How Do Your Finances Measure Up to the Average American?

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, 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, 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