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  • Writer's pictureRobert Knauer

The American Consumer

The American consumer is doing pretty well — or at least that was the case in from March to December 2022, when the Federal Reserve Board conducted its triennial Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF). The SCF surveyed about 6,500 households, and the results provide a comprehensive picture of the financial well-being of American households. This provides a meaningful insight into the broader economy because the United State is a consumer-driven economy, with some 70% of U.S. GDP is attributable to consumption.

The Health of the Consumer

The first insight from the most recent SCF is that the financial well-being of American households improved in 2022. Highlights of the 2022 SCF include:

  • Median family wealth increased by 8.3% to $121,700 in 2022. This was the largest one-year increase in median family wealth since 2005. The increase in wealth was driven by rising asset values, particularly stock prices.

  • The homeownership rate increased to 63.8% in 2022. This was the highest homeownership rate since 2008. The increase in homeownership was driven by low interest rates and rising home prices.

  • The percentage of families with student loan debt increased to 22.3% in 2022. The median student loan debt balance was $30,000.

  • The percentage of families with retirement savings increased to 70.3% in 2022. The median retirement savings balance was $75,200 for families with heads of household aged 55 to 64 and $259,200 for families with heads of household aged 65 and over.

Business Ownership

Another insight from the survey is that there is a strong correlation between business ownership and income (which, in turn, is aligned with net worth). As the below figure illustrates, among the top 10% of earners, nearly half own businesses. Because business owners, especially at the higher end, are more focused on building wealth than generating income, a similar figure comparing business ownership to net worth percentiles is likely to be even more stark.

Source: Aladangady, Aditya, Jesse Bricker, Andrew C. Chang, Sarena Goodman, Jacob Krimmel, Kevin B. Moore, Sarah Reber, Alice Henriques Volz, and Richard A. Windle (2023). Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2019 to 2022: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances. Washington: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, October,

Net Worth

The SCF also provides a benchmark against which individuals and households may measure their net worth. The below chart breaks down the median net worth for various percentiles, meaning that of the roughly 1,625 households with the lowest net worth, that middle household, 813 up from the bottom, has about $3,470 in net worth. In case you're curious, households in the 99th percentile have a net worth in excess of $13 million. Taking inflation into account, net worth is up significantly in all percentiles from the previous survey in 2019, which higher percentage increases in the lower net worth percentiles.


Net Worth

Below 25%

$ 3,470









Source: 2022 SCF

Further Information:

-U.S. Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances

-Additional information on net worth percentiles

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