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How Americans Make and Spend Their Money, by Education Level

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Months ago, we showed you a set of data visualizations that highlighted how people make and spend their money based on income groups.

Today’s post follows a similar theme, and it visualizes differences based on education levels.

Below, we’ll tackle the breakdowns of several educational groupings, ranging from high school dropouts to those in the highest education bracket, which is defined as having achieved a master’s, professional, or doctorate degree.

Income and Spending, by Education

The data visualizations in today’s post come to us from Engaging Data and they use Sankey diagrams to display data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that shows income and expenditure differences between varying levels of education in America.

The four charts below will show data from the following categories:

  1. Less than high school graduate
  2. High school graduate
  3. Bachelor’s degree
  4. Master’s, professional, or doctorate degree
    1. It should be noted that the educational level listed pertains to the person the BLS defines as the primary household member. Further, people in households can be at different ages and at different stages in their career – for example, someone with a Master’s degree could be 72 years old and collecting pension payments, and this impacts the data.

      Less than High School Graduate – $28,245 in spending (98.5% of total income)

      These contain an average of 2.2 people (0.7 income earners, 0.6 children, and 0.5 seniors)
      Less than High School Graduate

      The average household in this category brings in $17,979 of salary income, as well as an additional $7,503 from social security programs.

      Almost all money (98.5%) is spent, and on average these households are actually pulling money from savings (or taking out loans) to make ends meet. The biggest expenditure categories include: housing (23.5%), foot at home (12.3%), household expenses (8.4%), and gas/insurance (8.2%).

      High School Graduate – $35,036 in spending (87.3% of total income)

      These contain an average of 2.3 people (1.0 income earners, 0.6 children, and 0.4 seniors)
      High School Graduate

      The average household here brings in $29,330 of salary, as well as $9,008 from social security.

      These households spend 87.3% of their income, while putting $3,113 (7.8%) away in savings each year. The biggest expenditure categories include housing (21.7% of spending), food at home (10.1%), gas/insurance (10.0%), and vehicles (7.7%).

      Bachelor’s Degree – $63,373 in spending (68.6% of total income)

      These contain an average of 2.5 people (1.5 income earners, 0.6 children, and 0.4 seniors)
      Bachelor's Degree

      Households with at least one person with a Bachelor’s degree earn $81,629 per year in salary, as well as nearly $11,000 stemming from a combination of social security, dividends, property, and other income.

      Roughly 68.6% of income is spent, with 16.6% going to savings. Top expenditures include housing (22.4%), gas/insurance (8.8%), household expenses (7.9%), and food at home (7.6%).

      Graduate Degree – $83,593 in spending (62.9% of total income)

      These contain an average of 2.6 people (1.5 income earners, 0.6 children, and 0.4 seniors)
      Graduate Degree

      Finally, in the most educated category available, the average amount of salary coming into households is $116,018, with roughly an additional $17,000 coming in from other sources such as social security, dividends, property, and other income.

      Here, 62.9% of income gets spent, and 17.3% gets put towards savings. The most significant expenditure categories are housing (23.3%), household expenses (8.4%), gas and insurance (7.2%), and food at home (6.9%).

      A Changing Role for Education?

      For now, there is a clear link between certain types of college degrees and higher salaries.

      However, as total student debt continues to hit record highs of $1.5 trillion and as more remote educational options proliferate online, it will be interesting to see how these charts are impacted in the coming years.

      By the year 2030, do you think education will still have the same strength of correlation with income levels?

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The World’s Most Powerful Reserve Currencies

Here are the reserve currencies that the world’s central banks hold onto for a rainy day.

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The World’s Most Powerful Reserve Currencies

When we think of network effects, we’re usually thinking of them in the context of technology and Metcalfe’s Law.

Metcalfe’s Law states that the more users that a network has, the more valuable it is to those users. It’s a powerful idea that is exploited by companies like LinkedIn, Airbnb, or Uber — all companies that provide a more beneficial service as their networks gain more nodes.

But network effects don’t apply just to technology and related fields.

In the financial sector, for example, stock exchanges grow in utility when they have more buyers, sellers, and volume. Likewise, in international finance, a currency can become increasingly entrenched when it’s accepted, used, and trusted all over the world.

What’s a Reserve Currency?

Today’s visualization comes to us from HowMuch.net, and it breaks down foreign reserves held by countries — but what is a reserve currency, anyways?

In essence, reserve currencies (i.e. U.S. dollar, pound sterling, euro, etc.) are held on to by central banks for the following major reasons:

  • To maintain a stable exchange rate for the domestic currency
  • To ensure liquidity in the case of an economic or political crisis
  • To provide confidence to international buyers and foreign investors
  • To fulfill international obligations, such as paying down debt
  • To diversify central bank portfolios, reducing overall risk

Not surprisingly, central banks benefit the most from stockpiling widely-held reserve currencies such as the U.S. dollar or the euro.

Because these currencies are accepted almost everywhere, they provide third-parties with extra confidence and perceived liquidity. This is a network effect that snowballs from the growing use of a particular reserve currency over others.

Reserve Currencies Over Time

Here is how the usage of reserve currencies has evolved over the last 15 years:

Currency composition of official foreign exchange reserves (2004-2019)
🇺🇸 U.S. Dollar 🇪🇺 Euro🇯🇵 Japanese Yen🇬🇧 Pound Sterling 🌐 Other
200465.5%24.7%4.3%3.5%2.0%
200962.1%27.7%2.9%4.3%3.0%
201465.1%21.2%3.5%3.7%6.5%
201961.8%20.2%5.3%4.5%8.2%

Over this timeframe, there have been small ups and downs in most reserve currencies.

Today, the U.S. dollar is the world’s most powerful reserve currency, making up over 61% of foreign reserves. The dollar gets an extensive network effect from its use abroad, and this translates into several advantages for the multi-trillion dollar U.S. economy.

The euro, yen, and pound sterling are the other mainstay reserve currencies, adding up to roughly 30% of foreign reserves.

Finally, the most peculiar data series above is “Other”, which grew from 2.0% to 8.4% of worldwide foreign reserves over the last 15 years. This bucket includes the Canadian dollar, the Australian dollar, the Swiss franc, and the Chinese renminbi.

Accepted Everywhere?

There have been rumblings in the media for decades now about the rise of the Chinese renminbi as a potential new challenger on the reserve currency front.

While there are still big structural problems that will prevent this from happening as fast as some may expect, the currency is still on the rise internationally.

What will the composition of global foreign reserves look like in another 15 years?

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Visualizing Global Attitudes Towards Retirement

Around the world, people have different attitudes towards what to expect in their retirement years. Does the reality match those expectations?

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Global Attitudes Towards Retirement

There’s a reason retirement is often referred to as the golden years.

Many view retirement as a welcome reward following a successful career. The transition, however, is not always easy. An enjoyable retirement is often dictated by the amount of money people have set aside.

Today’s infographic from Raconteur visualizes attitudes towards retirement around the world, comparing expectations and actualities for retirement income.

Does reality meet their expectations?

Income Expectations Vary by Country

A global survey by asset manager Schroders—looking at 22,000 investors from 30 countries—highlights that retirement income often falls short of expectations.

Here’s what non-retirees (55+ in age) expect to make in retirement as a percentage of their salary, compared to the actual incomes generated by retirees:

CountryExpectation (% of salary)Actual (% of salary)Difference
🇵🇱 Poland10356-47
🇯🇵 Japan8137-44
🇮🇩 Indonesia10565-40
🇨🇱 Chile*9357-36
🇭🇰 Hong Kong8044-36
🇷🇺 Russia*6632-34
🇸🇬 Singapore6742-25
🇰🇷 South Korea6745-22
🇿🇦 South Africa8059-21
🇧🇪 Belgium7554-21
🇦🇺 Australia7152-20
🇸🇪 Sweden8366-17
🇫🇷 France7861-17
🇺🇸 U.S.7458-16
🇧🇷 Brazil8874-14
🇨🇭 Switzerland6855-13
🇬🇧 U.K.6653-13
🇨🇳 China*8067-13
🇨🇦 Canada7161-10
🇩🇰 Denmark7468-6
🇮🇹 Italy8074-6
🇳🇱 Netherlands7569-6
🇪🇸 Spain7368-5
🇩🇪 Germany6765-2
🇹🇭 Thailand*6664-1
🇦🇹 Austria64673
🇮🇳 India719625
🇵🇹 Portugal467226
🇹🇼 Taiwan*6811749

*Denotes countries with small sample sizes.

Not having enough money at retirement is a nearly universal issue, and 51% of employees with a workplace pension are worried that they won’t make enough to live their ideal retirement life.

Of course, there are always notable exceptions to every rule.

In India, for example, the reality of retirement is often better than anticipated. Non-retirees expect that 71% of their annual salary will provide what is needed to live comfortably in retirement, but in practice they get 96% of their salary in retirement—far higher than they thought.

Most Important Aspirations

The world is divided when it comes to working into retirement. The majority of people want to spend their retirement doing non-work related activities:

  • Traveling: 60%
  • Spending more time with friends and family: 57%
  • Pursuing new hobbies: 49%
  • Volunteer work: 27%

That said, 59% of employees in Italy, the U.S., and Australia expect to continue working while retired, while only 32% in the Netherlands have the same expectation. This may be partially due to the strength of the Dutch pension system, which is rated as one of the best in the world.

A Changing Retirement Landscape

The reality of retirement continues to evolve by country and by generation.

Today, only 15% of the population in developed countries is above 65 years of age—but by 2050, the proportion will more than double. People between the ages of 40 and 50 are known as the “Sandwich Generation” because they are simultaneously supporting their retired parents and their own children.

While increasing life expectancy affords people the luxury of spending more time with loved ones, will we be able to afford to live longer?

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