A few caveats about the data mentioned previously:
First , the BLS data only goes to 2003. That probably doesn’t matter with this chart, which has been pretty consistent over the past 10 and 20 years.
Highest 20 percent income quintile (Wages and salaries)
I also found it interesting that the top 20% of income was "only" ~$110,000. (Even extrapolating forward 2 years gives you ~$120k). That suggests to me that many white collar professionals, small business owners, and most 2 income families are in that top quintile.
Here’s a fun experiment: Ask some people you know what they actually think the cut off is to make it into the top 20%. My informal survey produced results all over the map with on this, ranging from $70 – $750k.
Next caveat: Given that the BLS data only is current to 2003, the charts on assets and liabilities (here) do not reflect the biggest price spike in Real Estate — all the increases in home owner’s equity from 2003 to present. Further, it does not reflect all of the increases in liabilities — the cash out refinancings, the additional credit card debt, the ongoing spending spree.
Last caveat: Consider how the top 1% skews the entire top 20% group. The 1% group includes all of the countrie’s Billionaires, and near Billionaires. This group has practically no debt, primary assets are their businesses, real estate, and fixed income. Equities tend to be a smaller percentage of their net worth, except where they are founders or insiders in public companies.