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- The average American family has a net worth of $102,700, according to the most recent data from Federal Reserve's 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances.
- The median net worth tells a very different story. According to that same data, the median family has a net worth of $52,700.
- Many factors contribute to net worth, including bank account balances, investment assets, and even real estate.
- A family's average net worth varies across age, race, location, and education level.
- SmartAsset's free tool can find a financial planner to help you grow your net worth »
The average net worth of American families is $102,700, according to the most recent data from Federal Reserve's 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances. Between 2013 and 2016, the average American family's net worth increased by 14%.
While the average net worth is $102,700, the median net worth tells a very different story, with the typical American family having a net worth of $52,700. The median, or middle value in a set of numbers, is less sensitive to outliers, so may be a more accurate representation of a typical family. The median shows a very different reality for Americans, and we've included both numbers in this look at American families' finances.
Average net worth by age
Your age has a lot to do with your net worth.
People tend to build up worth in some assets with time. Retirement savings, for instance, grow through compound interest, where interest earns more interest on itself. Home equity, or the value of your home minus any mortgage debt, also tends to increase with time.
Here's the typical American's net worth by age, according todata:
|Age||Average net worth||Median net worth|
|Under age 35||$76,200||$11,100|
|35 to 44||$288,700||$59,800|
|45 to 54||$725,500||$124,200|
|55 to 64||$1,167,400||$187,300|
|65 to 74||$1,066,000||$224,100|
|75 or older||$1,067,000||$264,800|
Average net worth by education level
As the head of household's level of education increases, the average net worth increases as well. The average college graduate has a net worth more than nine times that of the typical American without a high school diploma, and about four times greater than someone who didn't finish college.
It's worth noting though that the median net worth tells a very different story. In median net worth, those who didn't finish college and those who had only a high school diploma have nearly the same median net worth.
Here's how educational achievements play into Americans' average and median net worth:
|Highest education achieved||Average net worth||Median net worth|
|No high school diploma||$157,500||$22,800|
|High school diploma||$249,600||$67,100|
Average net worth by location
Where you live tends to play a major role in your net worth. While costs of living in America's cities tend to be higher than the costs outside of them, the typical American living in a city tends to have a higher net worth than people living in rural areas.
|Location||Average net worth||Change in average net worth compared to 2013 data||Median net worth|
|People living in urban areas||$751,300||27% increase||$99,000|
|People living in rural areas||$276,300||3% increase||$87,900|
Average data shows that the typical American in an urban area has a net worth 2.7 times of the net worth of a rural American. In part, higher real estate values in cities could contribute to urban America's higher net worth.
Job opportunities and income also contribute to this unequal distribution of wealth, as high paying job opportunities have left rural America for major cities. Data from the same Federal Reserve study indicates that families living in urban areas saw incomes increase 15% on average between 2013 and 2016, while Americans outside of urban areas saw no average change in income during the same time period.
Average net worth by race
The racial wealth gap is apparent in America's average net worth. The average Black family still has a net worth only about 44% of that of white families, as of 2016 data.
Here's how the average net worth changes by race in America:
|Race||Average net worth||Median net worth||Average net worth increase compared to 2013|
Average net worth by homeownership status
Real estate is a big factor in net worth. Even with a mortgage, owning a home can still contribute to net worth. According to data from the Federal reserve, the average homeowner has a net worth 2.8 times the net worth of the typical person who doesn't own a home.
|Homeownership status||Average net worth||Median net worth|
|Owns a home||$134,000||$71,200|
|Doesn't own a home||$47,800||$31,600|
What is net worth?
- Bank accounts, including checking, savings, money market accounts, cash accounts at brokerages, prepaid debit cards, and call accounts.
- CDs, government bonds, and savings bonds
- Health savings accounts
- Investment accounts including 529 college savings plans and individual taxable investment accounts
- Retirement accounts, including IRAs, 401(k)s and 403(b)s
- Cash value life insurance policies and annuities with equity
- Vehicles including cars, RVs, motorcycles, boats, and helicopters
- Real estate, including residential homes
In calculating net worth, liabilities or debts are subtracted from the value of assets amount. In this survey, debts included:
- Home equity lines of credit or home equity loans
- Credit card balances
- Installment loans, including auto loans and student loans
How to grow your net worth
The best way to build wealth is to play the long game: Decide on your goals now, and start working toward them with small steps along the way. Here are three places to start:
Maximize your retirement savings
Whether you save and invest for retirement through your office's 401(k) or have a solo 401(k) if you're self-employed, starting to save for retirement is one of the most important ways to build your net worth.
If you qualify based on income, a Roth IRA could help you save beyond your 401(k) plan and let money grow tax-free. A traditional IRA is available to almost anyone at any income level, and can help you lower your tax bill now instead of later.
Start investing now
Opening a brokerage account is the first place to start. There are different types of brokerage accounts to fit your goal, some more specific than others. If your goal is to pay for your child's college someday, opening a 529 plan might be the right fit for your investing. For people who have already hit the maximum limits on retirement investment accounts, putting your investments into an individual brokerage account might be right for you.
Get smart with your savings
Attaining big assets, like real estate, that build your net worth usually involves saving some cash up front. Whether you want to save for the down payment on a house, or build an emergency fund, having the right savings account is critical.
If your savings account is earning .01% interest, it's time to switch savings accounts to an account that helps your money earn more. A high-yield savings account could help you earn multiple times more interest each month, and help you reach your goals quicker.
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