A recent Survey of Consumer Finances conducted by the Federal Reserve Board revealed these statistics about the state of America’s finances.
The typical American family earns about $45,000 per year. From 2001 to 2004, family debt increased 33% (adjusted for inflation). Surprisingly little of this debt stems from unnecessary spending. Instead, credit is being used to pay for necessities like housing, household expenses and health care, particularly in low- and middle-income families.
Average net worth, which grew rapidly during the boom of the 1990s, rose only 1.5% between 2001 and 2004 for the average American family. In other words, for most of us, the worth of our investments is not keeping up with the inflation rate. The middle class is being squeezed more tightly than ever. Among the wealthiest 10% of Americans, net worth rose to $831,600, or a 6.5% increase from 2001. Meanwhile, the net worth of those in the bottom 25% fell 1.5% to $13,300.
More than a third — 36% — of those who owe more than $10,000 on their cards have household incomes under $50,000. 13% who owe that much have household incomes under $30,000. The percentage of disposable income used to pay debts is near record highs.
The report doesn’t point out these more unsettling statistics:
In February, 2007, the US Commerce Department reported that the personal savings rate for 2006 was a negative 1%. The rate for 2004 was a negative .4%. For comparison, in the midst of the Depression in 1933, the PSR was -1.5%. If 2007 figures show a decrease similar to those of 2006, we’ll have a worse record than during the Depression. (Source: Associated Press)
“The US is becoming less of a meritocracy, where skill and intelligence determine success, and becoming more of a class-bound society, where economic background, including the better education money can provide, matters more. There are still many rags-to-riches stories. But there’s stagnation in the underclass.” (Source: Christian Science Monitor). According to a new Federal Reserve data-based economic analysis commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America, “…more than half of American households (56 percent) are behind where they should be in saving for a comfortable retirement.” A related CFA public opinion survey found that 59% of Americans do not expect to maintain their current standard of living in retirement.
Does this sound like a nation of people who believe in and are profiting from the American Dream—or simply a nation of people who want to live the Dream lifestyle without really being able to find a way to finance it? In fact, we have to ask…Is the american dream still alive???
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Erick Castelin Jr