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May 05, 2011


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I'm in the top 25% for my age group (20 - 29) and have 4 more years to get into that top 10%. I don't see any reason why I shouldn't be able to make it into that top 10%.

We're in the top 10% for the 20-29 age group, though we're on track to hit top 10 for the 30-39 age group before we reach it - and hopefully leapfrog at least into the 50-59 range in our 30s through the power of leverage, compounding, and appreciation. We'll see!

Question: If you are married do you have to divide by two then? if so, I'm not doing so hot... Although I do still have 9 years left in my "bracket".

If in fact you DON'T have to divide by two, then by the time I'm at the end of my bracket I will be well above the 25% mark, and am above the median now.

Any insight as to if this is per person, or per household?

One last point - I would imagine that it is a little suppressed right now for the lower age brackets, because many of us saved our money and put a down payment on a house, only to have that down payment disappear when the housing bubble crashed.

Sarah --

I don't know for sure, but I'd guess these are by household.

Above the top 25% but below the top 10%.

How would you assess the net worth of a pension? My wife will get one while I will not. If she is somewhere around $3000 a month when she retires then that changes the net worth considerably needed for retirement.

I would assume this is per household. Dividing by two would be akin to divorcing your spouse upon retirement, which often is a financial catastrophy.

Matt --

I would count what you own FOR SURE -- not what you may or may not get if she works so many years. And it will be a "soft" number since (I assume) you'll be guaranteed payments but actually don't own a lump sum.

We are 38 years old, but we are well above the number for the top 10% of those who are 50-59. Not sure what it means, it doesn't get me to early retirement any quicker (darn!).

Just like you, FMF, I'm in the top 10%...for the age group above mine. It would be interesting to see the top 5%.

I'm above the 10% level for my age group but very I'm close to the next age group. But once I have my birthday I will not be in the 10% range but will be well above the 25% range.

Not only do I not stack up, I don't stack at all, I'm digging a decent hole. Sigh.

Almost to the 10% level for my age group (20-29) and have another 5 years before I depart from that age group.

"Yes, sadly these are median net worths, not bottom 25% net worths. Fairly pathetic IMO. It kind of shows you how well Americans are doing at managing their money (which isn't well at all.)

How much of that is NOT managing money correctly, vs NOT making a lot in the first place? I know of plenty of people, including myself, who are great with money, frugal and save as much as possible, whose net worths are nowhere near the median, simply because we earn hardly anything at all (and not for the lack of trying).

To be in the top 10%, you have to be able to earn that much to begin with. My entire sum of *gross* earnings for my entire life doesn't even come near to the top 10% worth for my age bracket ($840,000)

Many Americans simply don't earn a lot of money in the first place, so they drive the Net Worth average down, not because they're managing their money poorly but because they simply don't earn very much. Some are able to pull themselves out of this low earning power, but many never can. They simply do not have the connections needed to get a high-paying job.

Complexity and contradiction is all I can say on the wife stand point of net worth. She had some 403b which is quantifyable but also a plan called MIP which is 4% (also quanifyable) of her pay over and above her basic pension(unquantifyable-ish). If she were to continue working she would get x when at full retirement in 7 year.She has 24 years in the plan. If she would quit right now and do nothing for 7 years she would still get y based on years inputted into the system and she has attained the age of retirement. It also depends on how she wants to take out her pension in the fact of survivor benefits a.k.a. me in taking less of a pension but guaranteeing me some benefit for all her hard work and a whole mess of other complex situations. To be funny this only happens on alternating tuesdays and thursdays.

Anyway my point is no matter what my wife qualifies for a pension and if it is x that would be equivelent to x amount saved for however long she lives. If she did nothing she still would get y if she attained the age of retirement.

It is just hard to quantify something so nebulous.

I agree re: one needs to have a high salary to make one's net worth in the top %10. I have two master's degrees from prestigious schools but I've earned less than $500,000 in my entire lifetime because of the career I've chosen. On the other hand, I'm above the 25% in my age group (I'm 32). So I save copiously and am doing well for myself but will never be able to compete with my peers who are traders and consultants making $350k or more a year.

I'm 25 years old and I'm at $13k in debt and $8k in savings and retirement. Yep, negative net worth.

I'm hoping to pay this debt off by the end of the year, so at least I'll be in the median net worth category. Then eventually hit the top 25%.

I want to get the book you've been using for your posts!

I'm dubious that median net worths for younger ages are even that high.

Even if a young person is off to a good start saving, contributing to a 401(k) with an employer match, etc., by the time you subtract out student loans for college, you're lucky if you have a positive net worth. God help you if you took out a mortgage to buy a house within the past seven years! Our household net worth (two adults, mid-30s) is somewhere around negative $90,000.

I really enjoy this site and this blog FMF, I think it's one of the better ones out there for personal finance junkies like me. Some unsolicited feedback... you seem to love reveling in the fact that you do so much better than the "average." Sometimes just reporting the facts will do, thank you sir. And take it easy on the emoticons- that's annoying.

Our household above the top 10% number for the age group that is 3 categories above my age... however I do not feel secure enough to even think about retiring. So even though one may compare well to the published stats, I am not sure they will do anything different with their life knowing this information.

I strongly suspect, FMF, that as you converge on your number you may re-think this and choose to work a bit longer.


Well, for my age we're above top 25%, but below top 10%. For my wifes age we're above the 10% mark. As you can probably guess, I'm on the lower end of my age bracket. I'm also tracking to be well above the 10% mark of my bracket by the time I'm at the upper end age wise and probably above the 10% mark for the next age group. This wouldn't be possible if I weren't following one of FMF's key points of advise - grow your career!

Minor correction above- should read top 10% number for the age group that is 3 LEVELS above my age.

We are in the 10% and are tracking at the age group above ours as well.

I guess I'm the laggard of the posters here. I'm above the median but below the top 25% for my age range. I am, however, on the young end of my age range.

I live in San Francisco area so even though I'm doing very well based on this table, I don't feel secure. Everything is so expensive here, especially housing. This just remind me of your previous post on how our city moves our financial class few notches down. Urgh...

I'm currently in the top 25% but I should be (knock on wood!) in the top 10% in a few years as I get nearer to retirement. However, I don't have to divide my nw by two in my calculations because I'm not married.

I think the relevant net worths, particularly in retirement, should be calculated "per person" not "per couple". When you pay off your mortgage, you eliminate the only major cost where it is actually true that "2 can live as cheaply as 1". In retirement however, most other major expenses such as health care costs, transportation (most couples need to keep 2 cars), airline travel to vist family, food & hobbies etc are going to cost closer to twice as much for 2 people as for 1.

I'd like to second BD's comment above about low-wage earners. I earn a wage on the low end so my net worth is about half that for my age bracket. However, I'm frugal and my credit is, and has always been, excellent. And if this was a comparison of living expenses in proportion to income, I'd wipe the floor with my peers.

The older I get, the more I realize becoming a millionaire may not be a reality for me, and that's ok. I'm kind of over comparing myself to every one else. I live below my means and save what I can. That's about the best anyone can do.

No, I don't rank very highly in net worth according to my age group, but I am far from pathetic, thankyouverymuch! ;-)

I'm impressed by the difference between the median, 25% and 10% brackets for each age group. That's a long tail! For my age group, 20-29, I'm solidly above 25%, but not quite to the 10% mark. I'd love to get to the 10% mark for the 50-59 group before I hit 35. Of course I'll have a big dip between now and then that's paying for my MBA. (I'm pretending the numbers are individual, not household)

I'm 57, my wife is 48. Net worth 2.4 million, why am I working?

@working for the man: No need to keep working, move to a low cost area and retire.

If you were 20 years younger you wouldn't be able to retire with those numbers so you should be very happy about that!


Well, damn, this is depressing. If my house hadn't lost half its value, my net worth would be twice the value of the top 10% of my age group. Instead, I'm coming in under the 25% bracket. Oh well, better just keep plugging along my savings plan.

I'm 26 and not married yet. I'm above the 25% bracket, but not into the 10% bracket (I also have a pension through work, but I try to pretend that that doesn't exist when saving). Will probably stay the same once I'm married. no student loan debt, but looking to get a mortgage soon.

Hmmm... the average net worths look a whole lot like the amount of equity I would suspect someone would have in their home at the given ages.....

Well, I'm certainly nowhere near the top 25% or top 10%. I'm a legal secretary, am frugal, save 10% from every paycheck, so while I'm not broke, I'm not there. No need for me to feel bad or get depressed. I'm not where I should be according to these statistics, but I thank God I'm not where I used to be...BROKE!

Not including the gain on our house we have twice the networth of the 10% category for our age group.

We were lucky to have been frugal all of our lives; living way below our means while enjoying NOT keeping up with the Joneses. We earned good salaries with occassional bonuses; we never considered ourselves rich, just resourceful.

And, yes, we still have a gain on our house as we bought over 25 years ago, plus we are now mortgage free! BTW, I never counted the gain on our houses until we sold, as I always considered it "soft money".

I don't see the point of including the equity in one's home into one's net worth. You have to live somewhere.
When you retire I can see three choices in dealing with one's home.

1) You own your home outright, free of debt, don't care what it's worth, and enjoy never, ever having to make a monthly payment to anyone.

2) You can refinance your home, get your hands on a lot of money, but have to make a large payment every month.

3) If you have sufficient equity you could possibly take out a reverse mortgage and receive money every month.

We are in our 19th. year of retirement and have opted for the 1st. choice.

Here's a very sad and pitiful story from today's San Jose (CA) Mercury newspaper of an outcome from the 2nd. choice.

"99 year old man and his 95 year old wife forced out of their home"
They bought their home in 1973 in a low priced area in San Jose, CA.
In 2005 they needed some money to pay off a few debts so they refinanced it and took out a new 1st. mortgage of $370,000 at $2,600/month, more than they both received in Social Security.
By the time they declared bankruptcy in August 2010 the house was valued at $366,000 and the debt against it was $411,000.
Their Solution - Hold a garage sale, then move to Modesto, CA which is a lot cheaper than San Jose, CA and become a renter.

Guess I should start feeling blue. I am nowhere near any of the above. I am retired, own my home, have good insurance, good retirement, SS, save some each month, have enough to pay cash for another car, and only have about 74k in my 503b (or whatever) and that is used only for house repairs, etc.

Why, if you have a home, would you need to get $50k or more a year from your savings? I live very comfortably on less than $30k a year and save and travel to see family. It seems great to me, not sad, and to make a point - I DO HATE RETIREMENT. Anyone got a job for a 74 y/o woman? Thought not!!

@Old Limey,

Even with Option 1 you still need to make a monthly or annual payment to cover property taxes, although I know this will be a very low number for you since you bought a long time ago combined with the benefits of Prop 13.


Property taxes are negligible and amount to less than half a percent of our income. I do all of the gardening but I still spend quite a bit every year for plants and all of the other things related to keeping a garden looking beautiful. This year I plan to have the outside painted, that will probably cost close to $5K.

However, just think of the time that you spend in your home when you are retired. Pride of ownership is very important to us, and my wife and I would be miserable if we had to live in an apartment, condo, little townhome, or a tiny house in a bad neighborhood. Our house is a "picture" right now with all of the bright red and green Japanese Maples, the blossoms from the Orange, Tangerine, Lemon, Apple, Plum, Cherry and Crab Apple trees, the fish pond and waterfall, and almost a 100 rose bushes of all kinds that are in full bloom. The fruits of one's labors from a lifetime of hard work are paid back in full when you have a beautiful and secluded home and garden that's in a great location with great weather to spend your retirement in. It's even more necessary when you finally reach the point, as we have this year, where you no longer want to make those very tiring long trips half way around the world, even when you can afford to fly Business class. Long flights, layovers, and crowded airports are particularly unenjoyable for my wife now that she is 78, has had two hip replacements, and is by no means as mobile as she used to be. It's a case of "Been there, Done that!"

We're at 60% of the 30s category for the top 25%. We have 4 years left in this age group and plan to grow our net worth by $20,000 in each of the next 4 years, so we should clear the average of the top 25% pretty well by the time I am 40.

This may seem basic, but we build an annual financial strategy each year that is geared towards achieving a certain Net Worth increase, mostly through debt reduction and savings, not investment.

If you're lower on these numbers than you'd like, set a goal for how much your Net Worth is going to increase this year, and develop strategies to reach that goal in 2011. In 2012, and beyond, repeat!

I'm right at the top 25% level for my age group (with 3 years left). The only way that I will reach the top 10% is with a successful business, as my wife and I's current income from jobs won't get us there.

I'm somewhere in between the top 25% and top 10%, and I hope to hit the latter a year or five from now. I don't think I'll ever want to be much higher than top 10%.

I'm in the top 25% for my age bracket (20-29) and should meet and surpass the top 10% for my age bracket next year.

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