Where We Stand

Jonathan Clements  |  October 13, 2017

THE TYPICAL AMERICAN FAMILY is wealthier than three years ago. But there are also signs we’re playing faster and looser with our finances, with more folks taking on debt, abandoning homeownership and venturing into the stock market.

Those insights emerge from the Federal Reserve’s latest Survey of Consumer Finances. The survey is conducted every three years. Here are some results from the 2016 survey, which was just released:

  • The typical family’s net worth—meaning their assets minus their debts—stood at $97,300, up from $83,700 in 2013, but well below the $139,700 high that was hit in 2007.
  • Homeownership has declined over the past dozen years, with 63.7% of American families owning their primary residence, down from 69.1% in 2004. Among homeowners, 65.7% have a mortgage.
  • As of 2016, 77.1% of American families were in debt, up from 74.5% three years earlier. The typical amount owed was $59,800, down 4% from 2013, but the drop partly reflects the decline in homeownership.
  • At 51.9%, a slight majority of U.S. families were invested in the stock market, up from 48.8% in 2013, but below the 53.2% peak recorded in 2007.
  • The survey offers a glimpse of America’s retirement readiness. Among households headed by someone age 65 to 74, the typical net worth was $224,100, down 6.4% from three years earlier. Homeownership was widespread among these families, with 79.1% owning their primary residence, though that was down from 85.8% in 2013. Meanwhile, 70.1% were carrying some form of debt, including 38.8% who had a mortgage. Among this age group, just 49.8% had an IRA or similar retirement account.
  • As of 2016, 43.9% of families had a credit card balance, up from 38.1% three years earlier. The typical (or median) amount owed was $2,300. Meanwhile, the average (or mean) balance was $5,700. This latter figure is skewed higher by a minority of families with huge card debt.

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