How The Poor Spend Their Money Vs. The Middle Class

The rich get richer. It’s one of those old mantras that’s tough to really calculate. After all, didn’t everyone’s 401k tank in the last few years? Don’t rising gas prices suck equally for everyone? Yes and no. This infographic by NPR/Planet Money’s Lam Vo breaks down “How The Poor, Middle Class And The Rich Spend Their Money.” And its clear graphical presentation of social spending is enlightening. You see that we all spend about the same (proportional) amount on housing, clothing and entertainment. But where the rich spend proportionally more is in education and saving for retirement (3x more than the poor in education and about 6x more in retirement). It’s percentages that the rich can make up because they have more overall income to spend on the bare necessities of food (even though they eat out more), utilities, transportation and healthcare. So the next generation, the kids of these families, have different outcomes, too. Their parents have either prepared for retirement, or may need help. Their parents have either invested a lot in their education, or may have left them with debts from school. And then, when you realize that not only are the rich spending larger percentages of their incomes on these future investments, but that the gross dollar amount of each percentage is even larger because their base income is so much larger. The end numbers, even if they’re not pictured here, are worlds different. That matters because these investments are precisely those that track with the earning prospects of future generations--and thus, the well-off do fine, while everyone else falls behind because they inherit less money and get less higher education. It just goes to show that, if our priorities are setting up solid futures for the low and middle class, then we either need to free up some percentages in those big ticket unavoidables--the housing, utilities and transportation--or find a better means to support retirement and education elsewhere. Because despite what our middle school gym teachers told us, there’s just no way to give 110%.




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