Are you better off financially than you were seven years ago?
U.S. median household net worth—the value of assets minus debts-- took a 35 percent hit between 2005 and 2010, according to newly-released U.S. Census Bureau data.
Median net worth decreased for all age groups, the Census Bureau observed in a statement, but more so for older than for younger households. For householders 65 and older, it decreased to $170,128 from $195,890 during the seven-year period. For those under 35, the decrease was from $8,528 to $5,402. Percentage wise, younger households suffered a 37 percent decline vs a 13 percent drop for older ones.
One bright spot: Excluding home equity, median household net worth increased by 8 percent between 2009 and 2010.
The Census Bureau data underscores the correlation between education and higher net worth. In 2010, those with a graduate of professional degree had a media net worth of $245,763, while those who had attained a high school diploma had a mediuan net worth of $42,223. Those with a bachelor degree had a median net worth of $142,528.
In 2010, those with a bachelor’s degree had a median net worth almost three-and-a-half times as large as those with a high school diploma.
But the “better off” question really hits home with Generation X, also known as the “Me Generation.” Turns out they might have been right that it’s all about them; just not in the way they were hoping. According to the Census Bureau, from 2005 to 2010, householders ages 35 to 44 had the largest percent decline in median net worth of any age group: 59 percent.
This has far-reaching implications, according to Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Maria Panaritis, who observes that the recession hit Gen X right where they lived, just as they were starting to build families, gain a financial foothold, and save for the future. “Let’s think what this portends to anyone who ascribes to America’s promise that kids can do better than their parents,” she writes. “If Gen X is failing, we all should be worried.”
A majority of Gen Xers are worried about a variety of issues that will impede their ability to be better off, according to a first quarter wealth level study of households with a net worth between $100,000 and $1 million (not including primary residence). More than six-in-10 said they are most concerned with having enough money set aside for retirement, financing the education of their children, and maintaining their current financial position.
More than half said they are worried about their children or grandchildren’s financial situation and being able to retire as planned.
In a separate investor survey conducted, more than three-quarters of Gen X-aged respondents said they believed that future generations will struggle to achieve the American Dream,” with the older end of the spectrum more pessimistic than their younger counterparts.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.