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Where Americans stash their wealth

March 22, 2013: 12:24 PM ET

Americans have gotten poorer over the past decade.

The median net worth of American households came in at $68,828 in 2011, down from $81,821 in 2000 (in inflation-adjusted dollars) and far below the peak of $108,585 in 2005, according to recently released Census Bureau stats.

The composition of that wealth has changed over time. Back when Ronald Reagan was president, home equity made up nearly half of young adults' net worth, while interest-earning accounts, like those at a bank, accounted for a quarter of senior citizens' wealth.

Those figures are very different today, with retirement account assets playing a larger role in the portfolio of Americans of all ages. This comes as folks become ever more dependent on 401(k) accounts -- which companies started offering in the early 1980s -- to see them through their Golden Years as traditional pensions dwindle.

And stashing away your money in the bank gets you bupkis these days. CDs offered rates of around 12% in 1984, as the U.S. exited an era of hyper-inflation, but paid out less than 2% in 2011.

Check out some of the wider swings in what makes up Americans' wealth:

Median American household wealth

Correction: An earlier version of this post had an incorrect figure for retirement accounts in 2011 for those 65 and older. The data has been updated.

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About This Author
Tami Luhby
Tami Luhby
Senior writer, CNNMoney

Tami Luhby is a senior writer at CNNMoney and covers income inequality, state fiscal problems, unemployment, housing policy and other economic issues. Luhby previously covered personal finance for Newsday and banking for Crain's New York Business.

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