How to Compare Your Net Worth to Others (Without Being Rude)

Note: this post was last updated on February 4, 2016.

Everyone likes to compare themselves to others—it’s basic human nature. But when it comes to comparing your net worth to those you know, few subjects could be more taboo. This cultural bar makes complete sense. In almost any discussion that compares savings, inevitably someone emerges feeling at least a little inferior. No polite conversation should ever end that way.

If it were possible to compare your net worth to others without making anyone feel bad (with the possible exception of yourself), would you do it? If your answer is yes, then you’ve come to the right place. Through the magic of statistics, you can see how your household stacks up against others in nationwide surveys. If you’re curious about where you stand, here’s a rundown of the data.

Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF)

Every three years, the Fed conducts a large survey of US families about various financial subjects, including net worth. The latest available numbers for the SCF are from 2013 and reflect the results of detailed interviews with 6,026 families.

For 2013, the SCF reports a median family net worth at $81,200, which means that if you listed the reported net worth figures in order for all families surveyed, as many families would fall above the $81,200 mark as below it.

For 2013, the SCF reports a mean family net worth at $534,600, which means that if you added up the total net worth of all families surveyed and divided that by the total number of families in the survey, the resulting value would be $534,600. Since the reported mean is six times higher than the reported median, it’s fair to say that the survey included some very high net worth families.

The SCF breaks the net worth figures down into percentiles. Here’s a chart of the reported figures for 2013.

If you have at least x dollars, then you are in the upper y percentile:
$50 12.45th Percentile
$8,800 25th Percentile
$31,300 37.45th Percentile
$81,200 50th Percentile
$168,100 62.45th Percentile
$317,300 75th Percentile
$505,800 82.45th Percentile
$941,700 90th Percentile
$1,871,800 95th Percentile

For example, if a household’s net worth is $350,000, then this would place it somewhere above the 75th percentile, which is in at least the upper 25 percent of surveyed families.

To view a lengthy article from the Federal Reserve Bulletin that discusses the 2013 SCF results in detail, click here.

Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP)

Not to be outdone by the Fed, the US Census Bureau conducts its own survey, with sample sizes that vary from 14,000 to 52,000 interviewed households.

For 2011, the SIPP reports a median household net worth of $68,828 and a mean household net worth of $338,950. Again, the presence in the survey of extremely high worth households skews the figure for the mean well above the figure for the median.

The SIPP reports net worth ranges and the percentage of surveyed households that fall within the reported range. Here’s a chart based upon the 2011 SIPP data.

If you have at least x dollars, then you are in the upper y percentile:
$0 18.1st Percentile
$5,000 27.2nd Percentile
$10,000 32nd Percentile
$25,000 38.6th Percentile
$50,000 45.5th Percentile
$100,000 55.9th Percentile
$250,000 73.8th Percentile
$500,000 86.4th Percentile

So again, if a household’s net worth is $350,000, then it would place somewhere above the 73.8th percentile, which is within at least the upper 26.4 percent.

To download an Excel formatted spreadsheet of the 2011 SIPP results, click here.

University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID)

The PSID began in 1968 with a representative sample of 5,000 US families. Every other year since, the same families and their descendants have been subjected to detailed questions about the lives they lead. In 2013, 9,063 families were interviewed about financial subjects, including net worth.

For 2013, the PSID reports a median family net worth of $56,335 and a mean family net worth of $308,276. Since the reported mean is more than five times higher than the reported median, it’s fair to say that the survey included some high net worth families.

As with other nationwide surveys, PSID data is reported in percentiles. Here’s a chart of the breakdown for 2013 (as stated in year 2013 dollars).

If you have at least x dollars, then you are in the upper y percentile
-$27,416 5th Percentile
$3,200 25th Percentile
$56,335 50th Percentile
$260,405 75th Percentile
$763,099 90th Percentile
$1,364,834 95th Percentile

To view an article that reports the 2013 PSID net worth results in detail, click here.

One-Step Calculators

I searched the web and located some sites where all you do is plug in your net worth and a calculator spews out a percentile ranking of your household based upon either SCF or SIPP data.

One such calculator, which calls itself the “Wealthometer: USA,” appears at www.ritholtz.com and uses the SCF data for 2010. Click here.

A similar calculator, which appears at the Political Calculations blog, is based upon SIPP figures for 2010 (not 2011). Click here.

Update: After this article was written, I prepared and published the “Worthometer,” which is the only net worth calculator on the web that that incorporates all three major surveys of household wealth (the 2013 SCF, the 2011 SIPP, and the 2013 PSID). To see where your own household ranks, click here.

RockStar Finance Net Worth Tracker

Last but not least, many personal finance bloggers provide readers with running updates of their own net worth (in line with prevailing social norms, most of them do this anonymously). My friend J. Money curates an ongoing list of such bloggers over at his stellar website RockStar Finance. To see this ever-expanding list, which now includes more than 200 participants, click here.

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Are you in the mood to do some more comparing? If so, you might be interested in clicking one or more of these other Frugal Fringe articles:

 

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  1. Love it man – great way to gauge how you’re doing vs the country! And also scary as $hit 🙁 Those medians are incredibly low, especially with families and what I presume to be a nice range of ages. It’s one thing to be at $70k-$80k in your 20s, but in your 40s or 50s, or God forbid 60s? Scary scary stuff… Esp if that means half the worths are even BELOW that number!

    Here’s another great calculator that puts things in perspective, only compared to the world:

    http://www.globalrichlist.com/

    Your $80k wealth puts you in the Top 12.41% of the world. Makes you appreciate stuff more!
    J. Money recently posted…Debt Paying Tip: #67: Round Up to The $100th!My Profile

  2. Interesting to note in the second footnote of the Federal Reserve Bulletin that taking out values for the primary residence and associated mortgage debt reduces the net worth median in 2010 from $77,300 to $29,800. For comparison’s sake, the 2007 values come in at $126,400 [or $42,300 minus residence and mortgage debt adjustments].

  3. I definitely snoop through the RSF net worth tracker from time to time. It’s amazing that so many bloggers share their net worth, including J$. Multiple data points help me wrap my head around how others manage to save and grow their money. Talk is cheap. Seeing the numbers is how you can show that you are actually practicing what you preach…the naked truth if you will. Maybe I too will have the guts to share our household net worth graph at some point.

  4. Ages… I like compare my net worth with only people in my age group. A 70-year-old millionaire doesn’t mean anything to me. I hope everyone is a millionaire or close to it by the time they are 70.

    A 30-year-old millionaire is who I want to compete with! 🙂
    WEL – First Quarter Finance recently posted…25 Random Facts About Me!My Profile

    • A real good point Will. And if you click on the links to go to the data that underlies the SCF and SIPP surveys you will see—tah dah!—breakdowns according to age and other demographic factors. Is this a good fount of youth data that can fuel a future post on FQF? 😉

  5. Thanks for the great links! I find it remarkable how programmed we are to view everything in relative terms. Even knowing this, I definitely was interested to see which percentile I fell in. I have some work to do!

    • Thanks AH! I think you’ve hit upon a key benefit that we can get from looking at these nationwide surveys: motivation to save a little bit more than we’re saving now.

  6. Nice to know how you compare but pretty minimal in terms of planning where you want to go – who wants to be average (or, God forbid, mean)??

    I suggested people start with how long they plan on living off their wealth and then how they want to live. A recent post at: http://www.moneydiva.com/whats-your-magic-number/
    walks readers thru the process.

    Thanks for the research – will defiantly use it for myself and future posts (with your attribute)!
    Leah recently posted…It’s June – Do You Know What Your Money’s Doing??My Profile

  7. I decided early on not to share my net worth on my blog, but a net worth number is always interesting and having some sort of bench mark. I calculate my net worth differently, I take only my debts and my investments, I don’t include the market value of the houses, so it’s tough for me to compare apples to oranges as they say.
    Even Steven recently posted…Frankly My Dear I Don’t Give a DamnMy Profile

  8. Wow – staggering numbers! Thanks for the share of some great info, Noonan!

    Not really a good data source because the number of participants is limited, but I’ve been using https://www.networthshare.com/ to track our networth. I’m still trying to figure out if I should include the value of my home at all, or just at a lowball amount. I prefer to be conservative, so I sometimes lean to what Even Steven said.
    debs recently posted…Debt DeliberationsMy Profile

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  10. Hey thanks for providing the details so that we can compare net worth. It is great when anyone can finally have a decent net worth as many graduates start out in the negative. Tracking it does help to grow it. Good Luck.

    • I completely agree. “A watched pot never boils,” as they say, but once folks start tracking their net worth every month, they magically start making basic life changes in order to keep the chart trending upwards. Thanks for stopping by, Rich Uncle!

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