The Top Fifteen Personal Finance Statistics That Will Blow Your Mind

by Hank Coleman

  1. roller-coaster50% of Americans have less than one month of savings saved for emergencies [1].
  2. You can expect to earn approximately $25,000 more per year with a Bachelors Degree than just a high school diploma [2].  Earning a graduate degree will net you another $20,000 per year on average.
  3. Students graduate with an average of $23,186 in student loan debt and $4,100 credit card debt [3].
  4. 56% of people did not know that credit score is the single most important factor when applying for a loan for a house, a car or even a new credit card [4].
  5. The average loss in real housing value during the current housing crisis has been 13% [5].
  6. People spend 12-18% more when using credit cards than when using cash [6].   Fast food giant, McDonald’s, found that the average transaction rose from $4.50 to $7.00 when customers were allowed to use plastic instead of cash in its restaurants.  Research shows that people spend more using credit cards despite paying off the balance every month.  When you spend with a credit card, there’s no pain until you get the bill weeks later.  The separation in time between when you make the purchase and when you get the bill allows you to spend more.  The convenience of using a credit card also allows you to spend more often.
  7. You can save $112,000 over a lifetime by bringing your lunch to work in a brown paper bag [7].
  8. A recent study by Harris interactive found that 57% of households do not have a budget [8].
  9. Money magazine poll, “43% of readers who lent to family or friends weren’t paid back in full; 27% hadn’t received a dime.” [9].
  10. 61% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, up from 49% last year and 43% in 2007 [10].
  11.  More than one in five of those earning $100K or more still live paycheck to paycheck [11].
  12.  32% of Americans say that thrift is the new norm [12].
  13. The difference between a 670 FICO Score and a 760 score can save you almost two thirds of a percentage point on a 30 year mortgage which translates into almost $28,000 in extra interest payments on a $200,000 mortgage [13].
  14. 32% of all home loan applications were rejected last year, and only 40% of all applications closed in new home purchases [14].
  15. Personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income was 3.0% in August 2009, compared with 4.0% in July [15]. 
  16. There were 159 million credit cardholders in the United States in 2000, 173 million in 2006, and that number is projected to grow to 181 million Americans by 2010.
  17. As of March 31, 2009, there were 318 million Visa credit cards and 346 million Visa debit cards in circulation in the United States.
  18. As of June 30, 2009, there were 220 million MasterCard credit cards and 127 million MasterCard debit cards in circulation in the United States.
  19. As of December 31, 2008, there were 54 million American Express credit cards in circulation in the United States.
  20. At the end of 2008, Americans’ credit card debt reached $972.73 billion, up 1.12% from 2007. That number includes both general purpose credit cards and private label credit cards that aren’t owned by a bank.
  21. Average credit card debt per household was $8,329 at the end of 2008.
  22. According to The College Board®, the average 2008-2009 tuition increase was 5.9% at private colleges, and 6.4% at public universities. The ten-year historical rate of increase is approximately 6%. These figures are substantially higher than the general inflation rate.
  23. The average cost of a 4-year public college is $7,625 per year and $29,150 for a year of tuition, room, & board at a private college in the United States.

Which statistics did I leave out that you thought should be here?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.  Thanks…

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[1] poll
[2] 2008 US Census Data
[3] and Sallie Mae
[4] The Monitor newspaper
[5] Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
[6] Dunn & Bradstreet study
[7] Own The Dollar
[8] Harris 2009 Financial Literacy Study
[9] Money Magazine
[10] poll
[11] Money Magazine
[12] Money Magazine
[13] Informa Research Services
[14] Federal Reserve
[15] U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis 
[16] U.S. Census Bureau
[19] American Express
[20] Nilson Report, April 2009
[21] Nilson Report, April 2009
[22] and The College Board
[23] and The College Board

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Joshua October 14, 2009 at 10:24 am

Hey Hank,

Wonderful list. Extremely frightening and eye-opening but well done. I love the headline and the image choice.

See you back at PBcom.

Lakita October 14, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Wow, those are some crazy stats! I’ll be referring back to this as it is an eye opener!


Jesse October 14, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Ha those are great stats. The family ones made me chuckle..I wonder why people are more likely to step all over family versus strangers (ie banks). I guess there are usually contracts with banks and not with family.

I have borrowed from family and I always make sure I draw up a contract, if not only for my own records.

Money Funk November 1, 2009 at 7:07 pm

#7 really? Okay, packing lunch from now on. Great Stats!

Financial Samurai November 1, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Nice list! I think actually you’re missing one: There’s MUCH more money out there than we can imagine. A lot of people are a lot richer than the statistics show.

You know why this statement is true? B/c none of the statistics pertain to us, which means that everybody is ok.

The economy is rebounding strong and so are wages. It’s just fun to put out negative stats to make ourselves feel better 🙂



Adriana May 19, 2011 at 2:08 pm

When looking at traditional marriages, what is the split of who controls the finances/money between husband and wife?
i.e. 45% husband, 65% wife

Brad March 17, 2014 at 8:03 am

Great post, Hank!!

Scott July 12, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Great post. Any chance you could repost these with current numbers? It has been another 5 years or so and I suspect things have not improved.


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