Stocks are at a 70-year high as a share of household financial wealth

KEY POINTS
  • Stock market holdings now make up about half of the $109.2 trillion of financial assets that households owned through the second quarter of 2021.
  • The equity share of assets is a 70-year high, according to Bank of America, and a potentially worrying trend if the market’s fortunes shift.

Overall U.S. household wealth has never been this high, thanks largely to gains in the stock market that are a bigger share of that prosperity than ever before.

In fact, equity holdings now make up about half of the $109.2 trillion of financial assets that households owned through the second quarter of 2021, according to Bank of America. Other than stocks, financial assets also include bonds, cash, certificates of deposit and bank deposits.

The equity share of assets is a 70-year high, Bank of America said.

Overall household net worth jumped to $141.7 trillion in the second quarter, the result of a $3.5 trillion increase in the value of corporate equities as stocks continued their climb during the period. Including nonprofits, the equity share of net worth is 41.5%, according to the Federal Reserve.

While the news has been good for individuals who own stocks, there’s an ever-present specter of risk-taking that raises worries should the market’s fortunes change. Wall Street saw the longest bull market in history end early in 2020, then quickly resume and power to records through the back part of 2021.

“Money goes where money grows,” said Mitchell Goldberg, president of ClientFirst Strategy. “As the stocks value keep going up, they’re continuing to put money there. They’re going to keep putting money into it until there’s a better place to put it.”

The S&P 500 has risen just over 15% in 2021, on the backs of friendly fiscal and monetary policy and robust growth in corporate earnings.