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Despite stock market gains, an uneven recovery

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on June 7, 2013 in New York City.

It was a pretty bumpy week in the stock market, but overall, stocks have been on a bit of a tear since the beginning of the year. The jump is refilling retirement accounts that were pretty drained during the recession. Fidelity is reporting the average balance was up 75 percent since 2009, but are things really that rosy? For some of you we heard from on Facebook, absolutely.

Andy wrote to us and said his retirement account is essentially back to pre-recession levels. "I watched the market without enough worry in early 2008, and later realized I was too late. I rode it out."

Chris said, "Me too. Back to where we were. Painful."

But not everyone has recovered.

Shaun wrote: "I am 31. What is this 'retirement account' of which you speak?"

Carl said, "Right now it's about half of what it was, because I had to cash what I had out during the "downturn" and I started over when I started work again in 2010."
 
Richard Fry from Pew Research Center says sure, the stock market has done great, but "for the typical American household, most of their nest egg is in their homes."

Which means that a soaring Dow hasn't corrected things -- at least for most of us.

"When you get into the who question, I can only go through 2011, but it's very clear that the bottom 87 percent of households, their wealth fell, reflecting the housing market. The upper 13 percent gained all the increase in wealth. Their wealth has been moving forward," he says.

For a broader answer -- to the question of the total amount of  wealth that's been recovered -- Fry points to a new report from the Federal Reserve of Saint Louis.

"When you take account of inflation and the increase in the number households, they find that 45 percent of the wealth that was lost in the recession, 45 percent has been recovered," he says.

So we're still a long way from where we used to be, and to get there we need more than a blockbuster stock market, says Fry.  We need a booming housing market.


We want to know how you're faring since the recession. Join the conversation on our Facebook page or leave a comment.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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