Americans under 35 increased their median net worth by a whopping 142% between 2019 and 2022 — from $16,100 to $39,000 — according to the Federal Reserve’s October 2023 Survey of Consumer Finances.
The report defines net worth as the difference between a person’s assets and liabilities. Assets are things you expect to hold value in the future, such as your home or investments. Liabilities, on the other hand, are debts or money you owe, such as your mortgage, car payment or student loans.
To that point, many young people don’t have assets that would push up their net worth. A little less than 40% of Americans under 35 own a home as of 2022, per the latest Census data.
On the other hand, Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have the highest median net worth out of all age cohorts, increasing their net worth from a median of $308,800 to $409,900 over the same time period.
That makes sense considering a larger percentage of older Americans own their homes. Plus, they’ve had more time to earn money and grow their investments.
Here’s Americans’ median net worth, broken down by age.
How to build wealth, according to a self-made millionaire
One thing you don’t have to do is give up treating yourself to little luxuries, Ramit Sethi, a self-made millionaire and author of New York Times bestseller “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” told CNBC Make It in December.
“I’m not the guy who’s going to say, ‘Hey, got to cut back on lattes. And if you save for the next 360,000 years, you can afford a down payment on a house.’ It doesn’t work,” he told CNBC’s Frank Holland during CNBC Make It’s Your Money virtual event on Dec. 13.
Instead, the key to building wealth is investing, Sethi says.
Investing helps your money to grow exponentially faster than if it were sitting in a savings account, thanks to compounding interest. With that, you earn interest on your initial investment as well as the interest that has accumulated over time.
If you’re new to investing, many financial experts, including billionaire Warren Buffett, recommend starting with low-cost index mutual funds or exchange-traded funds that track a market index such as the S&P 500. This type of fund invests your money in around 500 top-performing companies, including heavyweights like Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix.
Owning these types of funds tends to be less risky than owning individual stocks since they provide automatic diversification. Your investment is spread across an array of companies, which lessens the likelihood that a downturn in one company’s share price would hurt your overall portfolio.
And while this strategy won’t make you a millionaire overnight, it can help you build long-term wealth for the future.
“Real wealth is almost always created consistently over a long period of time,” Sethi told Make It at the December event. “It’s boring, as it should be.”
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