How Do Your Finances Measure Up to the Average American?

average american-thumb

The phrase personal finance is pretty apt; your budget, financial goals and income are all unique to you. That said, there are some similarities when it comes to Americans’ bank accounts that provide a snapshot of how U.S. citizens use and save their money.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s U.S. and World Population Clock, there are approximately 317 million people residing in the country — and figures are growing by the second. That means there’s approximately one birth every eight seconds.

With such a widespread of available data, GOBankingRates compiled a blueprint of what a typical American’s spending, debt and savings account looks like.

Overview of the Average American’s Finances

Before diving into the figures, understanding the makeup of the “average American” is necessary. The latest U.S. Census was conducted in 2010; in the report, the non-Hispanic white population was revealed to still be the largest race demographic in the country, with about 72.4 percent of Americans identifying with this group.

Furthermore, females outnumbered males 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent, respectively, with the current median age of an American being 37.2 years old, according to the CIA World Factbook.

With this data in mind, GOBankingRates used Mary Smith — the most common first and last name in the nation — as the hypothetical subject for its report.

Mary Smith, a 37-year-old non-Hispanic white woman living in New York, the most populated city in the United States, works as a retail salesperson (the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that some 4,340,000 other Americans work as salepeople).

Here’s a glimpse into her finances:


Saleswomen in New York like Mary earn a median income of $40,728, according to PayScale.com, compared to the U.S. median income of $52,762.Average American Earnings

With such a modest income, New York’s cost of living estimated at $26,521 and the state’s unemployment rate at 6.6 percent as of June 2014, it’ll be essential for Mary to safeguard her future with an emergency savings fund.


However, there might be obstacles delaying her savings progress, such as various lines of credit and debt balances.

With the average credit card debt among indebted households at $15,263 according to Nerdwallet, and the average credit card APR at 14.95%, according to LowCards.com, Mary has a lot to take care of before acting on a savings goal.

This reality is only made worse when other debt factors are added in, such as an average $147,591 in mortgage debt, a $31,646 balance owed for student loans and average auto loan debt of a staggering $30,738. The grand total of debt that Mary faces is a steadily mounting $225,238.


Savings is a broad term; it encompasses all aspects of saving money, whether for an emergency fund, a retirement account or personal goals like traveling. However, the average American like Mary struggles to save adequately to meet savings goals.

Credit Donkey reports that only 59 percent of Americans have at least $500 saved for an emergency, leaving Mary with not much to work with should an unexpected expense arise.

What’s Influencing This Financial Profile?

While some of the data used for this profile came from Census data gathered before 2010, the outlook of Americans’ finances are still very interconnected to the economy. The U.S. unemployment rate has dropped from 10 percent in October 2009 to 6.2 percent in July 2014, just about meeting policymakers’ 6 percent target.

And while private companies in the country have added approximately 176,000 new jobs in August for American workers, temporary positions, as opposed to full-time jobs, are in vogue, with a 6.7 percent growth in 2013 compared to the previous year.

Employers are still hesitant to hire a permanent workforce in the middle of uncertainty brought on by regulations like the Affordable Care Act, which requires companies to provide health insurance coverage if they have 50 or more full-time employees on payroll.

When Americans have an unreliable income source, saving money can prove challenging and the necessity to fall back on new and existing lines of credit can be the only immediate way to sustain a living while the economy picks itself up.

Photo: ılker turhan

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  • John

    That gal in the “average American” shot is kinda hot.

    • Mrs. John

      you’re an idiot

      • St. John

        You are both idiots.

        • Lil john

          We are all idiots

          • Cal_Grimalkin

            I’m an idiot, your’re an idiot, we are idiots all, and when we get together, we do the idiot’s call — “I like my obama phone”

          • john jhon


  • James Kinson

    This is an article every American should read. This is an eye opener! I have shared this report on every social site I can think of. Thanks for putting it together!

  • http://www.householdbudgetcoach.com/ Michael Taylor

    I agree James. It was an eye opener for me too. As a Financial Coach it helps me to see how important my role is in improving lives in America.

    • Aeneas

      Just what we need…more financial advice. Just like we need more poetry and marketing majors. Oh…a few more actresses and musicians should help our economy. We need to add value to raw materials…..tradespeople, engineers, etc…

      • overthecoastline

        Nobody knows how to make anything anymore. We’re all paper-pushers and servants.

        • San Martin

          CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR,YET. depends what kind of WORK YOU DO.
          JUST THINK .it doesn’t take a genius.

          • easterner2

            You need to state why: is it because of free money or the perceived opportunity which doesn’t exist in their former country.

          • Jeffrey Petrie

            It’s because people overseas watch our TV shows and think that’s the way it really is to live here. I spent time teaching ESL overseas making pretty much the same money I make here but enjoying a much higher standard of living there. I always told my middle and upper-class students who dreamed of emigrating here that although they would certainly make more money, they would be very lucky if their standard of living or the educational prospects of their children would be much improved. I’m afraid I didn’t have much success in dissuading them, they simply had a hard time believing me.

          • Jaye44

            you don’t travel much if you think that the image of America from the 50s is current today. Many people in many parts of the world have a higher standard of living than Americans.

          • San Martin

            you got to be kidding or smoking the WRONG KIND of cigar. you’re entitled to be wrong
            no one in the world live sor enjoy life’s opportunities better than Americans DO.
            I know FIRST HAND, AMERICA IS GOD’S BACKYARD, and NO we are not
            second to none, that is horse manure, we’re second TO NO ONE, EVER.

          • jonodough

            I see the same thing. America is falling way behind. We are starting to look like a third world country compared to just about everywhere else. Sad.

        • drofmanythings

          Not true. Our federal government can make trillions of dollars out of thin air.

        • FBHO

          Not true. I am adept at making war. Your tax dollars have trained me well and I’m confident in stating that I’m good at what I do.

  • fiscally responsible

    We need to stop thinking in monthly budgets where buying another car just adds a few hundred dollars on the expense side. We should rather think in total cost and lifetime money needs, This way saving would go up real fast as we are running into dark times where nobody is able to retire anymore as they have never really saved up for it. Anyone who buys furniture or electronics on credit really has set himself up for private bankruptcy over time.

  • Tom from NC

    If you think this article tells the “whole story”, try adding the per capita federal debt (using $18 Trillion and 319 Million Citizens from the us debt clock) gives us a simple $56,426 per person – or $153,000 per actual TAXPAYER – so for a family of four add another $225,000 or so (which equals the articles’ “estimated debt” for Mary) to this and you realize that “Mary” had better get her act in gear on a personal and governmental level or there will not be such a great future ahead.

    • Rondec

      No one seriously expects that debt to be paid off. It’s permanent. What is also permanent is the interest payments on it that deplete our treasury and is the reason our infrastructure is suffering cash shortages – everything from education to highways.

      • Tom from NC

        Rondec, in many ways you are correct, but when merely the interest costs of carrying the debt get to be too high, the Citizens are going to be rebel against the government because the spiral will begin.

        As a very simple guess, frankly an overly simple guess but to come up with a fast answer, if the average interest rate on US debt hits about 6.5% to 6.75% then the interest carry alone will exceed all of the combined expenses for military and security. Now it will take years for the AVERAGE rate get up to 6.5 or 6.75% because of all of the current low rate debt the current administration is putting on the books. However, when one considers how low these future average rates are from a historical point of view, it is almost a certainty during our lifetimes.

        However, getting back to the original article, from an economic point of view when considering the debt load of the individual or the individual family, it does not matter that the “debt will never get repaid” nor that the debt is in the name of the federal government. The productive portion of the economy of the United States must service the debt regardless of whether it is by overloading the individuals with personal debt or by reallocating their taxation into government debt repayments – either way it is burden that will slow / stop growth and reduce the standard of living of the average Citizen, because it was a wasteful expense of money /resources that now must be repaid from other productive efforts.

        So on the one hand, I agree with you the government will continue to postpone the solving of the problem by “kicking the can down the road” but on the other hand, I disagree that over the effect that this will have on the average person. The infrastructure will continue to deteriorate, taxes will continue to go up and more of our resources will continue to be wasted by the current administration. In 2016, we will be given a chance to begin the effort to rebuild our great nation and the futures of our children and grandchildren. If we take the opportunity to move in a positive direction away from waste and socialism then we have chance to regain our beloved country, if not, I am afraid that our American dream will be lost.

        I pray we make the correct decision.

        • John Woods

          There are many things wrong here. If you are suggesting the government cut spending, what you are saying is cut jobs. During a recession when private companies don’t invest, the government can and should. Borrowing at low rates makes money productive and puts people to work, increasing demand and making private companies willing to expand and hire people. Then government can reduce borrowing. At this point, debt to gdp ratio is relatively low and falling because the government economy is growing. Your scenario is wrong.

          • db

            Well, under our current administration the debt has increased by $14 trillion or so and there are more people without jobs than six years ago. Also, there are 40+ million people on food stamps – probably a “good thing” based on your thinking. There is little on no economic growth. So according to you the economy should be booming by now. Perhaps the debt must be extended another $14 trillion or so to really get us moving again.

            Tom from NC is correct. At some point there will not be enough “government money” to pay the interest on the debt at which point the beginning of a thousand years of darkness will have occurred.

          • Jaye44

            You really have no idea what you are talking about do you? Do you know where that 14 trillion went? And the policies that created it? The feckless worthless useless war with Iraq alone poured over a trillion down a rathole while maiming Americans and producing nothing but hatred in the world.

          • Frank Johnson

            You’re missing a much greater issue. Much of the hiring is done by government. And many of these government jobs amount to little more than make-work; essentially a hybrid form of welfare. Then too, many of these bureaucratic and clerical jobs are to enforce petty little rules and regulations that make the rest of us less productive. The duties of too many government employees seem merely to be finding new and creative ways to spend the taxpayers money. It would actually benefit the economy to shrink government, permanently fire these government drones and pay them unemployment benefits until the economy grows enough to give them real, productive jobs.

          • Jaye44

            Government employment is at its lowest in decades. ONe result is that regulations are not enforced and functions are not efficiently carried out because of understaffing. Social Security has been very efficiently managed for years; now offices are being cut and old people left without an easy way to manage the system.

            I for one would pay even higher taxes to rebuild our soon to be third world infrastructure providing a better society and jobs.

            Austerity just continues to put misery on Americans and money into the pockets of the military industrial complex and the 1%.

          • jonodough

            We keep getting taxed more each year. Every single thing is taxed. And all that tax money seems to disappear because we never seem to have enough money to repair, rebuild anything. Look at our roads and bridges. Look at all the trash laying around everywhere. Our money is being skimmed and stolen to make up for previous thefts. You are a fool to be willing to pay more taxes. What we need to do is to get rid of these thieves, these useless govt employees and those who think they have the right to dictate how we live.

            Take for instance London, have you seen images of London. And any other European city, sure they have high taxes but st least you can see where the money is going. These cities are clean, no potholes, no litter, new buildings. Then you look at Boston, NYC, la and these places are embarrassing soon to be third world hellholes. Our cities are disgraceful, so is our transportation systems. We are falling so far behind and these thieves in govt. care nothing but for them,ves and their bottom line. No more taxed, WE NEED TO CLEAN HOUSE OF THE CORRUPTION BEFORE ITS TOO LATE, although personally, I think it’s too late to fix this mess.

          • Tom from NC

            My scenario is not wrong, you just have a pro-big government keynesian viewpoint.

            Almost all of keynes’ theories have been proven wrong, but the one that I love to remind all of the liberals who try to quote his writings, is the part about spending less than the government takes in during “good economic times” – liberals always hate that part.

            Additionally, cutting wasteful, non-productive jobs is always a good thing. Spending money on a “job’ that merely occupies someone’s time is a waste of hard-earned tax dollars. The vast majority of government jobs are wasteful and counter-productive. Cut the tax dollars and let the private Citizens keep and utilize their money as they see fit – they will do a much better job than idiot bureaucrats . The issues that are best left to the government versus private enterprise are counted on no more than two hands are all completely described in the Constitution.

            By the way, two more issues with your “ideas”, borrowing at low interest rates does NOT ever make money more productive, it merely makes it less counterproductive -there is a big difference that any economist completely understands. Secondly, no one who understands finance and the economy would say that $18 Trillion in Debt to a roughly $17 Trillion economy (and that figure is generous) is NOT a good ratio for anyone that wants to preserve and defend our great nation. I have to concede, that ratio may be deemed “reasonable” to a socialist, but not by objective investors.

            If you are still reading and want to discuss this on an intellectual basis, I would highly recommend that you pick some books, articles and writings by Sowell, Williams, Friedman, Hayek and von Mises – they can easily show you how wrong most of the economic and financial world regards keynes.

            I hope that you had a Merry Christmas.

          • Jaye44

            Supply side economics worked well in Kansas and under Reason for the US didn’t they? LOL. Keynes theories work very well and have proven themselves repeatedly. Alas conservatives want to put the money in their pockets the moment there is a surplus. Remember Clinton was paying down the debt with the surplus before Bush came along and stole it for his cronies. But all that wasteful war and wasteful tax cuts were going to get the economy moving again. LOL

          • Tom from NC

            Jaye, either you have not read and understand history and economic or you are brain-washed. “Clinton” did not repay debt, the GOP controlled Congress repaid he debt. Keynes is an absolute failure. Just check the Soviet Union and Europe. Really nice for the liberals who have doubled the debt in six to eight years are trying to falsely blame the conservatives.

            Get an education and then face reality.

          • 1LTLos

            There are no jobs to be had – There is no Industry, no Commerce, no Technology worth speaking of, and there at least should be some economics experts and some entrepreneurs in Washington but they all choose to be lawyers who like Obama and Clinton conduct themselves to go under Investigation and Judicial review and have to forfeit their licenses – I said that to say that you are uttering theory – FACTS are that private firms cut back during recessions but create jobs during profit years – but there are no jobs and private industry went away to be free of overtaxation and over regulation by the IRS and EPA. THe government economy cannot be growing when the only jobs are less than 40 hour per week Obama Burger flipping jobs and the Obams Stand in the street Pla-Card Advert Flipping jobs. THe governement economy is growing is a lie and your entire post is a lie. GDP Debt cannot be low either because it is not being paid off and growing not falling. Your delusion is called Voodoo Economics I doubt your dollar is stronger than mine.

          • Animosity4U

            You are an idiot Rethug! Our economic woes started with your Saint Reagan and his war on unions and the middle class.

          • jonodough

            How do you recognized a liberal? They always start with a personal insult.

          • Jaye44

            corporations haven’t paid taxes in years. They went away because they want to pay poverty wages. They went away because they have no values but greed and no loyalty to their country. A living wage for Americans is too much for them to bear. They’s rather pay children and prisoners in China.

            America has chosen its decline because it is governed by corporate greedheads who will not be satisfied until they have all the money and your children are serfs. Almost there.

          • 1LTLos

            Answer me which corporations did not (past tense) or do not (present tense) pay taxes? There are many corporations that set themselves up that way to avoid taxes – BUt do they offer more than desk and filing jobs? The answer is probably no. You give me five reasons how unions benefit labor in the last two centuries. Unions are leeches who suck money off of the top of every worker skilled or not for doing absolutely nothing – When a union rep is needed, they are in the pocket of the abusers. I have never had an instance in my professional life except for the very beginning years where my income did not support me and my family. Living wage? What the hell is that? Athletes who are paid millions also have nothing to live on once they retire – are drugs, sex lavish show off goods part of the Living Wage you describe?

            I have to admit there are greed heads – but these are fewer that what you believe – Corporations went away because of extremely high taxes and not one but three regulatory agencies OSHA FEMA and EPA. You want to lookj at greed heads look at the New World order meatheads – the One worlders — all your Liberal Democrat politicians are members of the Trilateral Alliance and the Commission of Foreign Relations — Study these people – Reagan had four goals while in office and he accomplished three — I doubt that you can genuinely pin your attitude, your politics and perhaps bad luck on Reagan. Liberal politics have not helped you me or this nation since pres Wilson. Oh and your current hero Obscumbo wants to flood this country with unwelcome, unwanted, unninvited diseased and infected illegals – several million of them – and you can expect that they will not have living wages either or they will strive to take your job too. Sorry that we are where we are — No one wants it this way among We The People but please, socialism and communism have historically failed – these are not the solution either. A Re-invigorated America is.

          • RalphTheCat

            AS long as you have entitlement programs that pay people not to better themselves, that is true.

          • Riooso

            No, when we cut government and regulations we create jobs because private companies will hire. The way it is now the government has made energy expensive, money expensive, hiring expensive because of all the regulations Obama Care brings with it, keeping the doors open because of government regulations that take another 25%, or more, of a the total business’ profits through paperwork alone. Government makes nothing and all the people that they hire are paid for by people that work for a living. To say that a pay raise or hiring more government employees raises the economy is ludicrous.

            By the way the government debt of $18 Trillion is hardly small compared to GDP. The GDP last year was $21 Trillion that is 85% of one years GDP but, the bad part is that for ever dollar the government spends 40% of it is borrowed. Remember, all this discussion is about the Federal government and does not include the Sate governments….chilling!

          • Robert Vance

            That may seem like perfectly sensible theory; however, in practice, policies that shrink government in times of fiscal calamity actually right the economy much faster. A study of the responses to the other Depressions – in 1820, and again in 1920 – reveal just that. The invisible hand of the market can, and does, work its magic when left alone.

        • Riooso

          Tom you are of course correct in everything you said. I would like to add one thing also. When the government prints money that it does not have it is a tax. For instance, if the country has 100 one dollar bills in circulation and it prints another 100 dollar bills the money that you have is now worth $50 dollars. The government has taken money from you and I personally define anything that the government takes from you as a tax.

          • Tom from NC

            Riooso, Amen. To be a little more specific it is a tax on “savers” and not as much a tax on spenders. One has to be a “net holder” of dollars before the printing in order to have been taxed. Unfortunately, half of our population are not in the “holders” category much less in the category of net “savers” – and they vote.

          • Riooso

            Again, your dollar is worth less so that all goods and services will have to rise in dollar amounts to buy the very same goods.

  • Larry

    You are all right.You are idiots.

  • Riooso

    There is also another very important thing to consider and that is the amount of taxes that the “average” American pays. Taxes make it very difficult to save money. Taxes amount to almost 50% of almost everyone’s income when one defines taxes as any and all monies that is taken from an individual and payed to the state or federal government.

    • drofmanythings

      When I was young, there were only a few taxes. Now EVERYTHING that moves or stands still is taxed, like finacial paper cuts killing all but the 1%ers.

    • RMThoughts

      The regime of total taxation is nothing but “soft” slavery to a political elite and its welfare class dependents.

    • RMThoughts

      “if God did not mean for us to be sheared, he would not have made us sheep”.

    • MichMike

      And the stack up of taxes comprises more than 50% of the cost of everything.

    • jay

      Riooso is obviously a 1 percenter and he/she has no idea how the other 99% live. A person earning $40,000 does not pay 50% in all taxes combined. America became strong because of the middle-class and now the middle-class is being destroyed. The 1% are too dumb to understand that without a strong middle class, the nation and their wealth will eventually be destroyed.

      • Riooso

        Think again guy. I said I consider a tax anything that have to pay the government. Count your land taxes, gasoline tax, State tax, Sales sales tax, Federal income tax, Social security tax your employer pays for you, the amount of Social security tax you pay, phone tax, tax on electricty, FICA, tax on cell phone usage, DMV taxes and license (which in California amounts to $300 or more for a 5 year old Chevy every year)…..Really? Want me to go on? Become educated and get your head out of the ground?

      • Riooso

        By the way I am a Conservative that believes in jobs, smaller government that sucks the life out of the middle class, and going by the Constitution! Although I am not a 1% by far the !% ‘s in this country pay over 80% of the taxes! So get real!

  • eanmdphd

    I appreciate that many have little disposable income. I also note that the credit card debt is often multiple years more than the disposable income…. And people keep on spending. They cannot possibly get out of debt

  • Rick Schweikert

    Reports claim that most new jobs are going to immigrants. Just wait until we get millions of more immigrants flooding our country. It will only get worse.

  • EightBall343

    Live below your means and save 15% (IRA, 401K or Roth), and save at least 6 months gross income. Why do people spend themselves into debt hell?

  • drofmanythings

    This data highlights the reason why so many single parents, not just women, stuggle while marrieds are rarely impoverished by comparison. In fact, like it or not, Marriage and two incomes is the best way to have adequate family finances in the 21st century. Ironically, fewer people are getting married and fewer people are working. Despite Mr Obama’s grand pronouncements earlier today, the number of full time workers in the USA is less than in 1988. Wages and incomes have gone up less than 1% for full time workers in 2014 while inflation for food and housing is trending up. Thankfully, fuel prices are down, to the angst of progressives who want high fossil fuel prices in order to save the planet.

  • mikefromwichita

    There is no such thing as an ‘average’ American in the sense of this pointless as usual yahoo article. Want a better life? Never ever ever borrow for anything NOT a life & death necessity or an income producing investment. Save 10% of your pay each week no matter what you must cut to do so.

  • john

    In the mean time $ 58 000 000 000.00 (billion) in interest per year is stolen from peoples savings account, created by the Fed, by a near zero interest rate, while credit card co.’s charge anywhere from 15 to 20 % interest. Nice if you can get it. HIGH TIME TO AUDIT THESE FOLKS. PS. These are 9 private banks, given the power to print money, they are as federal as FedEx.

  • grumpdad

    Our lying politicians called a 1% addition to our 5 % sales tax “only a 1% increase”. In my math of yesterday it is a 20% increase. We got a 1.5% SS raise and my property taxes went up 30%.. Seems like the unemployed somalias that get $2000 per month for every member of the household have the solution. Blackhawk downed, then claim refugee status as they feel persecuted.

    • Jaye44

      Oh yeah it is them darkies getting all that welfare who are the problem. Don’t look behind the curtain at the billionaires who control your life including making you think the problem is them darkies getting all the welfare. What a maroon.

  • Paul B

    This analysis is not thought out very well. They take a white woman in her 30s, living in New York, who has a n income well below the US median. Then they use statistics like average credit card debt and average mortgate date for all people as a comparison, not just the numbers white women in their 30s living in New York who work as sales cleerks. Comparing apples to oranges. Not valid at all.

  • Boguseconomist

    The corporate model demands maximum shareholder return as its primary objective. This means paying the lowest possible salaries to achieve maximum productivity. Also, a corporation can achieve the highest return by paying as little in taxes as it can. This often involves “buying” influence through large campaign contributions to legislators. Any observer can note the decline in corporate taxation, the increase in tax loopholes and offshore tax dodges along with the passing on of health care to the taxpayers, as in the case of Wal-Mart. This may be relevant to the new status of the United States as the industrialized country with the highest wealth gap.


      Yes, but as a worker you have the right to compete with other companies for a higher salary. Labor is not monopolized. I’ve increased my salary by about 60% just in the last 4 years by moving to other companies. However, I was only making $40k out of college.

      Now, I have an interview for a job that will give me a 30% raise and bring me very close to that 6 digit salary.

      If you are valuable and know you’re valuable, then ofcourse you can increase your salary. You don’t have to stay with the same company.

  • Maggie De Vore

    We have become a land of beggars.


    only 59% have atleast $500? How do people survive?

    And here I am worried about my $20 grand auto loan debt and only having about $9000 saved, despite being single and earning $70k. I’ve been feeling really bad about spending too much and think I should have way more saved. But, I guess I shouldn’t feel bad since the average American apparently is in much direr straights.

    It’s a new year, and my goal is to save atleast $1000 a month. That should set me up well for my 30’s.

  • duelles

    As a self employed contractor my total tax bill in CT on the first dollar I made each year was over 54% excluding property taxes. Screw the sons of bitches who tax loose cigarettes and everything else we can touch or conceive of. Shares of CELG at $0.59 in the 90’s saved my ass from serfdom.

    • duelles

      . . . . And that does not include the tax on very corporate equity i owned or the taxes prior to buying anything. What a friggin’ scam.

  • Don Dressel

    My household income is about 97,000 dollars per year. We pay very low income tax because of rental property we own. If everyone would learn how our tax structure and write offs work they would invest their money into investments instead of throwing their money away on trivial trinkets! Why is it corporations make millions and yet pay literally no taxes? It is all about write offs!