What Is the Average American Net Worth?

How Do You Compare?

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The average American net worth is $68,828. The data is from 2011. That’s because the Census Bureau only measures it every ten years.

Average net worth is defined as a measurement of wealth in United States. Net worth is the total of your net assets. That's all the assets a household owns minus all the debt it owes. Net assets include home equity, which is your home's resale value minus mortgages and selling costs.

Net assets also include an automobile's resale value minus its outstanding loan value.

Other assets include retirement accounts, savings and cash. Other debt includes credit card debt, student loans and medical debt. You can also include the resale value of household items, such as consumer electronics, jewelry and art.

To calculate your personal net worth, add up the resale value of all your assets. Then add up all the debt you owe. Subtract the debt from the assets to find your net worth.

Average Household Net Worth

The U.S. Census Bureau measures the average net worth of all Americans. It uses the net worth of households instead of individuals. A household is any group of people that lives together. The measurement occurs every 10 years as part of the U.S. Census Survey. The latest calculation is from 2011. The next one will be in 2021.

The Census Bureau uses the median for its measurement of household net worth.

The median is the point where half of all households own more than and half own less than. It is more accurate than the mathematical average. That's where you take the total wealth of all U.S. households and divide it by the number of households. The average is a much higher figure than the median.

That's because there are a few very wealthy households who own billions. Their wealth would make the average American household seem much wealthier than it is.

You might look at the median wealth of $68,828 and think, "I'm doing really well!" or "I'm way behind!" But, you must realize that net worth depends on age. Young people haven't had time to accumulate much wealth. Older households live on their wealth. Therefore, compare your net worth to the median in your age bracket.

The median wealth of those younger than 35 is just $6,676. The median wealth for those older than 75 is $155,714. Here's the complete breakout by age group:

Age RangeMedian Wealth
Less than 35$6,676
35-44$35,000
45-54$84,542
55-64$143,964
65-69$194,226
70-74$181,078
75 or more$155,714

Another important factor in accumulating wealth is education. The median wealth of households without high school diplomas is only $9,800. A high school degree quadruples that to $43,945. A college degree triples that to $147,148. That's despite the burden of college debt. A graduate or professional degree doubles that the average net worth to $240,750. Education helps you accumulate wealth because you can get better-paying jobs. (Source: "Wealth, Ownership and Debt of Households: 2011. Table 1.

 U.S. Census Bureau.)

Net Worth Versus Income

The U.S. government tends to define wealth by income, not net worth.  For example, President Obama defined the middle class as households who make less than $250,000. That was during the debates over extension of the Bush tax cuts. During the fiscal cliff crisis, Congress said the middle class is households making less than $450,000.  President Trump's tax plan said middle-class couples earn between $75,000 and $225,000. 

The median household income is $56,516. But that doesn't mean everyone who earns that is also in the middle of the wealth range.  Many retired households have a high net worth, but low income. They had a high income earlier in their lives so they could save for retirement. Many younger families may have a high income but low net worth.

That's because their income is immediately spent on child care, housing and car payments. 

It's probably a safe bet to assume that those living below the federal poverty level have a low net worth. Most people would sell off assets to sustain themselves before they reach the poverty level. 

Household Wealth by Quintiles

The U.S. Census Bureau also reports median household wealth by quintiles. It's a good way to look at how wealth is distributed in America. A quintile is one-fifth of a group, just like a quartile is one-fourth of a group.

The bottom wealth quintile is the poorest fifth of households. The top wealth quintile is the richest 20 percent of households. As we've seen from the data so far, the bottom quintile will probably be younger households and those without much education. The top quintile will include more older households and those with the most education.

In the United States, there is a huge difference between the bottom and top quintiles. The median net worth of the bottom quintile is -$6,029. That's right, their net worth is negative. If they sold everything they own to pay off their debt, they would still owe $6,029. Since it is a median, it means half of the households in this poorest 20 percent owe more than that and half owe less.

The median net worth of those in the richest quintile is $630,754. That affords them a lifestyle that is vastly different than the bottom quintile. They own three times as much as the next quintile, and 10 times as much as the middle group. 

Here is the complete breakout by quintile:

QuintileMedian Net Worth
Bottom 20 Percent-$6,029
Next 20 Percent$7,263
Middle 20 Percent$68,828
Next 20 Percent$205,985
Top 20 Percent$630,754

(Source: "Where Is the Wealth?" U.S. Census Bureau, August 24, 2014.)

Trends in Household Wealth

During the 11 years between the last two Census wealth reports, U.S. median wealth fell. It was $73,874 in 2000, declining to $68,828 in 2011. But that wasn't because every quintile saw a loss. Instead, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Between 2000 and 2011, wealth increased for those in the top two quintiles, while it decreased for those in the bottom three. 

QuintileMedian Net Worth (2000)Percent Change by 2011
Bottom-$905-566%
Next$14,319-49%
Middle$73,911-7%
Next$187,552+10%
Top$569,375+11%

(Source: "Gap Between Higher- and Lower-Wealth Households Widens, Census Bureau Reports," U.S. Census Bureau, August 21, 2014.)

The Federal Reserve has updated some of the Census wealth statistics. Its Surveys of Consumer Finance reported that the top one percent now own 38.6 percent of the nation's wealth. That's up from 36.3 percent in 2013. Everyone else saw their percent of wealth fall. The wealthy benefit from the booming stock market. That doesn't  benefit the most average workers who don't own large portfolios. (Source: "The Top One Percent of Americans Now Control 38 Percent of the Wealth," CNBC, September 27, 2017.)

This trend is similar to that seen in average income. In 2000, the median household income was $57,790. In 2011, it was $52,791. It's another indication of the growing income inequality in America.