6 Stats About Americans' Finances That Will Blow Your Mind

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  • Two-thirds of Americans own their homes but many wouldn't be able to handle a financial emergency.
  • American debt levels are at record highs, with credit card balances higher than they were before the pandemic.
  • Over half of American households either borrowed or lent money to one another in 2021.

Does your financial situation relate to any of these surprising statistics?

From stimulus checks to pandemic uncertainty and sky-high living costs, Americans' finances have been pulled in all directions in recent years. Now that the dust is starting to settle, some trends are starting to emerge. Check out these stats to find out how your financial situation compares.

1. 66% of Americans own their own homes

Home prices hit record highs last year, fueled by low mortgage rates and high demand. Even so, homeownership rates stood at 65.9% at the end of 2022, according to the Census Bureau. This figure has been fairly steady for the past few years, though it’s down from its 2004 peak of 69.2%.

Unfortunately, there are significant variations in homeownership rates by race. A report by the National Association of Realtors showed Black American homeownership rate is only 44%. Moreover, the 29% gap between homeownership rates in Black American and White households is higher than it's been in a decade. 

2. If they lost their income, 37% of households couldn't last a month

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) 2022 Making Ends Meet survey, almost 4 in 10 American families would not have enough money to see them through one month if they lost their main source of income. That means a lot of Americans don't have enough money in their bank accounts to tide them over in a financial emergency. Indeed, 21% said they'd only be able to cover their costs for two weeks. On the upside, 27% said they'd be OK for more than six months.

3. Americans owe almost $17 trillion in total debt

The total consumer debt balance was a whopping $16.9 trillion at the end of 2022, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It has increased by $2.75 trillion since pre-pandemic figures at the end of 2019. This comes from an increase in mortgage balances, credit card debt, auto loans, and other types of borrowing. Experian put the average balance for each American at $101,915, with Generation X holding the highest total balances. 

4. Americans' average credit card balances are over $5,800

A recent report from TransUnion showed the average credit card debt in America was $5,805 per borrower at the end of 2022. This chimes with data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that recorded record high credit card debt. Total credit card balances increased $61 billion to $986 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022. This is 6% higher than the pre-pandemic high of $927 billion we saw in 2019.

Bear in mind that this figure represents credit card balances. It doesn't distinguish between people who pay their card off at the end of each month and those who carry a balance over time. There's also some good news: The New York Fed shows delinquency rates remain low, after they fell during the pandemic. There was a slight uptick of 0.6% in transition rates to early credit card delinquency. 

5. The average American has $65,000 in retirement savings 

According to the Federal Reserve's 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, the average American has $65,000 in a retirement account. There's no set figure, but that $65,000 is unlikely to cover most people's living expenses in their old age. Nearly two-thirds of Americans had some kind of retirement plan, though contributions vary wildly depending on earnings. Less than 40% of low-earners had money in a retirement account, compared with over 80% of upper-middle-income families. 

Another interesting stat? There's over $1.35 trillion sitting in forgotten retirement accounts. When people change jobs, sometimes they forget about their company's 401(k). So much so that data from Capitalize shows that there are now over 24 million forgotten accounts. If one of them might be yours, start by searching through old paperwork to see if you can track it down.

6. Over 50% of households had either borrowed money from or lent it to friends and family 

Over half (51.8%) of the households surveyed by the CFPB said they'd either given or received financial assistance from friends or family in the previous year. While 20% said they'd loaned money between two and four times, a surprising 8% had done so more than eight times.  

Lending money to those you care about can be a difficult situation to navigate. If a loved one is struggling financially, the desire to help is both generous and understandable, but it can also strain your relationship. This is especially true if that money doesn't get paid back, or the loan puts a financial strain on you. A good rule of thumb is to only lend money you can afford to lose.

Avoid becoming a statistic

Coming on the back of the stress of the pandemic, the soaring living costs we've seen recently put a lot of strain on many household budgets. Unfortunately, we all encounter bumps in the road at some point and it is worrying to see how many families don't have an emergency fund. If you don't have any cash put aside, you might have to take on debt or miss essential payments if your income takes a hit.

Look at what you spend versus what you earn and try to find some wiggle room. Perhaps there are areas where you can cut back your spending, even a little. Or is there a way you can bring in more by taking on a side hustle? If you can put even a small amount into your savings account each month, it will add up over time. That extra cash can make a big difference and stop you from becoming a statistic if things don't go as expected.

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