The recession erased two decades of American wealth in three years, with a typical family's net worth falling nearly 40 percent, the Federal Reserve said.
A median family's net assets plunged to $77,300 in 2010 from $126,400 in 2007, the Fed said in its Survey of Consumer Finances, issued every three years. The survey is widely considered one of the broadest and deepest sources of information about the financial health of U.S. families.
"The American people are facing really tough circumstances. They're looking at how they're going to pay for retirement," Romney told Fox News Tuesday. "The president needs to go out and talk to people, not just do fundraisers.
"That's why the American people are having such a hard time. That's why the idea of selecting a campaign slogan 'forward' is so absurd," he said.
The wealth loss put Americans in 2010 roughly on par with where they were in 1992, when a gallon of gasoline cost an average $1.05, Bill Clinton became president, Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated, Microsoft Corp. released Windows 3.1 and "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" was a box-office hit.
"It's hard to overstate how serious the collapse in the economy was," Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi told The Washington Post. "We were in free fall."
Young middle-age families, headed by people ages 35 to 44, were hardest hit, the Fed said. Their median net worth fell 54 percent to $42,100 in 2010.
A crash of housing prices directly accounted for three-quarters of the 2007-2010 loss, the Fed report said.
The median value of Americans' stake in their homes fell 42 percent between 2007 and 2010, to $55,000, according to the Fed.
Median family income fell 8 percent to $45,800 in 2010 from $49,600 in 2007, the report said, adjusting all figures for inflation.
The portion of families putting money into savings fell to 52 percent from 56.4 percent. Fewer said they were saving for retirement, education or a down payment on a home.
Fewer families also said they carried credit-card balances -- or even credit cards.
The median credit-card balance dropped 16 percent to $2,600 in 2010 from $3,100 in 2007.
Thirty-two percent of families said they had no cards at all, up from 27 percent in 2007.
But the share of families with education-related debt rose to 19.2 percent from 15.2 percent in 2007, the report said.
Education loans made up a larger share of the average family's debt than car loans for the first time in the survey's history, the Fed said.
Ranking American families by income, the top 10 percent of households still earned an average of $349,000 in 2010, the survey found.
The average net worth of these same families was $2.9 million.
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