You might not be average, but heading into a new year, it's good to know how you compare to regular Americans when it comes to your finances. How much you earn is only part of the equation. You should also consider debt, savings, credit and spending.
GOBankingRates compiled the results from the surveys and studies it conducted over the past year. This combined data has information from tens of thousands of people across all 50 states to help you understand how you measure up against the masses when it comes to home values, the prospect of a good retirement, common financial stresses and more. Click through to find out how your finances compare to the average American.
The Median U.S. Home Value Is $205,100
According to Zillow's home value index, the median home value in America rose by 6.7 percent over the past year to $205,100 in December 2017. The Census Bureau recently reported that new-home sales are on the rise in a big way, with the median price of a newly constructed residential home coming in at $318,700. Where you live, however, has a lot to do with what you'll pay — and whether you can expect prices to rise or fall. GOBankingRates studies concluded that home values are plummeting quickly in cities like Houston and Miami and rapidly rising in cities like Atlanta, Buffalo, N.Y. and Pensacola, Fla.
The Average Indebted Graduate Owes More Than $30,000
What you owe has a lot to do with how your finances stack up against your fellow Americans, who are collectively carrying about $1.3 trillion in student debt, according to the Pew Research Center. A GOBankingRates study on student loan debt by state revealed that the average student who takes out a loan ends up owing more than $30,000. Data from the Institute for College Access and Success, which was cited in a GOBankingRates study, confirms that not all states are created equal. In Utah, the average student debt was $20,000 in 2016. In New Hampshire, it was more than $36,000.
The Median Household Income Is $59,039
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation's median household income rose significantly two years in a row to $59,039. That's the highest it's ever been, according to Business Insider. A GOBankingRates study on the cost of living in big cities found that today's historically high median income would make families very comfortable in some cities, but bordering on destitute in others. It takes an income of $43,425 to live comfortably for a year in Bakersfield, Calif., for example, and more than double that — $87,446 — in New York.
The Median American Salary Is $30,533
According to the Social Security Administration, the average wage earner in the U.S. brings in just shy of $46,641 a year. Thanks to a handful of ultra-wealthy Americans, however, that number is drastically inflated. The median salary is actually $30,533. A GOBankingRates study on income by state revealed huge gaps in wages by region and gender — Southern states tend to have much lower median incomes, while Northeastern states have the highest. Although women average the least in Idaho, the wage gender gap is widest in Louisiana.
Another Recession Would Crush 2 Out of 3 Americans
Perhaps the greatest indicator of how you measure up against the average American is how you'd fare in the face of another major economic meltdown. If you could survive a recession, you're doing better than two-thirds of the country, according to the gloomy findings of a GOBankingRates survey. Nearly half of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck, 68 percent have no recession investment strategy and nearly three out of four are not prepared to find new work in the face of an unexpected job loss. On average, women are far less prepared than men.
Most Americans Will Retire Broke
GOBankingRates survey data reveals that more than 55 percent of Americans will enter retirement with less than $10,000 in retirement savings. More than one in three, 34 percent, said they have nothing saved for retirement. Since adults 65 and older spend an average of $45,000 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of Americans couldn't even make it through three months of that spending total. The good news is, 25 percent have saved $100,000 or more, with most in that group claiming retirement savings greater than $300,000.
Most Americans Don’t Think They’ll Retire in Their 60s
The age of retirement has traditionally been 65 in the U.S. However, a recent GOBankingRates study revealed that most Americans — 52 percent — aren't optimistic they'll be able to retire by the time they are 65. If you believe you'll be able to retire between ages 55 and 59, you're among an optimistic 11 percent of the population. Another 11 percent expect to retire before they turn 50, while 5 percent plan to stop working before they turn 54. Fifteen percent, however, expect that they'll still be working at 75 and older.
A Plurality of Americans Don’t Know How They’ll Finance Their Retirements
How are you planning to finance your retirement? 401k? IRA? Investments like stocks or bonds? If you have an answer to that question, congratulations — you're not among the 39 percent of Americans who have no idea what money they'll rely on after their earning years have passed. In fact, when GOBankingRates posed that question during a survey, the most common answer was "I don't know." The second-most common answer, returned by 26 percent of respondents, was 401k or IRA.
The Value of Your Nest Egg Depends on Your City
No matter how much you've saved, your savings will measure up far better in some cities than in others. If you're planning on retiring in Detroit, you're ahead of the curve. According to a recent GOBankingRates study on retirement costs by city, $33,356 will get you through a year in the Motor City. At an average cost of $33,859 a year, Memphis, Tenn. is comparatively cheap as well.
29 Percent of Americans Believe They’ll Become Millionaires
If you think you'll never find a place among the more than 6.8 million American households who are part of the two-comma club, you'll join the vast majority of the population. According to a recent survey by GOBankingRates, 71 percent of Americans have already psyched themselves out of joining the 1,700 Americans who are minted as millionaires every day.
The Root of Financial Stress Varies by State
For most Americans, financial anxiety is a fact of daily life. The dominant cause of that worry, however, tends to vary depending on where you live. GOBankingRates compiled an exhaustive survey across all 50 states and found that geography plays a big role in what you worry about. In Arizona, the main worry is debt. In Connecticut, it's taxes. In Delaware, stress comes mostly from worries about meeting everyday expenses. In Missouri, the big worry is healthcare.
Retirement Is the Single Biggest Financial Fear
If not being able to retire is your single biggest financial fear, you have plenty of company across the country. A far-reaching GoBankingRates survey found that 22 percent of Americans — more than any other category — cited never retiring as their biggest financial anxiety. A close second was the 20 percent who worry about always living paycheck to paycheck. Living in debt forever and losing a job came in at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, with the rest stressing out about heavy stock market losses, never achieving the dream of homeownership and suffering from a low credit score forever.
Most Americans Have More Savings Than Credit Card Debt
One reason to be optimistic about the financial health of the country is found in the results of a GOBankingRates survey about debt vs. savings. The survey showed that 64 percent of respondents reported having more money in savings than in the debt owed on credit cards. An expert source told GOBankingRates the results may be skewed to the cheery side since people often include retirement accounts when responding to this question.
In America, Debt Is the Norm
If you can say truthfully that you carry no debt, you are part of a small and very exclusive fraternity. Household debt now totals a cumulative $13 trillion in the United States. Based on a survey by GOBankingRates, the biggest category by far is mortgage debt, which 65 percent of respondents claimed. Half of them owe money on their credit cards, 32 percent are paying off an auto loan, 25 percent are paying off student loans and 21 percent are paying medical debt. When you only count people with debt, the average respondent owed $140,113.
Most Americans Save Their Tax Refund or Use It to Pay Debt
The average tax refund in 2016 was $2,860, and a recent survey by GOBankingRates found that the vast majority of Americans used it to pay debt or pad their savings. Thirty-eight percent paid down debt like loans or credit card bills while 41 percent put their refund checks into savings. Just 5 percent used it to fund a splurge purchase like a new TV or pair of shoes. Another 5 percent put the money toward a big purchase like a car or home. Eleven percent put their tax refund toward a vacation.
Amazon Is America’s Holiday Retailer
How you stack up against the rest of the country is not just measured by how much you owe or how much you have saved — it's also about where you spend. America is a land of retail giants, and when it comes to holiday shopping, the most gigantic is Amazon, where 48 percent of the country turned for the majority of their 2017 holiday shopping. The online retail giant dominated in all but seven states, especially among 35- to 44-year-olds.
The Average American Spends $688 on Rent
The results of a GOBankingRates study on average rent expenditures were not shocking — at least when it comes to the regions where you pay the most. The West is the most expensive, with California leading the way. The Northeast is only slightly more forgiving. You'll do the best in the Midwest, which boasts the cheapest rents in the country. Rents in the South are reasonable as well, but the relatively high cost of living in some Southern cities can quickly negate any gains.
The Average Car Payment Is Now Greater Than $500
According to USA Today, the average American car payment broke the $500 mark for the first time in 2016 when it climbed to $503 a month. The newspaper's expert financial planner also said that amount was more than the average American could afford to pay. A big portion of the payment goes to interest, and the single best way to lower your interest rate is to boost your credit. According to a 2017 GOBankingRates study, auto loan borrowers with the highest credits scores enjoy average rates of 3.719 percent. Those on the lowest end, however, suffer paying rates of 15.297 percent.
Americans Spend Twice as Much Time on Social Media Than on Their Finances
For most Americans, it's likely that spending time on social media is more exciting than spending time on finances — and it shows. GOBankingRates conducted a survey about how much effort Americans put into each activity. The results showed that the average respondent spends 5.3 hours per week on social media and just 2.6 hours on their finances. Women were more likely to spend more time on Facebook, Instagram and similar sites. Not surprisingly, young people were far more likely to watch the hours disappear while staring at a screen.
About 1 in 3 Americans Are on the Verge of Financial Illiteracy
What's a 401k? What does "CD" stand for? What are the three major credit bureaus and how do they calculate credit scores? If you can answer these questions, good job — you're among the two-thirds of the American population who took on the responsibility of becoming financially literate. One in three, on the other hand, are setting themselves up for failure by not familiarizing themselves with even the most basic financial concepts and terminology, according to a survey by GOBankingRates.