Income by age

What you think you know about American’s income may not be accurate. This is especially true of older Americans.

Sure, there are exceptions and outliers in every group, but the well accepted and politically popular idea that seniors are poor and in need of more assistance is a bit overstated particularly when compared with younger Americans.

Take a look at the data.

6 comments

  1. How is a couple handled? Do they gather income from each separately, or do they collect total of both and divide by 2 to get individual? What about household income with non-wage earners?

    Also agree that if retired people are not included then there are a lot highly compensated people working in old age.

    I guess the old saying “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” is true.

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  2. Medians are usually better measures – averages can be deceiving. As one of my actuary betters once told me: “In actuary school, they warn about using averages with this example: You take a guy, put his head in the oven and his feet in the freezer, his average temperature is 98.6, but he’s dead”.

    The data suggest that age is NOT the primary determinant of wages. Yes, wages rise with age, but, the variables that explain the difference are likely performance, success/rewards, education, experience, capital investment … much depends on what variable you are actually measuring.

    You wonder what the survey respondents were thinking when they answered the question – were they thinking household income, salaries, total compensation, W-2 wages, something else. Each might give you a different answer.

    And, remember, the survey is only for those who are in the labor force. So, everyone who has checked out, those retired and those “on the dole” is supposedly excluded.

    I’d rather see 1040 data or box 1 data with deferrals (and other income added back in).

    With respect to people age 65+, say I am over age 65 (I am) and say I am employed (I am) and that my wages from work are $50,000 annually (they aren’t). Do you include in my income my benefits from social security, my pension income, my spouse’s income, social security benefits and pension income (if any) or do you exclude those items if folks made an election to defer commencement? When you survey folks, how clear is the question and how well do people understand all facets of income?

    According to the survey instrument, they ask about:
    UNEMPLOYMENT AND WORKERS COMPENSATION
    SOCIAL SECURITY (SOURCE) .
    SOCIAL SECURITY FOR CHILDREN (SOURCE)
    SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME (SSI) (SOURCE)
    SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME FOR CHILDREN (SSI) (SOURCE)
    DISABILITY INCOME (SOURCE)
    VETERANS PAYMENTS (SOURCE)
    SURVIVOR BENEFITS (SOURCE)
    PUBLIC ASSISTANCE (SOURCE) FOOD STAMPS/SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP) (SOURCE)
    PENSIONS (SOURCE)
    ANNUITIES (SOURCE)
    RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS (SOURCE)
    INCOME-EARNING ACCOUNTS OUTSIDE OF RETIREMENT (SOURCE)
    PROPERTY INCOME (SOURCE)
    EDUCATION ASSISTANCE (SOURCE) .
    CHILD SUPPORT (SOURCE)
    REGULAR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE (SOURCE)
    OTHER MONEY INCOME (SOURCE) .

    So, not sure what they include and exclude from the data that were presented.

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    1. That’s probably because we have all been conditioned to think of every senior as poor or close to it. Did you look at net worth? Median is probably better measure than average though.

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  3. What do you know, I never been below 10% even while in high school when I worked and that is not adjust for 1978 values. To listen to the media, I am broke and I needed help all my life. Good thing I always took personal responsibility for myself and was successful.

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  4. Insightful entry. I did a 5 minute scan. Look forward to poring through it in earnest this evening. Thanks for compiling and sharing.

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