Friday, March 14, 2008

The U.S. and Money

During this unofficial recession, who isn't thinking about money?

Here are two of the more interesting pieces of data I have come across while searching for financial info. I could blog volumes about each graph, but I won't, they are pretty fascinating by themselves.

Source: 1989-2004: Arthur B. Kennickell, "Currents and Undercurrents: Changes in the Distribution of Wealth, 1989-2004," Federal Reserve Board, Jan. 30, 2006, Table 1. 2005-06:

So the wealth in the U.S. is split evenly 3 ways, the top 1%, the next 9%, and the bottom 90%. I believe this should be eye opening. I think it can be attributable (at least to some degree) to the fact that many people are going through the motions and clocking in, some people are constantly improving their skills to move into skilled labor, while very few others take another step and separate their labor from their income. You can only work so many hours, but intellectual property can earn limitless income without labor (think of patent holders, inventors, and business owners). You can't possibly believe that Warren Buffet, Bill Gates etc. are making 1,000,000 times other individuals incomes because they are working 1,000,000 times harder, they are putting their efforts into a totally different area. In stead of working or laboring, they are thinking and building. Napoleon Hill coined the phrase "Think and Grow Rich" he never said "Mindlessly Work Hard and Grow Rich" or "Be Lazy and Grow Rich".

Now - I am more concerned about the next graph.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Income and Product Accounts, Table 2.1, Personal Income and Its Disposition.

As you can see the personal savings rate is in negative territory! I think many people are living beyond their means. It's now part of our culture, part of entitlement, part of irresponsibility, part of instant gratification, part detachment from reality, part gilded age (it's all a facade) - and it's great for the economy. In fact one could argue that the GDP is over inflated because we have compromised our own personal finances faster than we are truly growing the economy, but that's a whole other discussion. But clearly - the party's over - at least in the short run for a correction. And at the end of the day, there should be a lot of individual responsibility to run a home like a business. Instead, I believe personal debt is at an all time high, never mind saving for retirement. We'd rather spend today than save for tomorrow. In fact, our brains may be wired that way! And that may be the most amusing part. As far as we think we've come, to some degree we are still programmed in the animal kingdom. But those animals seem to do fine without ANY money!

(This blog really took some turns, even I didn't know where we'd end up!)


Karen said...

on the first graph- any idea on the specific $ amounts to tag? How far am i from being in the 9% realm?

the second chart is scary - individuals, companies and GOVERNMENT are all living that way!

Tom S. said...

Karen -
For an individual:

Top 1% makes over $365,000 /yr
Top 10% makes over $104,000 /yr
Top 25% makes over $62,000 /yr
Top 50% makes over $31,000 /yr

For Top households multiply the individual income brackets by approx 1.5

So Top 10% of households would bring in $150,000+ per year