Chart: 75 Years of How Americans Spend Their Money
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75 Years of How Americans Spend Their Money

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75 Years of How Americans Spend Their Money

75 Years of How Americans Spend Their Money

Consumers are the foundation of the U.S. economy, and how they choose to spend their money is a telling indicator of the overall American economic story.

The above chart from HowMuch.net, a cost information site, plots data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 12 different consumer categories over a period of nearly 75 years to show the changing way in which Americans spend their money.

The data reflects median spending, and is adjusted for inflation.

Back in the Day…

One of the most interesting things about this chart is the data from 1941. What did Americans spend their money on before entering WWII, and how does that contrast with today?

Interestingly, in 1941, more money was spent on food than anything else. That year, the cost of putting food on the table averaged $8,311, coinciding with a time when nearly 15% of the workforce was working in agriculture. Today, farming is obviously much more technologically advanced, and food is also grown cheaply in other countries for consumption in America.

Food is now only the third-most important spending category for Americans at $6,759 per year, and only 1.6% of Americans now work agriculture, according to the World Bank.

Housing has also changed dramatically over time. While it has always been a key component of spending, shelter was actually cheaper ($7,537 per year) than putting food on the table in 1941. Since then, rents and house prices have risen substantially, and Americans now spend $17,798 per year on housing. This makes it by far the largest expenditure, on average, for each person.

Trending Up, Trending Down

Over the years, cost reductions can be seen the most in both clothing and food categories, which have benefited from new technologies and cheap labor in other countries.

Meanwhile, significant increases in spending can be found in healthcare, education, and transportation categories.

Healthcare spending in the U.S. is a global outlier (and not in a good way), and we previously noted that textbook and tuition costs have increased 207% and 197% respectively since 1996.

Lastly, the trend for money spent on transportation appears to reflect the cost of oil, which hit its highest points in the early 1980s and late 2000s. The most recent year of data from 2014 shows a notable decrease in transportation costs, which likely reflects the collapse in oil prices that occurred in mid-2014.

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Personal Finance

Ranked: The Best Countries to Retire In

Which countries are the best equipped to support their aging population? This graphic show the best countries to retire in around the world.

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which countries are the best places to retire

Ranked: The Best Countries to Retire in Around the World

Our global population is getting older. By 2050, the OECD predicts that 30% of people worldwide will be aged 65 or over.

While some countries are relatively prepared to handle this increase in the elderly demographic, others are already feeling the squeeze and struggling with the challenges that come with a rapidly aging population.

Which countries are the best equipped to support their senior citizens? This graphic uses data from the 2022 Natixis Global Retirement Index to show the best countries to retire in around the world, based on several different factors that we’ll dig into below.

What Makes a Country Retirement-Friendly?

When people consider what makes a place an ideal retirement location, it’s natural to think about white sand beaches, hot climates, and endless sunny days. And, in truth, the right net worth opens up a world of opportunity of where to enjoy one’s golden years.

The Global Retirement Index (GRI) examines retirement from different, more quantitative perspective. The annual report looks at 44 different countries and ranks them based on their retirement security. The index considers 18 factors, which are grouped into four overarching categories:

  • Health: Health spend per capita, life expectancy, and non-insured health spend.
  • Quality of Life: Happiness levels, water and sanitation, air quality, other environmental factors, and biodiversity/habitat.
  • Material Wellbeing: Income per capita, income equality, and employment levels.
  • Finances in Retirement: Government debt, old-age dependency, interest rates, inflation, governance, tax pressure, and bank non-performing loans.

Using these 18 metrics, a score from 0.01 to 1 is determined for each country, which is then converted to a percentage. For a more detailed explanation of the report’s methodology, explore Appendix A (page 72) of the report.

The Top 25 Best Countries to Retire in

With an overall score of 81%, Norway comes in at number one as the most retirement-friendly country on the list.

RankCountryScoreHealthQuality
of Life
Material
Wellbeing
Finances in
Retirement
1🇳🇴 Norway81%91%87%79%69%
2🇨🇭 Switzerland80%90%86%69%74%
3🇮🇸 Iceland79%88%86%77%68%
4🇮🇪 Ireland76%89%80%67%70%
5🇦🇺 Australia75%88%77%66%72%
6🇳🇿 New Zealand75%85%81%64%71%
7🇱🇺 Luxembourg75%91%81%72%59%
8🇳🇱 Netherlands75%89%80%78%56%
9🇩🇰 Denmark74%86%88%76%54%
10🇨🇿 Czech Republic73%76%68%84%64%
11🇩🇪 Germany72%87%80%71%55%
12🇫🇮 Finland71%84%89%63%55%
13🇸🇪 Sweden71%90%87%59%56%
14🇦🇹 Austria71%86%82%69%54%
15🇨🇦 Canada71%87%74%58%67%
16🇮🇱 Israel70%82%74%60%66%
17🇰🇷 South Korea70%80%59%68%73%
18🇺🇸 United States69%85%72%56%67%
19🇬🇧 United Kingdom69%83%82%61%55%
20🇧🇪 Belgium69%85%74%70%51%
21🇸🇮 Slovenia69%82%69%77%51%
22🇯🇵 Japan69%91%67%72%51%
23🇲🇹 Malta68%78%61%72%63%
24🇫🇷 France66%90%78%57%48%
25🇪🇪 Estonia66%68%68%60%68%

Norway is at the top of this year’s ranking for several reasons. For starters, it achieved the highest score in the Health category, largely because of its high average life expectancy, which is 83 years old, or 9 years longer than the global average.

Norway also has the highest score of all the countries for Governance, a category gauged by assessing country corruption levels, political stability, and government effectiveness, and is in a three-way tie with Japan and Luxembourg in the Health category.

Second on the list is another European country, Switzerland, with an overall score of 80%. It’s the highest-ranked country for environmental factors, and it also has the highest overall score in the Finances in Retirement category.

A Regional Breakdown

While European countries dominate the top 10 in the ranking, how does Europe rank as a region as a whole? Before diving in, it’s important to note that the study actually breaks up Europe into two sections: Eastern Europe (grouped with Central Asia) and Western Europe.

RankRegionOverall Score
1North America69%
2Western Europe66%
3Eastern Europe and Central Asia49%
4Latin America37%
5Asia Pacific32%

And from a regional perspective, North America comes in first place despite the fact no countries in the region made it into the top 10. North America only has two countries included in the ranking: Canada (#15) and the U.S. (#18), which both rank relatively high.

In contrast, Western and Eastern Europe have more countries to account for, which ultimately lowers their regional average.

The Future of Retirement

As longevity rises and the retirement aged population continues to increase worldwide, many countries are opting to change their pension policies in an effort to encourage people to stay in the workforce longer.

For instance, in 2018, people in the UK could claim their State Pension once they turned 65. By 2028, this age requirement will be raised to 67.

However, government intervention may not be necessary, as many people around the world are already staying in the workforce beyond the traditional retirement age (perhaps more out of necessity than choice).

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