Are Younger Americans Wealthier Than We Think?

Absolutely, according to a recent analysis.

Wait! What?

For the past two years I have written about younger Americans especially millennials struggling to put food on the table and blaming Baby Boomers, politics and the wealth-gap for their ill-fated attempts to accumulate cash and rope in the American Dream.

Their notable doom and gloom are front and center on social media these days, especially Tiktok where we find endless streams of struggling workers and families with often tearful cries for help.

But then, like a blast of cold water in the face a recent article (April 24th 2024) from the Center for American (CAP) entitled: Wealth of Younger Americans Is Historically High shocked me upright and spilled my coffee!

According to CAPs research Americans under 40 aren’t suffering at all! In fact, these upstarts they say have increased their net worth since the pandemic by $85,000 to $259,000 from 2019-2023. What? Yes. Read the article:

“Due to a historic economic recovery, inflation-adjusted wealth for younger Americans has grown 49 percent since right before the pandemic—a positive trend following decades of stagnation.”

Are you kidding me?

How can this be right? Of all the reports of younger Americans infuriated about the high cost of living what are we to believe?

I contacted the authors and they are sticking to it. They cite evidence from the US Federal Reserve:  Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S. since 1989 as the source. That shows an increase in wealth by age-cohort and when I reviewed it… there it was!

In macro figures the data denotes the wealth distribution by age group in America has grown in each class from the bottom 50% to the top .01% and shows that the accumulated wealth for all Americans increased post Covid, particularly after the US government injected billions into the economy during Covid.

Moreover, they argue that given all the capital injected into the US economy and the appreciation of asset values post pandemic, younger Americans benefited the most (up 49%) with the majority of the $85,000 net wealth increase coming from these categories since 2019:

  • Home ownership values increased: $22,000 (yes under 40 own homes!)
  • Bank deposits increased: $9,000 (Covid relief plus higher wage jobs)
  • Stock & mutual fund values increased: $31,000 (S&P markets have gone up, a lot!)
  • Single-owner business values increased: $10,000
  • Consumer big-ticket durables (cars, appliances, etc): $7,000
  • Decrease in consumer debts: $5,000

And while I might be living on another planet, which often feels the case, I think our economy since Covid has bifurcated into the top 50% vs the bottom 50%. And the bottom half is losing!

Take for example the increase in credit card delinquencies, or the high costs of mortgage interest/rates, or the skyrocketing rents and the stubbornly high rates we see in insurances, food and gas prices, all conspicuously evident in inflation reports and from hundreds of online social media posts and news articles looking at the same younger Americans the CAP and the Fed say are richer! So which half are they measuring?

Amiee Picchi posted an article last September for CBS News citing the US Census which notes that 4 of 10 workers are struggling to pay bills despite higher wages since 2020. She writes;

“Although pay increases are staying ahead of inflation this year, low- and middle-wage workers have generally not kept up with the cost of living over the prior four decades.”

So. Who is the government measuring here — Younger workers who own homes, businesses and have stock portfolios? Maybe in Washington, but not in California. I don’t buy it. 

Needless to say, the real wealthy Americans also got richer since 2019, a lot richer. But that’s not the point. Other stats show the gap between rich and poor wider than ever. And despite the growth in younger Americans’ net wealth according to the data, the CAP article insensitively misses the key point entirely!

With the coming election a lot is at stake. And if we are ever to get back on healthier footing and narrow the wealth gap, we need to start by understanding who the bottom 50% are and how to identify the data and write reports that reflect their reality on the ground.

Issuing reports that imply younger working Americans shouldn’t complain because they’re richer than before Covid is asinine to me (pardon my French).

So, what’s the take-away here? You tell me. Is government blind to the obvious?

Are you seeing younger working Americans under 40 growing richer since Covid? Or are you seeing them struggle like never before under the weight of a disproportional achievement system as I see it?

What’s your view?

About the author: Rick Andrade is an investment banker at Janas Associates in Pasadena, Ca, where he helps CEOs and business owners buy, sell, and finance middle-market companies. Rick earned his BA and MBA from UCLA, along with his Series 7, 63, & 79 FINRA securities licenses. He is also a CA Real Estate Broker, a volunteer SBA/SCORE instructor, and blogs at on issues important to business owners. Please note this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered in any way an offer to buy or sell a security. Securities are offered through JCC Capital Markets LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC