Wealth-poor Americans

by , May 19, 2002, 12:00 AM
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Wealth-poor Americans

According to a report by the Consumer Federation of America, National Credit Union Foundation, and the Credit Union National Association, a quarter of U.S. households have net assets under $10,000 and lack the financial footing to own a home, send kids to college or build a nest egg for retirement. "Wealth-poor Americans are only a layoff or emergency expenditure away from financial disaster," CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck said.

A propensity to plan for the next few months rather than years, spend more than their incomes and not save regularly makes many "wealth-poor" Americans vulnerable to financial disaster. Nearly half of young debtors are under 35 years of age, compared to 23 percent of all households, the report found. They have more education and higher incomes, and are less likely to be members of racial minorities than the income-poor. Young debtors also are more likely than the income poor to take financial risks with saving and investments. They tend to live and spend above their means.

A second category of the wealth-poor Americans is the "income poor" who are more likely to have lower earnings and less education, and do not carry installment or credit card debt. Among households with net assets under $10,000, 10 percent are over 65, 7 percent have incomes of at least $50,000, and 14 percent are homeowners, the study found. The data also indicated that those with negative assets carry an average $15,528 in debt, compared to $3,910 for households with net economic assets of zero to $9,999.

"Living paycheck to paycheck is no way to live." said CUNA Chief Executive Officer Daniel A. Mica.

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