This month the Federal Reserve released the Flow of Funds (Z.1) data for the fourth quarter of 2016. Among the many things contained within the report, the Fed revealed that U.S. household (and non-profit group) net worth rose by $2.0 trillion in Q4 to a total of $92.8 trillion, a 2.3 percent quarter-over-quarter increase and a new all-time high. Compared to this same period last year, total net worth rose by 6.3 percent in Q4, the second-fastest pace of annual growth since Q1 2015 but still below the recovery average. Last quarter’s gain was in part driven by real estate, which expanded by $557 billion as residential real estate, the biggest asset for most Americans, benefited from home values continuing to appreciate faster than the pace of general consumer inflation. Mortgage debt as a percent of GDP, though, ended Q4 at one of the best readings in more than a decade.
Another driver of last quarter’s solid gain in household net worth was the $728 billion increase in the value of directly and indirectly held corporate equities, i.e. stocks and mutual funds. That was a much larger rise than we saw in Q3 but not too surprising considering the post-election spike in equities. Regardless, the continued resiliency of the market provides another example of how properly diversified exposure to stocks can over time help Americans accumulate significant wealth. One of the best ways to participate in the market is through the use of a 401(k) retirement plan, which provides a variety of tax advantages and in many cases can be augmented by an employer’s matching contributions. Moreover, consistent participation in such a plan, combined with dollar-cost averaging, can help investors minimize holding period volatility and even turn large market drawdowns into opportunities. As always, we are here to help with any questions you may have.
Sources: FRBG, Calculated Risk
Post author: Charles CouchDisclosures