This Is the Average Net Worth for Each Generation

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Self.

In 2021, the average net worth in an American household headed by a person age 64-75 reached over $1.2 million, while the average household headed by someone under 35 had a net worth of just $76,000.

With these massive generational wealth gaps, Self decided to dig deeper into the historical wealth distribution of different generations to understand whether the wealth gap has always been so vast.

In the U.S., household wealth has traditionally seen a relatively even distribution across different age groups. However, over the last 30 years, data from the U.S. Federal Reserve shows that older generations have been amassing wealth at a far greater rate than their younger cohorts. Here’s a closer look.

Generations and wealth defined

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These are the generations we looked at for the study:

  • Silent generation (1928-1945): 6.33% of population in 2021
  • Baby boomer (1946-1964): 21.44%
  • Generation X (1965-1980): 19.73%
  • Millennial (1981-1996): 21.95%

In 1998, the share of the American population under 40 years old held 13.1% of America’s total wealth. Today, those under 40 hold only 6% of the total wealth.

This means that millennials and Generation X own less than half of the wealth that older generations owned when they were the same age.

In 2021, the vast majority of the country’s wealth (78.1%) belonged to the older generations, with baby boomers owning a whopping 52.2% of the country’s wealth and the silent generation owning 15.2%.

Generation X (age 41-56 years) owns 27.6% of the country’s total wealth, while millennials (age 25-40 years) only possess 5% of the country’s total wealth. Hence, as a group, baby boomers are more than 10 times more wealthy than millennials.

Of note regarding the wealth distribution of millennials, it was recently revealed that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who has an estimated net worth of $97 billion, single-handedly owns 2% of all millennial wealth.

Next, we’ll look at the average wealth per generation historically. To get as accurate a view as possible, we have taken inflation rates in mind. We look at the average wealth the different generations had when they were in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.

Average wealth at 30 years of age

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If we compare Generation X and millennials, we can see that millennials are 23.7% worse off than Generation X in terms of wealth accumulated around the same age.

By the time Generation X members were in their 30s, they had an average wealth of $84,414 (inflation rates taken into consideration), while millennials had an average wealth of $64,412.

The average baby boomer had a wealth of $132,960 in their 30s, more than double the wealth of millennials around the same age.

Year Generation Wealth average per person With inflation (to 2021)
1989 Baby boomers $58,698 $132,960
2005 Generation X $61,540 $84,414
2020 Millennials $63,523 $64,413

40 years of age

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When baby boomers were in their 40s, they had an average wealth of $195,994. Generation X had accumulated a wealth of $131,021 around the same age.

Year Generation Wealth average per person With inflation (to 2021)
1996 Baby boomers $115,686 $195,994
2021 Generation X $131,021 $131,021

50 years of age

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When the youngest of the silent generation reached their 50s in 1996, their average wealth was $292,210. Using historical inflation rates, that number is equivalent to a wealth of $495,057 in today’s value.

Baby boomers held an average wealth of $629,683 in their 50s, equivalent to $704,158 in today’s value.

Worse off is Generation X who, on average, owned $396,293 when they started reaching their 50s. This is 43.73% less than what boomers had when they were the same age.

Year Generation Wealth average per person With inflation (to 2021)
1996 Silent generation $292,210 $495,057
2014 Baby boomers $629,683 $704,158
2020 Generation X $396,293 $396,293

What does the future hold?

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Baby boomers are considered the wealthiest generation in history, but what happens when this wealth is passed on to younger generations?

A study from Coldwell Banker estimates that millennials are expected to inherit over $68 trillion from their predecessors by 2030, meaning that in less than 10 years’ time they will have accumulated as much as five times the wealth they currently hold.

Methodology

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The population data and wealth data for the silent generation, baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials are derived from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve. At the time the research was carried out, no corresponding data was available for Generation Z.

The inflation rates were calculated using SmartAsset’s inflation calculator.

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