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.
As well, this tiny group of ultra wealthy households earns 22% of total income, up from 8% in the 1970s.
Visualizing the Rise of Digital Payment Adoption
By 2023, digital transaction values could reach $6.7T globally—catalyzed by digital commerce and mobile payments. COVID-19 is only accelerating this trend.
Digital Payments: The Evolution of Currency
Over the last decade, the digital payments landscape has undergone a structural shift.
Consumer behaviors are changing—moving towards contactless and cashless transactions. Meanwhile, as the magnitude of COVID-19 grows, these trends have only accelerated.
Today’s infographic navigates the digital payments ecosystem, exploring its history and innovative technologies, and how it continues to grow as a solution of choice for trillions of dollars of transactions each year.
Digital Payments Timeline
The origins of digital payments began over 25 years ago with then 21 year-old entrepreneur Dan Kohn in Nashua, New Hampshire, who sold a CD over the internet via credit card payment.
- 1994: First online purchase is made
A CD of Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales is sold for $12.48 on NetMarket.
- 1997: First mobile payments and first contactless payments
Coca-Cola installs two vending machines in Helsinki that accept payment by text message.
- 1999: Paypal launches electronic money transfer service
Early on, PayPal’s user base grew nearly 10% daily. Tesla CEO Elon Musk and venture capitalist Peter Thiel were among its co-founders.
- 2003: Alibaba launches Alipay in China
Today, the mobile payment platform has witnessed stunning growth — leveraging digital wallets accepted by merchants in over 50 countries and regions.
- 2007: M-PESA creates the first payments system for mobile phones
Kenya-based M-PESA launched its mobile banking and microfinancing service. Today, it has over 37 million active users on its platform across Africa.
- 2009: Bitcoin enables secure, untraceable payments
Satoshi Nakamoto develops the first decentralized payment network in the world.
- 2013: WeChat Pay is rolled into the popular messaging platform
By 2018, it surpasses 800 million monthly active users.
- 2014: Apple Pay launches
By 2023, over $2 trillion of mobile payment transactions could be authenticated by biometric technology.
As technological advances continue to unfold, advances in digital payment technologies are creating ripple effects globally.
Geographical Differences in Adoption
Unsurprisingly, the sheer volume of digital payments has continued to grow at a double-digit pace, now surpassing the $4.1 trillion mark.
How do cashless payments break down across different countries?
|Country||Daily Average Volume of Cashless Payments||Average Annual Cashless Payments Per Person|
Singapore has the highest number of cashless payments per individual, averaging 831 cashless payments annually. The country’s robust e-commerce market is supported by high-speed, reliable internet and a young, tech-savvy population.
With e-commerce spending accounting for about 6% of South Korea’s national GDP, it is another leading purveyor of a cashless society. Meanwhile, Sweden is projected to become a cashless nation as early as 2023.
Pivotal factors—including core infrastructure, consumer behavior and rising revenues—provide a glimpse into the rapidly changing payment horizon.
The Future of Digital Payments
As transactions rise, a number of other technological innovations could be instrumental to shaping the evolution of the digital payments industry:
- Messaging-app payments
Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat can leverage the reach of billions of users.
- Voice-activated commands
Paying for gas, groceries, or retail via voice could soar.
- Peer-to-peer (P2P) payments
Bank of America and Visa are investing heavily into P2P partnerships.
Over one million transactions take place daily on average.
- Biometric payments
Smartphone biometric security features could spur traction across digital payments.
- Facial recognition
May soon replace QR codes across retail, transit, and airports in China.
- Crypto wallet adoption
Blockchain wallet users are predicted to soar to 200 million by 2030.
- Hardware & in-store interfaces
Square, Stripe, and Clover are driving new mobile processing integrations.
The $4.1T digital payments ecosystem is facing a notable transition, catalyzed by a wave of global advancements and disruption. As the industry continues to widen its reach, consumers and investors alike can benefit from the shift towards a cashless economy.
The Racial Wealth Gap in America: Asset Types Held by Race
White families are more likely to hold assets of any type compared to other races. This chart highlights the substantial racial wealth gap.
The Racial Wealth Gap
People of color have faced economic inequality for generations, and the recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests has renewed discussions on these disparities.
Compared to White families, other races have lower levels of income and net worth. They are also less likely to hold assets of any type. In fact, 19% of Black families have zero or negative net worth, while only 9% of White households have no wealth.
Today’s chart uses data from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances to highlight the racial wealth gap, and the proportion of households that own different kinds of assets by racial group.
Asset Types Held By Race
The financial profile between racial groups varies widely. Below is the percentage of U.S. families with each type of asset, according to the most recent survey from 2016.
|Family-owned Business Equity||15%||7%||6%||13%|
Vehicles are the most common asset across all racial groups, followed by a primary residence.
However, the level of equity—or home value less debts—families have in their houses differs by race. White families have equity of $215,800, whereas Black and Hispanic households have net housing wealth of $94,400 and $129,800 respectively.
In addition, White households are more likely to hold financial assets such as retirement accounts, family businesses, and stocks. These assets are instrumental in building wealth, and are prominent in the wealth composition of America’s richest families.
With fewer people of color holding these assets, they miss out on higher average returns than low-risk assets, as well as the power of compound interest. These portfolio differences are striking, but they are not the most important contributing factor in the racial wealth gap.
Demographic and Economic Variations
White households are also more likely to have demographic characteristics that are associated with wealth. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, they are:
- Older, with more than half of households age 55 and up
- More highly educated, with 51% having some type of degree
- Less likely to have a single parent
- More likely to have received an inheritance
For example, 39% of White heads of households have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 23% and 17% for Black and Hispanic household heads, respectively. However, education doesn’t fully explain the wealth inequities.
Enormous wealth disparities exist between families with the same education level. Even in cases where Black and Hispanic household heads have obtained a bachelor’s degree, their families’ median wealth of $68,000 and $78,000 respectively is still lower than the $98,000 median wealth for White families where the head has no bachelor’s degree.
After accounting for demographic factors, researchers still found there were considerable inequities. What, then, could be primarily responsible for the racial wealth gap?
The Income Gap
While previous research found that the wealth gap is “too big” to be explained by a difference in income, a recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland offers a new perspective. Focusing on White and Black U.S. households only, researchers analyzed the dynamics of wealth accumulation over time, as opposed to previous studies that considered short time periods.
They found that income inequality was the primary contributor to the racial wealth gap. According to the model, if Black and White households had earned the same labor income from 1962 onwards, the Black-to-White wealth ratio would have reached 0.9 by 2007.
Moving forward, the study concludes that policy changes will likely have a positive impact if they address issues contributing to income gaps. This includes reducing racial discrimination in the labor market, and creating programs, such as mentorships, that improve environments for specific racial subgroups.
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