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Are You Financially Average?

Some sobering numbers on the working class

The average household income in America is $63,179, according to the Census Bureau for 2018, up nearly 1% from the prior year.  While in previous years we saw greater gains (+5.2% in 2015, +3.2% in 2016, +1.8% in 2017), the downward trend from prior years may correlate with the fact many Americans, while earning more, are carrying more debt than ever in their adult lives.

USA Today shared a geographic breakdown (see below) of the country, with the Northeast leading the way in income gains last year. The South was virtually flat year-over-year, which is ironic, because many major media outlets tote that same region as being where everyone is moving to.

The states with the fastest population growth:

Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Florida, Washington, Colorado, Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina

Average American income 2019

(Source)

If you go deeper into the numbers, household income remained relatively flat among races for all except Asians in 2018. White households average $70,642, Hispanic households average $51,450, African American households at $41,361, and Asians at $87,194 (up 4.6% year over year).

Looking at the median household income in the country, where do you fall? $63,000 can stretch a lot further in some parts of the country than others, and with a tighter labor market and low unemployment, the case can be made many people are underemployed throughout America, with no other choice than to consider side hustles or secondary incomes to make ends meet.

One of the fastest growing cities in America is Raleigh, North Carolina, and a quick search via Zillow showed you could snag a few nice single family homes, town-homes, or condos with a household income of $63,000, assuming you budget 25% of your monies for your mortgage.

Should you decide you want to live in the Greater Washington DC area, those options dwindle down considerably, as you are likely limited to studio condos or homes requiring a bit of TLC inside and out.

If you consider that the average American owes roughly $38,000 in personal debt, that $63,000 income (before taxes) now looks like living paycheck to paycheck.

Before we get into retirement and savings, are you thriving or just surviving financially? Many don’t face the cold reality of these statistics until an emergency happens, and they are forced to borrow (and get in more debt) to meet a need. It may be something minor, such as a flat tire replacement, or could be something more expensive and serious like a medical bill. When you are operating with razor thin financial margins, the mental and emotional stress alone will make matters worse. The importance of building a savings habit consistently, no matter how little you can put away resonates here, so you aren’t average.

There are two areas that you definitely don’t want to be average, and one is found in your driveway. Americans are spending more on their vehicles than ever before, with a recent Experian report noting the average car payment coming in at $554 for a new car, and $391 for a used auto. If you think leasing is cheaper, that payment is coming in at $457 per month.

You also want to consider the amount of money you are spending on vacations while carrying debt. The average American budgets nearly $2,000 for their summer getaway according to Bankrate.com. How are you making that happen at (or below) the average median income?

Related: Census.gov full report 

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