This is an era of great political division and dramatic cultural upheaval. Much more quietly, it has been a time of great financial reward for a large number of Americans.
For the 158 million who are employed, prospects haven’t been this bright since men landed on the moon. As many as half of those workers have retirement accounts that were fattened by a prolonged bull market in stocks. There are 83 million owner-occupied homes in the United States. At the rate they have been increasing in value, a lot of them are in effect a giant piggy bank that families live inside.
This boom does not get celebrated much. It was a slow-build phenomenon in a country where news is stale within hours. It has happened during a time of fascination with the schemes of the truly wealthy (see: Musk, Elon) and against a backdrop of increased inequality. If you were unable to buy a house because of spiraling prices, the soaring amount of homeowners’ equity is not a comfort.
The queasy stock market might be signaling that the boom is ending. A slowing economy, renewed inflation, high gas prices and rising interest rates could all undermine the gains achieved over the years. But for the moment, this flood of wealth is quietly redefining retirement, helping fuel Silicon Valley and stoking a boom in leisure and entertainment. It is boosting corporate profits by unprecedented amounts while also giving just about everyone the notion that a better job might be within reach.