If you are under 35, you are in the same “national net worth by age” bracket as Mark Zuckerberg…

Also it means you are a Millenial like so many arm-scarf knitters!  Which is more annoying?

While poking around trying to figure out something else about wealth demographics, I found this interesting and super depressing article on the Wall Street Journal which measured national median wealth by age group.  It noted that the median net worth under 35 is $10,400; the average is $75,500.  Toward the bottom it explained why the median is a more relevant measure than the average, which you might recall from school.  But this explanation will never let you forget it again:

Why is the average so much higher than the median? Take a simple example of three guys: Tom, Steve and Mark. Tom has a net worth of negative $10,000 due to outstanding student loans. Steve has a net worth of $10,000. Mark (let’s say his last name is Zuckerberg) has $33 billion. Their median net worth is $10,000. Their average is $11 billion. A few outliers (like Mr. Zuckerberg) can earn enormous amounts more than the median and drag the total up for everyone; conversely, it’s rather difficult to get yourselves millions of dollars in debt and drag the figure down.

So in most cases it makes more sense to compare yourself to the millions of people on your immediate left and right than to Mark Zuckerberg.

I like to think of it more as:

  • Do you have a net worth of at least $10,401?
    • Yes: cool, you’re in the Mark Zuckerberg club!
    • No: that’s ok, you’re in the company of 20 million other people under 35. 

Obviously the statistics in this article are an indication of the skewed wealth distribution, if the average is not much higher than the median.  But I am not about wealth distribution, I am about doing better with what you have rather than complaining about what you don’t have or what someone else has.  You want 33 billion under 35, go invent a Facebook while you’re still in college.  There is always that option.  But if you want to improve your means realistically without thinking up a culture-defining invention, focus on the median and how to take prudent steps to surpass it.

So I joked at the beginning about being in the same bracket as Mark Zuckerberg, but actually I saw the whole statistic as motivating.  If you can pick yourself up out of debt and get over the goal line of $10,401 to be in the top half, what can’t you do?  Just by getting out of debt and putting together a bit of savings you leave millions of other people in the dust.  And if you are better off than so many other people, there must be power in that.

Bet you didn’t expect it to go that way did you!


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