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After 7 straight quarters when Americans got richer, household net worth just fell by $500 billion

June 9, 2022, 9:19 PM UTC

In a continuation of bad news, the Federal Reserve’s latest report on the Financial Accounts of the United States announced that the total household net worth fell for the first time after seven straight quarters of expansion. 

Specifically, it fell by $0.5 trillion, or $500 billion, to $149.2 trillion in the quarter that ran from January through March.

As stocks flirt with a bear market, it’s no surprise that Americans are worth less than they were six months ago. This occurred mostly due to the decrease in the value of corporate equities that households invested in directly and indirectly, set off by Wall Street’s bad first quarter.

If not for the hot housing market, the Fed said, the damage would have been even worse. “A sizable $3 trillion decline in the value of stocks on the household balance sheet was partially offset by an increase in the value of real estate,” the central bank wrote, as a $1.6 trillion gain in household equity and a high rate of saving made up for the huge decline in equities.

The Dow and S&P 500 indexes each fell by around 5% in the quarter, and the Nasdaq tanked even harder, by 9%, as tech stocks got routed. 

The central bank also noted that debt is increasing nationwide. 

Household debt has increased to $18.3 trillion, up by 8.3% in the first quarter. Mortgage debt and non-mortgage credit card debt rates also grew. Domestic nonfinancial business debt and federal government debt grew. The only thing dropping is state and local government debt, by 3%.

As the stimulus checks and government assistance stopped just as a period of high inflation kicked off, households started to lose wealth. Chipping away at their pandemic-era savings, the average American saved about 15% less this year than last in retirement funds. Still, Americans continue to have higher personal savings than pre-pandemic, as the Federal Reserve reports.

About 61.3% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, according to a report by loan issuer LendingClub. This represents a 9% increase since last year. The wealthy are still able to splurge while lower-income households spend less since government assistance and higher wages were pulled back, as pointed out by the Washington Post.

But as CEOs warn of a recession, this news does not bode well for families struggling to remain afloat, as households meet the challenges of a more volatile market.

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