Americans' wealth last summer suffered its biggest quarterly loss in more than two years as stocks, pension funds and home values lost value.
At the same time, corporations increased their cash stockpiles to record levels.
Household net worth fell 4 percent to $57.4 trillion in the July-September quarter, according to a Federal Reserve report released Thursday. It was the sharpest drop since the October-December quarter of 2008 and was the second straight quarterly decline.
The value of Americans' stock portfolios fell 5.2 percent last quarter. Home values dropped 0.6 percent.
Lower net worth can hurt the economy. When people feel poorer, they spend less. That slows growth. Businesses typically then cut back on hiring and expansion.
Corporations held a record $2.1 trillion in cash at the end of September.