Millennials Have Caught Up to Boomers: Generational Wealth Update (2022q2)

Last week I wrote about wealth growth during the pandemic, but my favorite way to look at wealth data is comparing different generations. Last September I wrote a post comparing Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials in wealth per capita at roughly the same age. At the time, Millennials were basically equal to Gen X at the same age, and we were a year short of having comparable data with Boomers.

What does it look like if we update the chart through the second quarter of this year?

I won’t explain all of the data in detail — for that see my post from last September. I’ll just note a few changes. We now have single-year population estimates for 2020 and 2021, so I’ve updated those to the most recent Census estimates for each cohort. Inflation adjustments are to June 2022, to match the end of the most recent quarter of data from the Fed DFA. We still have to use average wealth rather than median wealth for now, but the Fed SCF is currently in progress so at some point we’ll have 2022 median data (most recent currently is 2019, and there’s been a lot of wealth growth since then).

What do we notice in the chart? First, we now have one year of overlap between Boomers and Millennials. And it turns out… they are pretty much at the same level per capita! Millennials have also now fallen slightly behind Gen X at the same time, since they’ve had no wealth growth (in real, per capita terms) since the end of 2021 to the present.

But Millennials have fared much better in 2022 with the massive drop in wealth: about $6.6 trillion in total wealth in the US was lost (in nominal terms) from the first to the second quarter of 2022. None of that wealth loss was among Millennials, instead it was roughly evenly shared among the three older generations (Boomers hid hardest). This difference is largely because Millennials hold more assets in real estate (which went up) than in equities (which went way down). The other generations have much more exposure to the stock market at this point in their life.

You can clearly see that affect of the 2022 wealth decline if you look at the end of the line for Gen X. You can’t see the effect on Boomers, since I cut off the chart after the last Gen X comparable data, but they saw a big decline since 2021 as well: about 6% per capita, along with 7% for Gen X. Even so, Gen X is still about 18% wealthier on average than Boomers were at the same age.

Of course, even since the end of the second quarter of 2022, we’ve seen further declines in the stock market, with the S&P 500 down about 4%. And who knows what the next few months and quarters will bring. But as of right now, Millennials don’t seem to be doing much worse than their counterparts in other generations at the same age.

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