In the post How Well Do Americans Balance Income and Spending? by the St. Louis Fed, they examine the breakdown of household spending as compared to income.

In terms of the big picture, 55% of US households were net savers (earned more than they spent), 30% broke even, and 15% ran an income deficit (earned less than they spent). However, that’s everyone across all income levels, and thanksfully they looked deeper in the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances and broke it down further by income quartile.

It is not surprising that lower income households overall have a harder time spending less than they earn. Instead, I would consider these two observations:

Out of the households in the bottom income quartile earning less than $27,000 per year, roughly 75% of them manage to break even and/or save money each year. This is not to say that households that are earning close to the poverty line ($26k for a family of four) are not struggling. However, I think a family that is “just getting by” on a $100,000 income would appreciate their situation more if they know that so many $26k income families are breaking even at this level, with a third of them even managing a surplus.

Out of the households in the top income quartile earning over $98,000 per year, roughly 25% manage to save nothing or go into debt at the end of each year. Yes, most households with a six-figure income are saving some money. But a quarter of them aren’t saving anything!

I have always been struck by the huge variation in spending by the same number of humans in the same city. The family earning $50,000 finds a way to spend $50,000. The family earning $250,000 finds a way to spend $250,000. If you have a relatively high income, that is a huge opportunity. Don’t waste it. If you create a budget surplus and invest it in productive assets, one day those assets will do the “work” to make money instead of you.

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Which Households Spend More, Less, or Exactly What They Earn? Breakdown by Income Level from My Money Blog.


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