Fed Reports a Disaster for U.S. Households
June 13, 2012 • 7:54AM

The Federal Reserve's triennial Survey of Consumer Finances, published on June 11, showed a disaster for U.S. households in the crash between 2007 and 2010, a period in which the assets and profits of the 20 largest U.S.-based banks returned to their 2007 levels.

Households, by stark contrast, lost a median 39% of their total wealth in those three years, as the values of their homes, savings, and retirement accounts plunged. What did not fall at all, however, was their indebtedness.

The financial crisis wiped out 18 years of gains for the median U.S. household, according to the Fed study, sending the household down to just $77,300 in total assets in 2010 — the same level as in 1992 — from $126,400 in 2007. The share of households with at least one retirement savings account fell from 53% to 50%. And the Fed then made it nearly impossible for the household to build any savings back up after the crash, keeping the interest rates near zero on every form of safe or reliable investment.

One thing which did NOT drop over the 2007-2010 crash was household debt. In spite of all the mortgages foreclosed and credit cards cancelled, etc., the median value of household debt did not change over the three years for the 75% of households who have debt. Debt as a share of family assets rose to 16.4% from 14.8%; and debt payments more than 60 days overdue were reported by 10.8% of families in 2010, up from 7.1% in the previous survey.