Trends in Personal Finance: By the Numbers: Statistics, Facts, and Figures

Personal finance is a real, relevant, and ever-changing field. That's what makes it exciting to teach—but also what makes it a challenge to keep informed about the most current statistics, facts, and figures. These numbers are important to know. Understanding their significance can affect the quality of the instruction you provide for your students.

We've compiled a few of these magic numbers for you here, but here's a spoiler alert: depending on when you read this article, some of the numbers may have changed already! Never fear: we've included links to the data sources at the end of this article. We've also provided a brief explanation of each of the numbers to help you better understand and explain this information.

6.6 & 12.7

The national unemployment rate for January 2014 is 6.6 percent. This is the percentage of individuals in the labor force who are out of work and actively looking for employment.

In addition to this so-called headline unemployment rate, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates five alternative measures of labor underutilization. One of these measures counts marginally attached workers and people employed part time for economic reasons. Marginally attached workers are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for work and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months. Those working part time for economic reasons would like to be employed full time but are unable to find full-time work. Using the measure that includes these two groups, the unemployment rate for January 2014 would have been 12.7 percent.


Approximately 16.6 million Americans aged 16 and over, or 7 percent of the U.S. population, were victims of identity theft in 2012. The majority of the reported identity theft cases—85 percent—were related to the fraudulent use of existing account information, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Those most likely to experience identity theft are in households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more.


The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (or Credit CARD) Act of 2009, which was implemented in 2010, set forth additional protections for consumers under 21. To open a credit card account, these young consumers must now either 1) show the ability to make payments, or 2) have a cosigner.


According to the Project on Student Debt, more than 70 percent of 2012 college seniors graduated with student loan debt. The average debt is $29,400.


The Rule of 72 is a mathematical equation that estimates growth of funds over time with compound interest, specifically the length of time in years for the principal deposit to double. You calculate this by dividing 72 by the rate of return. For example, to determine the number of years it would take to double $5,000 at an interest rate of 9 percent, you would use the following calculation:

72 ÷ interest rate = number of years
72 ÷ 9 = 8

It would take eight years to grow the $5,000 to $10,000. The good news is that the Rule of 72 is a personal finance number you can count on staying the same. The only variation you may notice is that some textbooks teach the Rule of 70, but either number works for the purposes of estimating an investment's doubling time.


The denomination of U.S. currency most recently released—in October 2013—was the $100 note. This note added new anticounterfeiting technology and is designed to make it more difficult to replicate and easier to authenticate. The Federal Reserve, U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and U.S. Secret Service all work collaboratively to redesign currency and manage counterfeiting threats.


The number 100 also represents the Federal Reserve System's centennial. The Fed was created on December 23, 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law. On November 16, 1914, the 12 regional Reserve Banks, including the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, opened for business.


The annual mean (average) wage in 2012 for all occupations was $45,790, which is based on data collected from employers in all industries across the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, there is much variation among specific occupations. For example, the annual mean wage in 2012 for legal occupations, many of which require professional degrees, was $98,570, while the annual mean wage for those in food preparation and service occupations was $21,380. (These numbers don't indicate the specific education, training, and experience required for these occupations, but you can find this information is the BLS's Occupational Outlook Handbook.)


Certain types of accounts, such as checking and savings accounts, at banks and credit unions are covered by deposit or share insurance. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) provides deposit insurance for banks, and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) provides it for credit unions. In July 2010, deposit insurance (FDIC) and share insurance (NCUA) coverage were permanently increased from $100,000 to $250,000 per depositor per insured bank for each account ownership category.


The median (the middle of all numbers, not the average) sales price for new homes sold in the United States in January 2014 was $260,100 (down from $269,800 in September 2013). Prior to the Great Recession, the highest monthly median sales price was recorded in March 2007, at $262,600.

Related resources
100 Years of Central Banking (Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta)
Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Consumer's Guide to Credit Cards (Federal Reserve Board of Governors)
Deposit Insurance (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)
Employment Situation (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Federal Reserve History Gateway (Federal Reserve System)
Katrina's Classroom, Lesson 4: Back to School (Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta)
Median Sales Price for New Houses Sold in the United States (Federal Reserve Economic Data [FRED], St. Louis Fed)
National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Occupational Outlook Handbook (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Share Insurance Toolkit (National Credit Union Administration)
Student Debt and the Class of 2012 (The Project on Student Debt)
U.S. Currency (
Victims of Identity Theft (Bureau of Justice Statistics)

By Jackie Morgan, senior economic and financial education specialist, Nashville Branch
March 5, 2014