Is Your Cash Flow Normal?
Have you ever
sat at your desk, paying bills, and wondered if everyone else spends as much as
you do? The government might have the answer.
Every year, the Department
of Labor issues a report on consumer expenditures. It's an interesting glimpse
into the bank account of the average American. The most recent report (based on
2001 data) contains the following nuggets:
· The typical "consumer
unit" -- essentially a household, whether it's a four-person family or an
independent bachelor -- spent a total of $39,518, up 3.9% from 2000.
· Housing was the biggest expense, costing $13,011. That included spending
on utilities, fuel, and public services (up 11.2%) and outlays for home furnishings
· The average consumer unit spent $5,321 on food
-- $3,086 at home and $2,235 eating out. However, that gap is closing: Spending
at restaurants increased 4.6% while the grocery bill rose just 2.2%.
· Transportation cost $7,633, almost half of which went to vehicle purchases.
· Annual spending on tobacco products and supplies ($308) was
more than twice as much as expenditures on reading materials ($141). We'd like
to think that this was because so many people used the library, but we doubt it.
How does all this outflow compare
to inflow? According to the report, the before-tax income of the average consumer
unit was $47,507. However, the Internal Revenue Service says that the average
tax bill in 2001 was $9,401. So that leaves $38,106 to spend -- which is a bit
of a problem when you recall that your friendly neighborhood consumer unit spent
$1,412 more than that.
Furthermore, if the consumer units are segmented
according to income into five groups of equal size, the expenditures of the bottom
two quintiles exceeded before-tax income by $10,937 and $6,173, respectively.
The inflow and outflow of those in the middle quintile were approximately equal
-- but that's before taxes. In other words, only 40% of Americans live below their
You might ask how the Department of Labor got all this
information. No, Big Brother didn't implant a computer chip in your buttocks to
monitor when your wallet is removed. The data was gathered by two methods: interviews
and a spending diary.
Article continued at http://www.fool.com/News/mft/2003/mft03091510.htm?source=mppromo
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