florida. The 8 states in the contiguous US that weren’t selected are Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida.

The bottom 80% had a combined wealth of $5.1 trillion, which could pay for California, Oregon, and Washington. I wanted to stay consistent and start from the west coast, so California just based on it’s size and wealth is driving down the number of states.
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