Disposable Income

It is the money available to an individual or household after income taxes are removed.

Author: Sid Arora
Sid Arora
Sid Arora
Investment Banking | Hedge Fund | Private Equity

Currently an investment analyst focused on the TMT sector at 1818 Partners (a New York Based Hedge Fund), Sid previously worked in private equity at BV Investment Partners and BBH Capital Partners and prior to that in investment banking at UBS.

Sid holds a BS from The Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon.

Reviewed By: Matthew Retzloff
Matthew Retzloff
Matthew Retzloff
Investment Banking | Corporate Development

Matthew started his finance career working as an investment banking analyst for Falcon Capital Partners, a healthcare IT boutique, before moving on to work for Raymond James Financial, Inc in their specialty finance coverage group in Atlanta. Matthew then started in a role in corporate development at Babcock & Wilcox before moving to a corporate development associate role with Caesars Entertainment Corporation where he currently is. Matthew provides support to Caesars' M&A processes including evaluating inbound teasers/CIMs to identify possible acquisition targets, due diligence, constructing financial models, corporate valuation, and interacting with potential acquisition targets.

Matthew has a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in German from University of North Carolina.

Last Updated:December 24, 2023

What Is Disposable Income?

Disposable income, often defined as disposable personal income (DPI), is the sum of money available to an individual or household after income taxes are removed.

It is challenging to offer an adequate broad definition of income. Income consists of income and salary payments, dividend and interest payments from financial assets, rent payments, and company net profits. 

In most circumstances, investment income on natural or capital resources should be considered income, at least insofar as they improve spending capacity. 

Such gains may be recognized even if the item is not sold and the increase in spending power is not used. Furthermore, receipts that do not come in the form of currency (revenue in kind) may be included.

Spendable income is adjusted further to eliminate required payments such as direct taxes, mandatory contributions to social insurance systems, and the like and to include simple transfers from other people, institutions, or the government, such as social security benefits, pensions, and alimony.

In other circumstances, the line between voluntary and required payments is blurred, making the definition of net income problematic. It can also be necessary to make a difference between the transfer income to which a person is entitled and the money received.

Disposable personal income is extensively watched at the macro level as one of the primary economic indicators used to assess the overall status of the economy.

Wages and salaries, self-employment and unincorporated businesses, pensions, other social benefits, and income from financial assets are all examples of household spendable income (fewer tax payments, social insurance contributions, and interest on financial liabilities).

Key Takeaways

  • Net income is defined as disposable income. It is the amount remaining after taxes.
  • Net money that is still available after covering all essentials is discretionary income.
  • Net income may be used to calculate household financial reserves and money available for spending on goods and services.
  • The values obtained from such incomes must be adjusted to account for changes in the cost of living to compare flows of spendable income at various times in time, in various countries, or even in different areas within a single nation.
  • Discretionary income varies greatly across income levels. One expenditure study examined how much discretionary income families have after deducting needs.
  • It also affects total inflation. Reduced expenditure (or reduced demand) causes lower pricing. Falling prices may result in lower salaries. When this occurs, the country suffers from deflation.
  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a 34-member international organization that includes the United States. 
  • As of September 2020, the United States' average household net income, according to the OECD, was $45,284.
  • To calculate your spendable income, you must first determine your gross revenue. Individuals' gross income is their overall salary, money earned before taxes, and other deductions.
  • When spendable income rises, households have more money to save or spend, which increases consumption.
  • Economists regularly monitor the quantity of spendable income for a country's people and the degree to which consumers spend, influenced by spendable income.

Significance Of Disposable Income

Analysts use this income to assess the status of an economy. It may also be used to calculate the financial reserves of households. 

It assists economists in calculating household savings and expenditure rates. In addition, numerous economic measurements and indicators are derived from it, including discretionary income and the personal saving rate.

When all essentials, such as food, health insurance, and house payments, are deducted from spendable income, the result is discretionary money. 

After paying for needs, discretionary money is a portion of spendable income. Income earners can save or spend their discretionary income as they see fit.

Outside of the household, net income has far-reaching consequences. First, along with national and personal pre-tax income, it is one of three primary income variables examined by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

It also influences consumer spending, which impacts the consumer price index (CPI). The CPI tracks the prices of products and services across the country. The government may also consider spendable income when determining fiscal policy. 

For instance, the government could look for measures to boost the economy if spendable income has decreased and, therefore, consumer spending. This might be accomplished by tax cuts or more significant government expenditure. 

Types Of Disposable Income

Disposable income is a good indicator of an economy's health. As a result, it is one of the critical variables scrutinized by government officials and experts. 

The net income data helps analyze the consumer's capacity to make purchases, make payments, and save for the future.

There are two types; national and personal disposable income. Let us now dive deeper into the aforementioned types:

National Disposable Income

This is the total income of all citizens and the nation's institutions. It is generated from overall national income and measures the nation's cash or revenue for final spending and saving. 

Gross or net National Disposable Income is calculated using the following equation:

National Income = Compensation of employees + Corporate and government enterprise profits before taxes + Interest income + Unincorporated net income of businesses + Rent + Indirect business taxes – subsidies

Personal Disposable Income

Personal disposable income is income with fewer taxes at the individual level. It calculates the net income after families have paid all taxes. 

Additionally, it reflects how households spend on purchases and services or save up for investments.

Personal Income = National Income – Indirect business taxes – Corporate income taxes – Undistributed corporate profits + Transfer payments

How do we calculate disposable income?

After deducting local, state, and federal taxes and any statutory deductions from your salary, your net income is the amount of money left over. 

Payroll taxes like the Social Security tax and Medicare tax are likely taken out of your paycheck in addition to income tax (which together make up FICA taxes).

An obligatory deduction is anything your employer is required by law to deduct from your paycheck. Therefore, although this undoubtedly includes your taxes, it may include additional deductions, such as payments for court-ordered child support.

Disposable income = Gross Income - (Taxes + Mandatory Deductions)

Other money is deducted from your income before it reaches your paycheck, but it is still a portion of your spendable income. 

Your company, for example, may deduct payments to your 401(k), health insurance, or health savings account (HSA) straight from your salary. However, these are not required deductions, so they remain a component of your discretionary income.

Many believe that net income refers to the money left over after monthly paying their bills. 

Moreover, contrary to what the name implies, this is not the case. All your money after taxes is spendable income, including rent and other required obligations. The money remaining after paying for necessities is known as discretionary income.

Spendable income levels may influence economic growth because people's spending decreases during a financial recession, directly impacting the country's economic growth.

How does Disposable Income Affect our Budgets?

Your disposable income is the money you have to pay for necessities such as rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance, auto payments, food, clothes, credit card bills, etc.

Disposable income is an important measure tracked by financial experts and government officials as it provides a reliable assessment of a country's overall economic condition. 

Economists use this income to track how much money families spend and save. The information aids economists in their analysis and projections on consumer capacity to make purchases, cover daily costs, and generate savings.

Consumer spending naturally rises when spendable income rises because people have more money to spend or save.

Somebody can take their disposable money and assign a percentage to specific requirements or desires.

It may be time to revise your budget if you cannot accomplish specific goals (such as saving for an emergency). Many budgeting applications can classify your spending to see where your money is going.

A spending audit makes it easy to find areas where you may cut costs, such as streaming platforms or dining out. However, in some circumstances, you may need to be resourceful to maximize your discretionary money. 

Insurance expenses can be reduced by evaluating providers to obtain a cheaper offer or by picking up a side business to earn more spare cash.

Disposable Income Vs. Discretionary Income

If you have money left over after paying taxes, be very cautious about how quickly you spend it. Disposable money should not be confused with discretionary income; failing to distinguish between the two can make or break your budget.

After paying all taxes for needs such as rent, mortgage payments, healthcare, food, clothes, and transportation, discretionary income is the amount of money left over from your total yearly income. In other terms, discretionary income is net income minus unavoidable living expenses.

For example, the Jonas family had $160,000 in spendable income after paying $40,000 in taxes on its $200,000 gross income. After taxes, they also had to pay the following:

  • $10,000 for rent
  • $10,000 for utilities
  • $15,000 for groceries and healthcare
  • $15,000 for car loan payments, gas, and maintenance
  • $20,000 college fee

The family spent a total sum of $70,000 on necessities, leaving them with only $90,000 ($160,000 - $70,000) in discretionary income. The Jonas family can either spend it or save it for future uncertainties. 

Discretionary income is a good indicator of economic wellness. The marginal consumption propensity (MPC), marginal saving propensity (MPS), and market leverage ratios are only some important financial ratios that economists derive from net income.

An economy's aggregate net income rates change over time, generally in tandem with business-cycle activity. When economic production is high, as measured by the GDP or another gross indicator, levels of spendable income appear to be high as well.

It is critical to understand that these sources of income are distinct, and making a budget necessitates thoroughly examining your financial situation. Discretionary income, on the other hand, is a fraction of your market income minus your basics.

The basic rule is that spendable income should always be larger than discretionary income within the same family since the cost of required things has not yet been deducted from the amount of disposable money.

Impact on the Stock Market

A rise in spendable income leads to an increase in stock values, which raises the entire worth of the stock market. After paying income taxes, net income is the family income available for spending and saving.

When it rises, households have more money to save or spend, which increases consumption. As a result, consumer spending is one of the most significant demand factors; it generates the demand that keeps businesses successful and recruiting new employees. 

Increased consumption can boost company sales and earnings, raising the value of individual stocks. In addition, more employment is created when firms increase output to satisfy demand. 

Individual share price appraisals rising might contribute to a market-wide gain in value. This can stimulate the economy.

When spendable income falls, households have less money to spend and save, forcing consumers to consume less and become more thrifty. 

This drop in consumption may reduce company sales and earnings, lowering the value of individual stocks. This has the potential to lead to depression or recession.

Increases in discretionary income do not necessarily result in an increase in stock market value, and vice versa. 

Although net income grows in the aftermath of a recession and during the recovery phase, many consumers remain thrifty and do not use their increased net income to increase spending. 

Even a rise in discretionary income might trigger a recession when this happens. As a result, a rise in net income does not always result in economic expansion or stock market growth.

Consumer confidence statistically assesses people's attitudes toward present and future economic conditions. When consumer confidence is low, consumers opt to conserve rather than spend their money, limiting economic development.

Researched and authored by Kavya Sharma | Linkedin

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