By Nathalie Voit

Middle-class U.S. households have few financial assets and may face retirement insecurity, a report by the National Institute on Retirement Security found. The study used data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances to track financial assets by generation, race, and net worth. 

According to the study, middle-class households in 2019, with a median net worth of $22,630 for millennial households, $150,500 for Generation X, and $236,350 for baby boomers, owned only 14, eight, and six percent of their generation’s total financial assets, respectively. The study points to the high concentration of wealth among the most affluent U.S. households. 

Moreover, financial asset ownership among white households was significantly higher than for black or Hispanic households. In 2019, white households in all three generations owned 75% or more of their generation’s assets.

While middle-class baby boomers had median assets of $51,700, the amounts were significantly lower for black ($30,900) and Hispanic households ($22,280). 

Meanwhile, middle-class Gen X households had median assets of $39,000, while blacks had median assets of $28,200, and Hispanics had assets of $9,000. White middle-class Gen X households, on the other hand, had median assets of $52,000.

The youngest generational cohort, millennials, had just $7,800 in median savings.

The low ownership of financial assets among the middle-class shows Americans may not have enough savings to retire securely. 

“This data shows the hard reality that the bottom three-fourths of Americans own little in terms of financial assets, and this is why most workers are struggling to achieve a secure retirement,” said Tyler Bond, research manager for the National Institute on Retirement Security.

“If the U.S. is to succeed in providing retirement security for all Americans, then significant reforms are needed. Social Security should be strengthened and expanded. Pension plans must be protected. More workers need access to a workplace retirement savings plan at a young age. And the tax treatment of retirement savings must be reformed to encourage saving regardless of income. Accomplishing these reforms would lead to more secure retirements and would promote a strong, broad middle class,” the report, authored by Bond, concludes.