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Median Net Worth by Age

The Pew Research Center recently released a report [3] in which they compared the median net worth of age groups in 1984 and 2009, adjusted for inflation to 2010 dollars, using a variety of data sources, most of which come from the US Census.

If you saw the recent report by the Federal Reserve [4], released last week, that the median net worth of all households fell to $77,300, from $126,400 in 2007; this Pew Research Center report is using a different data set. The Fed uses their Survey of Consumer Finances whereas the Pew report looked at census data.

The most stark result was the fact that the median net worth of someone younger than 35 dropped from $11,521 to $3,662 (remember, these are all adjusted to 2010 dollars) while the median net worth of someone 65 and older jumped from $120,457 to $170,494. What’s even more amazing is the difference in the net worth ratios. Someone 65 and older in 1984 had a median net worth nearly 10.5 times that of someone younger than 35. In 2009, that ratio jumped to over 46.5!

Here were the changes to median net worth by age of householder:

Age Group 1984 2009 Change
All Groups $65,293 $71,635 +10%
< 35 $11,521 $3,662 -68%
35-44 $71,118 $39,601 -44%
45-54 $113,511 $101,651 -10%
55-64 $147,236 $162,062 +10%
65+ $120,457 $170,494 42%

They pointed to housing and the Great Recession as the main drivers of these trends, since housing prices collapsed a lot of net worth has been erased, and I suspect student loans are partly to blame as well. If you’re curious about these types of larger generational trends, the Pew report is extremely detailed and goes into much more than median net worth (and much deeper than my summary here).

For example, did you know that in 2009, 20% of households reported to have no positive net worth? That’s absolutely stunning.

It’s well worth reading if you have the time.