Chart: 14% of Americans Have Negative Wealth
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Chart: 14% of Americans Have Negative Wealth

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Chart: The Profile of a House With Negative Wealth

Chart: The Profile of a House With Negative Wealth

14% of all U.S. Households Have More Debts Than Assets

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

According to the New York Federal Reserve, 14% of the U.S. population lives in households that have “negative” wealth. In other words, these are households that have more debts piled up than assets, which puts their net worth in minus territory.

But what does a negative wealth household look like?

In today’s chart, we compare the data on negative wealth households with the data on their positive counterparts. There are some obvious and stark contrasts.

Positive vs. Negative Households

At the household level, the differences are probably what you would expect.

Negative wealth households bring in $39,077 in annual income, and only 19% of these families own their home. More than one-third (36%) of these mortgages are underwater.

Meanwhile, positive wealth households bring in $86,309 in annual income, and 75% of the families own their home. Only 4% of the mortgages are underwater.

The Head of the Household

For each of these households, we have data on the person that is the head of the household, or the breadwinner for each family.

In terms of education, there isn’t a big difference between the heads of negative and positive wealth households. Both seem to be similarly accomplished in terms of achieving college degrees (43% vs. 45%) and postgraduate degrees (12% vs. 15%).

However, there are greater differences when it comes to demographic profiles.

Negative wealth households have heads that are younger (43 vs. 51 years old), female (69% vs. 45%), and single (57% vs. 33%). There is also a higher proportion of minorities (24% vs. 17%) and single parents (20% vs. 7%) living in negative wealth households.

The Have and Have Nots

We also wanted to see the difference in composition of both assets and debts.

In this case, we are comparing the poorest third of those with negative wealth (-$47,500 to -$520,000) to those with positive wealth.

Households that are deep in the red have the majority of their wealth in the family car – automobiles make up 45% of the value of their total assets. Housing makes up 20% of their assets by value. For positive wealth households, it is the reverse: 40% of wealth is in the home, and 15% in vehicles.

The composition of debt is also very telling. Negative wealth households have a whopping 47% of debt in student loans, while positive houses have just 6%.

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The Richest People in Human History, to the Industrial Revolution

What do Augustus Caesar, Cosimo de Medici, Mansa Musa, and Genghis Khan have in common? They were some of the richest people in all of history.

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The Richest People in Human History, to the Industrial Revolution

Click here for a larger, more legible version of the infographic that you can explore in-depth.

When we think of wealth today, we often think of the massive personal fortunes of business magnates like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or Warren Buffett. However, it is only since the Industrial Revolution that measuring wealth by one’s bank account has been a norm for the world’s richest.

For most of recorded human history, in fact, the lines around wealth were quite blurred. Leaders like Augustus Caesar or Emperor Shenzong had absolute control of their empires—while bankers like Jakob Fogger and Cosimo de Medici were often found pulling the strings from behind.

This infographic we created with Texas Precious Metals focuses on the richest people in history up until the Industrial Revolution, and it highlights key facts and anecdotes on how they created their wealth.

Is This List of People Definitive?

While it is certainly fun to speculate on the wealth of people from centuries past, putting together this list is exceptionally difficult and certainly not definitive.

Here’s why:

Firstly, much wealth in early periods is tied to land (Genghis Khan) or entire empires (Augustus, Akbar), which makes calculations extremely subjective. What is most of Asia’s land worth in the year 1219? What separates personal fortune from the riches of an empire that one has full control of? There are a wide variety of answers to these questions, and they all influence the figures chosen to be represented.

Secondly, records kept from Ancient eras are scarce, exaggerated, or based on legends and oral histories. Think of King Solomon or Mansa Musa—these are characters described as immeasurably rich, so trying to put their wealth in modern context is fun, but certainly not guaranteed to be historically accurate.

Lastly, wealth and conversion rates can be approached in different ways as well. Take Crassus in the Roman Republic, who had a peak fortune of “200 million sesterces”. Well, that’s a problem for us in modernity, because that stash could be worth anywhere from $200 million to $169.8 billion, depending on how calculations are done.

So, enjoy this list of the wealthiest historical figures, but keep in mind that it is mostly for fun—and that the list of the richest people in history may change depending on who you ask!

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Is $1 Million Enough for Retirement in America?

The average American needs their retirement savings to last them over a decade. In which cities is $1 million enough to retire comfortably?

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retirement savings

Is $1 Million Enough for Retirement in America?

The average American needs their retirement savings to last them 14 to 17 years. With this in mind, is $1 million in savings enough for the average retiree?

Ultimately, it depends on where you live, since the average cost of living varies across the country. This graphic, using data compiled by GOBankingRates.com shows how many years $1 million in retirement savings lasts in the top 50 most populated U.S. cities.

Editor’s note: As one user rightly pointed out, this analysis doesn’t take into account interest earned on the $1 million. With that in consideration, the above calculations could be seen as very conservative figures.

How Long $1 Million Would Last in 50 Cities

To compile this data, GOBankingRates calculated the average expenditures of people aged 65 or older in each city, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and cost-of-living indices from Sperling’s Best Places.

That figure was then reduced to account for average Social Security income. Then, GOBankingRates divided the one million by each city’s final figure to calculate how many years $1 million would last in each place.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, San Francisco, California came in as the most expensive city on the list. $1 million in retirement savings lasts approximately eight years in San Francisco, which is about half the time that the typical American needs their retirement funds to last.

CityHow long $1 would last (years)Cost-of-living IndexAnnual expenditures
(after using annual Social Security)
Memphis, TN45.376$22,043
El Paso, TX40.381.4$24,789
Wichita, KS39.782.1$25,145
Tulsa, OK38.883.2$25,705
Indianapolis, IN38.683.5$25,857
Milwaukee, WI37.684.9$26,569
Oklahoma City, OK37.385.4$26,824
Columbus, OH37.285.5$26,875
Kansas City, MO36.786.2$27,231
Detroit, MI35.887.6$27,943
Baltimore, MD35.388.2$28,248
Louisville, KY35.388.4$28,349
San Antonio, TX34.489.7$29,011
Omaha, NE34.389.8$29,062
Albuquerque, NM33.691.1$29,723
Tucson, AZ33.391.6$29,977
Jacksonville, FL32.393.5$30,943
New Orleans, LA30.896.3$32,367
Houston, TX30.896.5$32,469
Charlotte, NC29.698.9$33,690
Forth Worth, TX29.399.8$34,148
Arlington, TX28.8100.6$34,554
Philadelphia, PA28.6101.2$34,860
Nashville, TN28.5101.4$34,961
Dallas, TX28.4101.6$35,063
Raleigh, NC28.2102.3$35,419
Fresno, CA28.1102.6$35,572
Phoenix, AZ27.6103.7$36,131
Mesa, AZ27.4104.2$36,385
Colorado Springs, CO27.3104.5$36,538
Virginia Beach, VA26.9105.6$37,097
Minneapolis, MN26.6106.5$37,555
Chicago, IL26.4106.9$37,759
Atlanta, GA26.3107.5$38,064
Las Vegas, NV24.8111.6$40,149
Sacramento, CA22.9118.2$43,506
Austin, TX22.7119.3$44,065
Miami, FL21.7123.1$45,998
Denver, CO20.4128.7$48,846
Portland, OR20.0130.8$49,914
Washington, D.C.16.4152.1$60,747
San Diego, CA15.4160.1$64,816
Long Beach, CA15.3160.4$64,969
Boston, MA15.1162.4$65,986
Seattle. WA14.0172.3$71,021
Los Angeles, CA13.9173.3$71,530
Oakland, CA13.8174.4$72,089
New York, NY12.7187.2$78,599
San Jose, CA10.8214.5$92,484
San Francisco, CA8.3269.3$120,355

A big factor in San Francisco’s high cost of living is its housing costs. According to Sperlings Best Places, housing in San Francisco is almost 6x more expensive than the national average and 3.6x more expensive than in the overall state of California.

Four of the top five most expensive cities on the list are in California, with New York City being the only outlier. NYC is the third most expensive city on the ranking, with $1 million expected to last a retiree about 12.7 years.

On the other end of the spectrum, $1 million in retirement would last 45.3 years in Memphis, Tennessee. That’s about 37 years longer than it would last in San Francisco. In Memphis, housing costs are about 2.7x lower than the national average, with other expenses like groceries, health, and utilities well below the national average as well.

Retirement, Who?

Regardless of where you live, it’s helpful to start planning for retirement sooner rather than later. But according to a recent survey, only 41% of women and 58% of men are actively saving for retirement.

However, for some, COVID-19 has been the financial wake-up call they needed to start planning for the future. In fact, in the same survey, 70% of respondents claimed the pandemic has “caused them to pay more attention to their long-term finances.”

This is good news, considering that people are living longer than they used to, meaning their funds need to last longer in general (or people need to retire later in life). Although, as the data in this graphic suggests, where you live will greatly influence how much you actually need.

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