It’s often said that “numbers don’t lie”. If so, what does that reveal about personal finance in the USA? To answer that question, we’ve prepared this analysis of personal finance facts and statistics to help you understand approximately where you are in comparison with other Americans.
The information revealed in our analysis isn’t intended to make you feel insecure in any way. Instead, it’s designed to help set parameters that will enable you to see how you are doing and to make improvements where you believe it’s necessary.
We hope you like numbers because we have plenty of them! They’re a necessary evil, and they go with the territory when it comes to personal finance. We’re going to present statistics concerning multiple topics relating to income, debt, savings and budgeting, and financial planning.
Median Household Income
The median household income nationwide is $79,900. But there is a wide variation between the individual states. The following median household income statistics are provided by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, as of April 1, 2021:
|State||Median Household Income|
|District of Columbia||$123,100|
Have you ever wondered where your income falls among wage earners nationwide? For example, you may be interested to know that if your household income is over $200,000 per year, you’re among the 10.3% wealthiest households in the country.
According to Statista, the income distribution in the US is as follows (for 2019):
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 10.5% of the population – or about 34 million people – were below the poverty line in 2019.
According to the US Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) the poverty line for 2019 is as follows (based on annual income by household size) for most of the country:
- One person – $12,490
- Two people – $16,910
- Three people – $21,330
- Four people – $25,750
- Five people – $30,170
- Six people – $34,590
- Seven people – $39,010
- Eight people – $43,430
Based on the table for “Median Household Income Per State” provided by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in the first section above, the top five richest states in the USA are:
- Massachusetts, $106,200
- Maryland, $106,000
- New Jersey, $106,000
- Connecticut, $102,600
- Hawaii, $99,800
Based on the table for “Median Household Income Per State” provided by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in the first section above, the top five poorest states in the USA are:
- Mississippi, $60,000
- West Virginia, $60,300
- Arkansas, $60,700
- New Mexico, $61,400
- Louisiana, $64,700
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), income per education level is as follows (for 2017):
|Education Level||Mean usual weekly earnings||Annual earnings|
|Some college, no degree||$774||$40,248|
|High school diploma, no college||$712||$37,024|
|Less than a high school diploma||$520||$27,040|
|Average for all education levels||$907||$47,164|
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, median earnings by age bracket are as follows (for the second quarter of 2021):
|Age Bracket||Mean usual weekly earnings||Annual earnings|
|16 to 24||$619||$32,188|
|25 to 34||$928||$48,256|
|35 to 44||$1,119||$58,188|
|45 to 54||$1,134||$58,968|
|55 to 64||$1,130||$58,760|
|65 and over||$989||$51,428|
Average annual consumer spending in the USA was $63,036 in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The biggest individual category expenses were:
- Housing, $20,679
- Transportation, $10,742
- Food, $8,169
- Personal insurance and pensions, $7,165
- Health, $5,193
Total consumer debt in the USA is $14.96 trillion. Those are the statistics issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for the second quarter of 2021. That includes all forms of consumer debt, including home mortgages, student loans, credit cards, and auto loans.
The amount of credit card debt in the USA is $807 billion. The average credit card debt per family is $6,270, and 45.4% of families carry some amount of credit card debt. (Source: Value Penguin)
The average American household pays $1,045.55 in credit card interest each year. It’s entirely likely the average American has no solid idea how much he or she is paying, due to multiple credit cards, and the variable nature of both credit card balances and interest rates.
About 2 million car repossessions yearly in the USA (source: Etags.com). Vehicles are typically repossessed within 90 days of loan default (your last payment).
The total amount of student loan debt in the USA is a record $1.71 trillion as of the beginning of 2021 (source: StudentLoanHero.com).
44.7 million students and graduates owe an average of nearly $30,000 in student loan debt. But student loan debts taken by parents for the benefit of their children averaged $37,200 per borrower.
544,463 Americans file for bankruptcy each year, including 522,808 personal bankruptcies. The rest are business bankruptcies. (Source: US Courts.gov.)
Of the total, 378,953 were Chapter 7 bankruptcies, representing total and immediate bankruptcy. 156,377 were Chapter 13 bankruptcies, representing partial bankruptcies, largely settled through installment payments.
45% of Americans have no savings at all (source: Nasdaq.com).
The information is a bit dated, but according to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder in 2017, 78% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. This includes fully 10% of households with annual incomes of $100,000 or more.
Only 41% of Americans have a budget, according to LendEdu.com.
Only 39% of Americans have enough money in their savings to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to a survey taken by Bankrate and released at the beginning of 2021. Most of the rest reported they would get the funds from credit cards, personal loans, or borrowing from family and friends.
Americans paid $11.8 billion in overdraft fees in 2020. Most of these fees were paid by individuals considered to be financially vulnerable. (Source: Forbes.)
The average amount of savings per American is $17,135, as of November 2020. That’s the national average, however state averages vary considerably. The average in West Virginia is $6,936 (the lowest), while the average in South Dakota is $24,497 (the highest).
50.5% of Americans have retirement savings, with an average balance of $65,000. This is according to information released by the Federal Reserve for 2019.
How much you should have saved for retirement by age bracket is largely subjective. It’s based on your current income – assuming it’s sufficient to cover your living expenses – multiplied by a factor that’s likely to provide a sufficient amount of retirement savings by the time you reach age 65.
For example, by the time you’re 40, you should have between 1.5 and 2.5 times your current annual salary saved for retirement. But the amount you should have saved will increase with each age bracket.