Irish households ‘wealthier’ than at any other time in State’s history

Net worth of households hits record €772 billion, Central Bank figures show

The increase in household wealth over the first quarter of 2019 was driven by households’ financial assets, which rose by €13.7 billion. Photograph: Alan Betson

The increase in household wealth over the first quarter of 2019 was driven by households’ financial assets, which rose by €13.7 billion. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Irish households are, on paper at least, richer than at any other time in the history of the State, according to the Central Bank.

It estimates the net worth of Irish households hit a record €772 billion in the first quarter of 2019. This equates to €158,986 per person or roughly €444,000 per household.

The headline figure eclipses the boom-time pre-crash peak of €719 billion achieved in the second quarter of 2007.

Household net worth is calculated by adding the total value of the housing stock and financial assets – such as cash savings, shares, pensions and possessions such as cars and antiques – and subtracting debt owed or liabilities.

It is, however, considered a crude measure of prosperity as it hides the distribution of household assets and liabilities across income groups and age categories.

Most of the net worth of Irish households is tied up in property, which has risen in value in recent years on the back of an undersupply. The latest figures show, however, the value of households’ housing assets actually fell by €2 billion in the first quarter of this year, reflecting the second quarter in a row of declining house prices.

The increase in household wealth over the quarter was driven by households’ financial assets, which rose by €13.7 billion, the Central Bank said, noting this was due to both improved valuations of these assets and rising investment by households.

Household debt

The figures indicate household debt fell by €600 million to just under €137 billion, or €28,186 per person. Household debt is now at its lowest level since the third quarter of 2005.

Since its peak of €202.9 billion in 2008, household debt has decreased by 32.5 per cent, or €66 billion.

The figures also show household debt as a proportion of disposable income fell by 2.9 percentage points, to stand at 119.8 per cent. The decline over the quarter was driven by an increase of 2.2 per cent in annualised disposable income, in addition to the decrease in debt.

While debt levels here have fallen since the low point of the crash, Irish households remain highly indebted by European standards.