The long-term growth of wealth (at least in monetary terms) of the U.S. can be tracked by looking at GDP per capita. The chart shows the trend since 1949. The value for 2009 is estimated. Notice that there's been a drop recently; we're in a recession. There have been drops before though, and then the upward trend has resumed. If energy costs continue to rise, however, the decline may continue. Should GDP per capita enter a long period of decline, we can expect major changes in our way of life.