Table 1: Income, net worth, and financial worth in the U.S. by percentile, in 2010 dollars
|Wealth or income class||Mean household income||Mean household net worth||Mean household financial (non-home) wealth|
|Top 1 percent||$1,318,200||$16,439,400||$15,171,600|
|Top 20 percent||$226,200||$2,061,600||$1,719,800|
|Bottom 40 percent||$17,300||-$10,600||-$14,800|
From Wolff (2012); only mean figures are available, not medians. Note that income and wealth are separate measures; so, for example, the top 1% of income-earners is not exactly the same group of people as the top 1% of wealth-holders, although there is considerable overlap.
Wealth in America is extremely stratified. According to most commentators, wealth inequality is increasing dramatically. It’s discussed widely in the news media and in books.
The figures in the above chart are mean values. You can have income of less than $226,000 and net worth of less than $2 million and still be well within the top 20% group. In addition, the 1%’s wealth is part of the mean of the 20%’s wealth, so the figures are skewed upward. Individuals and families in these groups are battling economically and politically and the fight is getting brutal. Globalization, economic recession, politics and the changing behavior of those at the very top affect your family through changing tax, property and health care laws.
There are 3 warring wealth cohorts in the U.S.: The top 1% (actually the oligarchs in the top 1/10 of 1% are the most powerful), the next 20-30% (with moderate wealth) and the bottom 70% (with very little, no, or negative wealth). Extreme wealth inequality is here to stay and it’s getting worse. Be aware of this accelerating trend. It should be added to your personal estate planning War Chest.