Thursday, September 18, 2008

Households are still in decent shape

Just to keep things in perspective, here are the results of the Fed's calculations of household net worth as of the end of June (just released today). This is a very big-picture look at what's going on in the economy. Yes, there has been some deterioration in the past year, but there's nothing here that sticks out as way out of kilter. Even after a decline of about 5% from its peak last September, net worth was up over 40% from the lows of the 2001 recession. Debt increased only 3.5% in the past year. Even if we make aggressive assumptions about the ongoing decline in nationwide housing prices and recent stock market losses, household net worth by the end of this year should be at least $51 trillion, fully 30% above the low 2002 lows. It's been very painful, but it's still progress.

Interesting update: The total wealth of the Forbes 400, the poorest of which is worth $1.3 billion, adds up to $1.57 trillion, or about 2.8% of the total net worth of U.S. households.

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