You’ve seen plenty of people who appear to have it all. They live in beautiful homes. They drive fancy cars. They enjoy fabulous vacations that they post about on Facebook. Some of these people can afford to live large while they stockpile money into retirement accounts. But we live in a world of hyper-consumption. That means, by comparison, you might have more money than the flashy couple with a home beside the lake.
Many people, for example, owe money on their cars. According to the Lending Tree, Americans owe $1.13 trillion on auto loans. That’s an increase of 41 percent since 2008.
Revolving credit card debt hit an all-time high last year. Americans owe about $1 trillion on their plastic.
Student loans are also at an all-time high. Americans owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt…and millennials aren’t the only ones that feel the squeeze. The Lending Tree reports that 35 percent of student loan holders are over the age of 40.
So…when we subtract people’s debts from their assets, how much money do they really have? And how do you stack up? The Federal Reserve reports net worth figures using SCF Data. They break down median and average levels of wealth based on age.
Median levels of wealth are much lower than average levels. If we have 11 people with different levels of wealth, we determine the median by looking at the fifth person in the sequence. An average is different. It’s determined by adding the people’s net worth, then dividing that by the number of people in the sequence. When looking at net worth, average numbers are higher than the median because averages include the uber-rich. The net worth figures for people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett skew the average numbers higher.
Consider Americans between the ages of 50 and 54. According to 2016 Federal Reserve data, the average household net worth was $838,702. If we don’t include home equity, the average American household in the 50-54 year age group had a net worth of $701,558.
Median numbers are different. Americans between the ages of 50 and 54 had median household net worth of just $137,866. If we don’t include home equity, their net worth was just $50,154. Median numbers are a better representation of the typical American.
How Does Your Wealth Stack Up?
Median and Average Net Worth By Age
|Age Group||Median Net Worth||Average Net Worth||Median Net Worth, Not Including Home Equity on Primary Residence||Average Net Worth, Not Including Home Equity on Primary Residence|
|Source: Federal Reserve, 2016 SCF Data|
Thomas J. Stanley was a wealth researcher from 1973-2015. He also co-authored The Millionaire Next Door. He devised a formula to determine how much net worth he thought a household should have. If we multiply a household’s gross annual income by their age, and divide by ten, he said this should represent the household’s net worth.
Based on this formula, a 50 year-old couple with household income of $60,000 a year should have a net worth of $300,000 (50 x $60,000 divided by 10 = $300,000). Unfortunately, most 50-year old Americans don’t have anything close to that.
Expected Net Worth Based On Age And Income
|Source: The Millionaire Next Door (1996) and The Next Millionaire Next Door (2018)|
The above table isn’t perfect. Nobody can accurately determine how much wealth we should have. Our needs, after all, differ. Some people will retire to expensive cities. They’ll require more than most. Others will find creative ways to boost their retirement income. They might rent out part of their home, with Airbnb. They might rent out their entire home and housesit around the world.
But creating a stress-free retirement might require something else. While we’re still working, perhaps we should ignore Mr. and Mrs. Jones. After all, they might live in a huge house, earn high salaries and buy plenty of expensive toys. But if they’re saddled with debt, and if they aren’t stockpiling money for their retirement, they don’t really have it all.
Andrew Hallam is a Digital Nomad. He’s the author of the bestseller Millionaire Teacher and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas