Then vs. Now: What does $1 Buy You?
Keynesians and Austrian economists will disagree on many points on inflation. However, a conclusion which is universal is the great power of inflation over time.
While the measurement of CPI may be up to debate, the cold hard facts don’t lie. In 1960, one dollar bought an ounce of silver. Today, it buys closer to 1/20 of an ounce. If you go all the way back to 1810, one dollar bought 3 gallons of whiskey. In the bar today, it buys just 1.25 oz of Fireball, which isn’t exactly the high-end stuff.
You don’t have to go back very far to see the effects of inflation. Just in 1998, a gallon of gasoline was only $1. Now, all you have to do is look at the nearest pump.
Original graphic from: Mashable
How Do Americans Spend Their Money, By Generation?
This interactive graphic shows a breakdown of how average Americans spend their money, and how expenses vary across generations.
How Americans Spend Their Money, By Generation
In 2021, the average American spent just over $60,000 a year. But where does all their money go? Unsurprisingly, spending habits vary wildly depending on age.
This graphic by Preethi Lodha uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to show how average Americans spend their money, and how annual expenses vary across generations.
A Generational Breakdown of Overall Spending
Overall in 2021, Gen X (anyone born from 1965 to 1980) spent the most money of any U.S. generation, with an average annual expenditure of $83,357.
|Generation||Birth Year Range||Average Annual Expenditure (2021)|
|Silent||1945 or earlier||$44,683|
|Boomers||1946 to 1964||$62,203|
|Generation X||1965 to 1980||$83,357|
|Millennials||1981 to 1996||$69,061|
|Generation Z||1997 or later||$41,636|
Gen X has been nicknamed the “sandwich generation” because many members of this age group are financially supporting both their aging parents as well as children of their own.
The second biggest spenders are Millennials with an average annual expenditure of $69,061. Just like Gen X, this generation’s top three spending categories are housing, healthcare, and personal insurance.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, members of Generation Z are the lowest spenders with an average of $41,636. per year. Their spending habits are expected to ramp up, especially considering that in 2022 the oldest Gen Zers are just 25 and still early in their careers.
Similarities Across Generations
While spending habits vary depending on the age group, there are some categories that remain fairly consistent across the board.
One of the most consistent spending categories is housing—it’s by the far the biggest expense for all age groups, accounting for more than 30% of total annual spending for every generation.
|Generation||Average Spend on Housing (2021)||% of Total Spend|
|Silent (1945 or earlier)||$16,656||37.3%|
|Boomers (1946 to 1964)||$21,273||34.2%|
|Generation X (1965 to 1980)||$26,385||31.7%|
|Millennials (1981 to 1996)||$24,052||34.8%|
|Generation Z (1997 or later)||$15,449||37.1%|
Another spending category that’s surprisingly consistent across every generation is entertainment. All generations spent more than 4% of their total expenditures on entertainment, but none dedicated more than 5.6%.
|Generation||Average Spend on Entertainment (2021)||% of Total Spend|
|Silent (1945 or earlier)||$2,027||4.5%|
|Boomers (1946 to 1964)||$3,476||5.6%|
|Generation X (1965 to 1980)||$4,694||5.6%|
|Millennials (1981 to 1996)||$3,457||5.0%|
|Generation Z (1997 or later)||$1,693||4.1%|
Gen Zers spent the least on entertainment, which could boil down to the types of entertainment this generation typically enjoys. For instance, a study found that 51% of respondents aged 13-19 watch videos on Instagram on a weekly basis, while only 15% watch cable TV.
Differences Across Generations
One category that varies the most between generations and relative needs is spending on healthcare.
As the table below shows, the Silent Generation spent an average of $7,053 on healthcare, or 15.8% of their total average spend. Comparatively, Gen Z only spent $1,354 on average, or 3.3% of their total average spend.
|Generation||Average Spend on Healthcare (2021)||% of Total Spend|
|Silent (1945 or earlier)||$7,053||15.8%|
|Boomers (1946 to 1964)||$6,594||10.6%|
|Generation X (1965 to 1980)||$5,550||6.7%|
|Millennials (1981 to 1996)||$4,026||5.8%|
|Generation Z (1997 or later)||$1,354||3.3%|
However, while the younger generations typically spend less on healthcare, they’re also less likely to be insured—so those who do get sick could be left with a hefty bill.
Mapped: The Salary You Need to Buy a Home in 50 U.S. Cities
Is owning a home still realistic? This map lays out the salary you’d need to buy a home in 50 different U.S. metro areas.
This is the Salary You Need to Buy a Home in 50 U.S. Cities
Depending on where you live, owning a home may seem like a far off dream or it could be fairly realistic. In New York City, for example, a person needs to be making at least six figures to buy a home, but in Cleveland you could do it with just over $45,000 a year.
This visual, using data from Home Sweet Home, maps out the annual salary you’d need for home ownership in 50 different U.S. cities.
Note: The map above refers to entire metro areas and uses Q1 2022 data on median home prices. The necessary salary was calculated by the source, looking at the base cost of principal, interest, property tax, and homeowner’s insurance.
Home Ownership Across the U.S.
San Jose is by far the most expensive city when it comes to purchasing a home. A person would need to earn over $330,000 annually to pay off the mortgage at a monthly rate of $7,718.
Here’s a closer look at the numbers:
|Rank||Metro Area||Median Home Price||Salary Needed|
|#7||New York City||$578,100||$129,459|
|#15||Salt Lake City||$556,900||$100,970|
Perhaps surprisingly, Boston residents need slightly higher earnings than New Yorkers to buy a home. The same is also true in Seattle and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, some of the cheapest cities to start buying up real estate in are Oklahoma City and Cleveland.
As of April, the rate of home ownership in the U.S. is 65%. This number represents the share of homes that are occupied by the owner, rather than rented out or vacant.
The American Dream Home
As of the time of this data (Q1 2022), the national yearly fixed mortgage rate sat at 4% and median home price at $368,200. This put the salary needed to buy a home at almost $76,000—the median national household income falls almost $9,000 below that.
But what kind of homes are people looking to purchase? Depending on where you live the type of home and square footage you can get will be very different.
In New York City, for example, there are fairly few stand-alone, single-family houses in the traditional sense—only around 4,000 are ever on the market. People in the Big Apple tend to buy condominiums or multi-family units.
Additionally, if you’re looking for luxury, not even seven figures will get you much in the big cities. In Miami, a million dollars will only buy you 833 square feet of prime real estate.
One thing is for sure: the typical American dream home of the big house with a yard and white picket fence is more attainable in smaller metro areas with ample suburbs.
Buying vs. Renting
The U.S. median household income is $67,500, meaning that today the typical family could only afford a home in about 15 of the 50 metro areas highlighted above, including New Orleans, Buffalo, and Indianapolis.
With the income gap widening in the U.S., the rental market remains a more attractive option for many, especially as prices are finally tapering off. The national median rent price was down nearly 3% from June to July for two-bedroom apartments.
At the end of the day, buying a home can be an important investment and may provide a sense of security, but it will be much easier to do in certain types of cities.
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