Americans save for retirement by building wealth in personal accounts, home equity, pension plans, retirement accounts and Social Security. We use data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) and methods to estimate the wealth values of Social Security and pension plans to show how wealth builds over the life cycle. We find that the typical household accrues wealth throughout the life cycle. Households in the bottom income quintile, those that did not complete high school and minorities accumulate much less wealth than their counterparts, and Social Security accounts for a large share of their preretirement wealth.
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