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How the Composition of Wealth Differs, from the Middle Class to the Top 1%

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Visualizing the Composition of Wealth, from the Middle Class to the Top 1%

A Breakdown of Wealth, from Middle Class to the Top 1%

Just as household wealth varies greatly across the population, the composition of that wealth changes as well. Simply put, the person next to you at the grocery store will likely have a much different asset mix than, say, Warren Buffett.

Today’s chart breaks down the differences in the composition of wealth between middle income, upper income, and ultra wealthy (top 1%) of American households to help us better understand the building blocks that make up net worth. Let’s dive in.

Middle Income: Home is Where the Wealth is

It’s no surprise that the principal residence is the cornerstone of net worth for most Americans in the middle class. For households that fall in this wide range ($0 to $471k of net worth) the combination of housing and pension accounts make up nearly 80% of total wealth on average.

Assets like stocks and mutual funds only make up about 4% of wealth in this income bracket, partially mirroring the trend of lower stock market participation in recent years.

As we move up the income ladder, however, this situation changes quite a bit.

Upper Income: A Diversified Portfolio

If a household has a net worth that ranges between $471,000 and $10.2 million, it is considered to fall in the upper income band above. This represents the 20% richest households in the U.S., minus the top 1%, which are put in a separate bracket.

For this group, the principal residence makes up a smaller slice of the wealth pie. Instead, we see a higher mix of financial assets like stocks and mutual funds, as well as business equity and real estate. Almost half of households in this group own real estate in addition to their principal residence.

As households become wealthier, we tend to see a lower share of liquid assets as compared with the other components of net worth.

The Top 1%: The Business Equity Bulge

In the richest 1% of households, the principal residence makes up a mere 7.6% of assets. At this stage, almost half of assets fall under the category of business equity and real estate.

A prime example of this is Jeff Bezos. The lion’s share of the Amazon founder’s net worth is tied to the value of his company. Another example is President Trump, whose sprawling real estate empire comprises two-thirds of his estimated $3.1 billion net worth.

One of the more prominent features of the ultra rich wealth bracket is a much higher level of financial asset ownership. In fact, the top 1% of households own over 40% of stocks.

stock ownership by wealth bracket

As well, this tiny group of ultra wealthy households earns 22% of total income, up from 8% in the 1970s.

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Ranked: The Largest Gold Reserves, by Country

The U.S. holds the world’s largest gold reserves, totaling 8,133 tonnes. This graphic showcases the top 11 gold reserves by country.

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Bar chart showing Top 11 Countries by Gold Reserves

Ranked: The Largest Gold Reserves, by Country

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Gold remains an important store of value, serving as a hedge and retaining value during economic crises. In 2023, amid uncertainty about US interest rates and continued geopolitical risks, the metal once again demonstrated its importance by hitting a new record in December.

This graphic, by Sam Parker, displays the top 11 countries by gold reserves as of September 2023, based on data from Central Banks, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Gold Council.

Central Bank Gold Demand

Most of the world’s gold is stored in various locations, including central bank vaults, private depositories, and jewelry holdings.

Countries maintain gold reserves for various reasons.

Firstly, gold serves as a stable and dependable store of value, enhancing confidence in a nation’s economic stability, especially during times of financial uncertainty.

Additionally, despite the waning relevance of the gold standard, some countries still deem gold reserves crucial for maintaining currency stability.

Moreover, gold’s tangibility enables countries to diversify their overall portfolio. Currently, almost one-fifth of all the gold ever mined is held by central banks.

The U.S. boasts the world’s largest gold reserves, with 8,133 tonnes stored in 12 Federal Reserve Banks across the country:

CountryTonnes of Gold
🇺🇸 USA8,133 t
🇩🇪 Germany3,353 t
🇮🇹 Italy2,452 t
🇫🇷 France2,437 t
🇷🇺 Russia2,333 t
🇨🇳 China2,192 t
🇨🇭 Switzerland1,040 t
🇯🇵 Japan847 t
🇮🇳 India801 t
🇳🇱 Netherlands612 t
🇹🇷 Turkey479 t

Russia and China—arguably the United States’ top geopolitical rivals—have been the largest gold buyers over the last two decades. The People’s Bank of China was the biggest buyer of gold last year, purchasing 225 tonnes.

Seven of the top countries by gold reserves are also among the top 10 biggest economies.

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