07 March 2006

A Portrait of the Median American Family

The WaPo has an article on the median American family from a financial perspective. And it ain't pretty.

It has about $3,800 in the bank. No one has a retirement account, and the neighbors who do only have about $35,000 in theirs. Mutual funds? Stocks? Bonds? Nope. The house is worth $160,000, but the family owes $95,000 on it to the bank. The breadwinners make more than $43,000 a year but can't manage to pay off a $2,200 credit card balance.

How do financial advisors rate the median family? They would prescribe the typical cut expenses, save more mentality. We keep harping on it, but it really is the only way to build wealth. Less than 50% of Americans have a retirement account. While I don't think that includes pension accounts (the article doesn't say), that's still an astounding number given the shedding of pensions lately.

Case in point. We've replaced our furnace already this year. We just got word that our roof and siding will have to be replaced thanks to a freak February hailstorm. Luckily, we have insurance and have an Aon Home Warranty, so we'll only pay $1,100 of the total $15,000 cost. But how many families have $15,000 for emergencies? We'd use most of our savings to pay the bill but would likely have to take on little debt. How many would be so lucky? Certainly not the median family listed above.

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