Median family net worth drops to 1992 levels


CLARKONOMICS: You may have heard the ugly, ugly news about median family net worth rolling back to where it was in 1992.

Median family net worth is not synonymous with the average income. Rather, it’s the point at which half of all households have more income and half have less. It’s the median that’s dropped nearly 40% during 2007 to 2010.

What an ugly picture of financial health for the typical American family. There are three major factors that brought us to this point.

  1. The middle class has hollowed out over the last 20 years. Competition for jobs from all over the globe and even within the U.S. means you need specialized training or education or your wages will probably be eviscerated.
  2. The housing slump ate away at median family worth. During the bubble, people did cash outs and wiped out any existing equity. Today, thankfully, we’re in a new era where a lot of people are taking out 15 year loans with interest rates at historic loans. That puts you on a trend line to being debt free and building long-term wealth. It’s a different era with a different mentality.
  3. Personal debt levels have skyrocketed. The levels of debt that Americans took on starting in the 1990s and capping out at 2007 destroyed family wealth and worth. It created insecurity, anxiety, and has been responsible for so many problems, including repossessions of cars, defaults on credit cards, and people being mortgaged up to their eyeballs.

Editor’s note: This segment originally aired June 12, 2012.

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