It is human nature to want to know how we stack up compared to those around us and the internet makes it really easy to do.
According to the 2018 U.S. census, the average household income was a little over $106,000 and according to fidelity, the average 401(k) balance by age is:
Age 22-25: $4,236
Age 25-34: $21,970
Age 35-44: $61,238
Age 45-54: $115,497
Age 55-64: $171,623
Age 65+: $192,877
The one problem with looking at the average is that extremely high earners will often pull the average higher than what accurately describes an “average” member of a group.
For example, if there are 5 people in our sample and 4 of them make 50k a year and one makes 500k a year, the average would be 140k per year.
This is why looking at the median can be insightful. For example, the median income for the average household is only a little over $63,000 compared to the average of $106,000. And the median 401(k) balances by age are much lower as well:
Age 22-25: $1,427
Age 25-34: $8,126
Age 35-44: $22,123
Age 45-54: $40,243
Age 55-64: $61,739
Age 65+: $58,035
But as interesting as comparing ourselves to others is, we have to remember what actually matters. Because while it may feel good to be “above-average”, that doesn’t tell us anything about how close you are to reaching your financial goals.
Someone may have a large income but may still overspend while someone with a less flashy income is able to save something every month. Or someone may boast about a large 401(k) balance but may still owe $500,000 on their mortgage while someone else owns their home free and clear.
There is really no way to compare apples to apples because everyone’s situation is so different. The best thing that we all can do is to look at where we are at right now and see what we can do to improve. Because no matter how good or bad your financial situation is, there is something that you can do today to be a little more prepared for the future.