The Meltdown

The Hole in Our Wallets

The stock market may be in a rally this week, but the recession still stings like no other in generations. In one of the clearest illustrations yet of how badly the bubble has burst, the Federal Reserve released data yesterday documenting an 18 percent loss of wealth in the U.S. last year. The net worth of U.S. households dropped $11 trillion, "a decline in a single year that equals the combined annual output of Germany, Japan and the U.K," the Wall Street Journal reports. The losses represent a regression to economic levels before 2004. From 1990 to 2000, households' wealth doubled, and then went up another 50 percent before 2008, a year that will go down in the history books. And the news only gets worse: net worth has dropped in the first quarter of 2009, too.