How Do Your Finances Measure Up to the Average American?

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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

Share This Article

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.