Housing wealth is a major component of overall wealth. A primary residence accounted for 29.5 percent of total family assets in 2010, according to the Fed. Wachter says minorities and immigrants were just beginning to get a leg hold in the American dream by owning a home during the Great Recession and people should not give up on home ownership. “Rents are likely to continue to go up. Ownership offers a hedge against rent increases,” she says.
Wages at a Stand Still
The decline in wages also adversely impacted net worth. Median income fell 7.7 percent in 2010, according to the Fed. Although pain was felt across the board, some groups were hit harder than others. Income for whites non-Hispanics declined 2.6 percent from 2007 to 2010, while nonwhites or Hispanics saw their income decrease by 10.4 percent. Rodgers says wages have stagnated over the past few years due to rising energy prices and the unprecedented number of Americans working part time or part year, but who desire to work full time.
Putting Down the Plastic, Picking Up the Student Loan Debt
There was mixed news on debt. The Survey of Consumer Finances showed the shift in the type of debt Americans hold. Credit card use has declined as many consumers deleverage and car payments declined as people bought fewer cars, but student loan debt rose over the period. As a share of installment debt, education debt rose 11.9 percentage points to 45.6 percent from 2007 to 2010.
Sharon Epperson, CNBC Personal Finance Correspondent and author of “The Big Payoff,” says rising tuition costs are causing students to take out more loans and their parents to take out PLUS loans on their behalf. “They are taking out these loans and they’re increasing at a greater rate than we’ve seen in the past.”
Epperson issues a warning to parents when it comes to supporting their children’s education. “Parents are now bankrupting their financial future taking out student loans for their kids,” Epperson says. Parents want the best for their children, but she emphasizes money has to play a factor. Families may need to consider local colleges or consider starting at a smaller college initially to keep costs under control, she recommends.
What’s Next for Net Worth
Can we expect the next Survey of Consumer Finances, which will include 2011 and 2012, to show an improvement? Rodgers says if the economy continues on its path the next report will show some improvement, but it will be modest. “If we take the path of investing in education and our social safety net and infrastructure and letting families continue to heal and housing heal, it will lead to a stronger report.”
Follow Shartia Brantley on Twitter at @shartiabrantley