Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Crude Oil and Water: How Climate Change is Threatening our Two Most Precious Commodities - Richard_Mills
2.The Potential $54 Trillion Cost Of The Fed's Planned Interest Rate Increases - Dan_Amerman
3.Best Cash ISA Savings for Rising UK Interest Rates and High Inflation - March 2018 - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Fed Interest Hikes, US Dollar, and Gold - Zeal_LLC
5.What Happens Next after February’s Stock Market Selloff - Troy_Bombardia
6.The 'Beast from the East' UK Extreme Snow Weather - Sheffield Day 2 - N_Walayat
7.Currencies Will Be ‘Flushed Down the Toilet’ Triggering a ‘Mad Rush into Gold’ - MoneyMetals
8.Significant Decline In Stocks On The Cards! -Enda_Glynn
9.Land Rover Discovery Sport Extreme Driving "Beast from the East" Snow Weather Test - N_Walayat
10.SILVER Large Specualtors Net Short Position 15 Year Anniversary - Clive_Maund
Last 7 days
GDX Gold Mining Stocks Fundamentals - 16th Mar 18
Nationalism, Not the Russians, got Trump Elected - 16th Mar 18
Has Bitcoin Bought It? - 16th Mar 18
Crude Oil Price – Who Wants the Triangle? - 16th Mar 18
PayPal Cease Trading Crypto Currency Bitcoin Warning Email Sophisticated Fake Scam? - 16th Mar 18
EUR/USD – Something Old, Something New and… Something Blue - 16th Mar 18
DasCoin: A 5-Minute Guide to How It Works - 15th Mar 18
Stock Market Downward Pressure Mounting - 15th Mar 18
The Stock Market Trend is Your Friend ’til the Very End - 15th Mar 18
6 Easy Ways to Get What Women Want, for Less! - 15th Mar 18
This Isn’t Your Grandfather’s (1960s) Inflation Scare - 15th Mar 18
Eye Opening Stock Market Index, Volatility, Charts and Predictions - 15th Mar 18
Gold Cup At Cheltenham – Gold Is For Winners, Not For Gamblers - 15th Mar 18
Upcoming Turnaround in Gold - 14th Mar 18
Will the Stock Market Make Another Correction this Year? - 14th Mar 18
4 Ways To Writing An Interesting Education Research Paper - 14th Mar 18
China Toward Sustainable Economic Growth - 14th Mar 18
Stock Market Direction Is No Longer Important - 14th Mar 18
Trade Tariffs Defeat Globalists and Return Prosperity - 14th Mar 18
Stock Market Crash is Underway and Cannot be Stopped! - 14th Mar 18
Are Energy Sector Stocks Bottoming? - 14th Mar 18
Nasdaq Stocks Soars to New Record High After Strong Job Reports - 14th Mar 18
Bitcoin BTCUSD Elliott Wave View Calling for Rally toward $15,000 - 13th Mar 18
Hungary’s Gold Repatriation Adds To Growing Protest Against US Dollar Hegemony - 13th Mar 18
Record Low Volatility in Precious Metals and What it Means - 13th Mar 18
Tips for Writing and Assembling the Classification Essay - 13th Mar 18
Gerald Celente "If Rates go up too High, the Economy goes Down, End of Story" - 13th Mar 18
Stock Market Selloff Showed Gold Can Reduce Portfolio Risk  - 13th Mar 18
Silver Does it Again! Severe Consequences - 12th Mar 18
Has the Stock Market Rally Run Out of Steam? - 12th Mar 18
S&P 500 at 2,800 Again, Stock Market Breakout or Fakeout? - 12th Mar 18
The No.1 Energy Stock To Buy Right Now - 12th Mar 18
What Happens Next When Stock Market Investor Sentiment is Neutral - 12th Mar 18
Economic Pressures To Driving Gold and Silver Prices Higher Long-Term - 12th Mar 18
Labour Sheffield City Councils Secret Plan to Fell 50% of Street Trees Exposed! - 12th Mar 18
Stock Market Uptrend Resuming? - 11th Mar 18
Bond Market Interest Rate Yields Are Rising Again… Stocks Are on Thin Ice - 11th Mar 18
Death of Europe's Greenest City, Police State Sheffield Labour Council to Fell 50% of Street Trees - 11th Mar 18
Do All Bull Stocks Markets Need to Have a Bearish Divergence? - 11th Mar 18
An Inflation Indicator to Watch, Part 3 - 11th Mar 18
Online Stock Trading Tips - Tips about Online Trading & Day Trading - 11th Mar 18
NDX makes a new high. What does that mean? - 10th Mar 18
Blue Chip Companies on Track for $800 billion Buyback Record in 2018 - 10th Mar 18
Cheap Gold Stocks Basing - 10th Mar 18
An Introduction to Online Forex Trading - 10th Mar 18
Sheffield Police State as Tree Protesting Citizens Are Snatched off the Streets! - 9th Mar 18
Riding the Bitcoin Wave - 9th Mar 18
Are We in Late Cycle? Implications for Gold - 9th Mar 18
US Bond Market 3 Amigos Bottom Line - 9th Mar 18
The Stock Market Bubble Conversation - 9th Mar 18
The Last Great Myth of Every Financial Market Euphoria - 9th Mar 18
London Property Market Sees Brave Bet By Norway As Foxtons Profits Plunge - 8th Mar 18
Casino and Bingo - A Brief Statistics - 8th Mar 18
Stock Market Shrugs Off Trade War Fears, But Will It Go Higher? - 8th Mar 18
Gold Stocks & Silver Oversold but Not Gold Price - 8th Mar 18
Benefits of Using Same Day Loans In Emergencies - 8th Mar 18
Permanent Life Insurance: Is it a Waste of Money or a Valuable Investment? - 8th Mar 18

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Urgent Stock Market Message

It’s Impossible to “Get By” In the U.S.

Personal_Finance / Recession 2008 - 2010 Apr 13, 2010 - 01:42 AM GMT

By: Graham_Summers


Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleWhile the market cheers on the fantastic job “growth” of March 2010, the more astute of us are concerned with a growing tide of personal bankruptcies. March 2010 saw 158,000 bankruptcy filings. David Rosenberg of Gluskin-Sheff notes that this is an astounding 6,900 filings per day.

This latest filing is up 19% from March 2009’s number which occurred at the absolute nadir of the economic decline, when everyone thought the world was ending. It’s also up 35% from last month’s (February 2010) number.

Given the significance of this, I thought today we’d spend some time delving into numbers for the “median” American’s experience in the US today. Regrettably, much of the data is not up to date so we’ve got to go by 2008 numbers.

In 2008, the median US household income was $50,300. Assuming that the person filing is the “head of household” and has two children (dependents), this means a 1040 tax bill of $4,100, which leaves about $45K in income after taxes (we’re not bothering with state taxes).  I realize this is a simplistic calculation, but it’s a decent proxy for income in the US in 2008.

Now, $45K in income spread out over 26 pay periods (every two weeks), means a bi-weekly paycheck of $1,730 and monthly income of $3,460. This is the money “Joe America” and his family to live off of in 2008.

Now, in 2008, the median home value was roughly $225K. Assuming our “median” household put down 20% on their home (unlikely, but it used to be considered the norm), this means a $180K mortgage. Using a 5.5% fixed rate 30-year mortgage, this means Joe America’s 2008 monthly mortgage payments were roughly $1,022.

So, right off the bat, Joe’s monthly income is cut to $2,438.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average 2008 monthly food bill for a family of four ranged from $512-$986 depending on how “liberal” you are with your purchases. For simplicity’s sake we’ll take the mid-point of this range ($750) as a monthly food bill.

This brings Joe’s monthly income to $1,688.

Now, Joe needs light, energy, heat, and air conditioning to run his home. According to the Energy Information Administration, the average US household used about 920 kilowatt-hours per month in 2008. At a national average price of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour this comes to a monthly electrical bill of $101.20.

Joe’s now down to $1,587.
Now Joe needs to drive to work to make a living. Similarly, he needs to be able to drive to the grocery store, doctor, etc. According to AAA, the average cost per mile of driving a minivan (Joe’s a family man) in 2008 was 57 cents per mile. This cost is based on average fuel consumption, tires, maintenance, insurance, license and registration, and average loan finance charges.

Multiply this cost by 15,000 miles per year and you’ve got an annual driving bill of  $8,550. Divide this into months (by 12) and you’ve got a monthly driving bill of  $712.

Joe’s now down to $877 (I’m also assuming Joe’s family only has ONE car). Indeed, if Joe’s family has two cars (one minivan and one sedan) he’s already run out of money for the month.

Now, assuming Joe’s family is one of the lucky ones (depending on your perspective) they’ve got medical insurance. Trying to find an average monthly medical insurance premium for a family in the US is extremely difficult because insurance plans have a wide range in deductibles, premiums, and co-pays. But according to eHealth Insurance, the average  monthly premium for family policies in February 2008 was $369.

So if Joe has medical insurance on his family, he’s now down to $508. Throw in cell phone bills, cable TV and Internet bills, and the like, and he’s maybe got $100-200 discretionary income left at the end of the month.

This analysis covers all of the basic necessities of the average American household: mortgage payments, food, energy, gas, driving expenses, and medical insurance. It also assumes that Joe:

  1. Didn’t overpay for his house
  2. Made a 20% down-payment of $45K on his home purchase
  3. Has no debt aside from his mortgage (so no credit card debt, student loans, etc)
  4. Only has one car in the family and drives 15,000 miles per year
  5. Keeps his energy bill reasonable
  6. Does not eat out at restaurants ever/ keeps food expenses moderate
  7. Has no pets
  8. Pays for health insurance but has no monthly medical expenses (unlikely with two kids)
  9. Keeps his personal budget under control regarding cable TV, Internet, and the like
  10. Doesn’t spoil his kids with toys, gadgets, trips to the movies, etc.
  11. Doesn’t take vacations.

Suffice to say, I am assuming Joe maintains EXTREMELY conservative spending habits. Personally, I know NO ONE who meets all of the above criteria. However, even if the above assumptions applied to the average American, you’re still only looking at $100-200 in “wiggle” room for spending per month!

If Joe:

  1. Overpaid on his house
  2. Didn’t have a full 20% down payment
  3. Owns two cars
  4. Eats at restaurants
  5. Splurges on heating & A/C bills
  6. Has any medical expenses aside from monthly premiums…

… he is running into the red EVERY month.

I also wish to note that my analysis didn’t include real estate taxes and numerous other expenses that most folks have to pay. So even if you are extremely frugal and careful with your money, it is impossible to “get by” in the US without using credit cards, home equity lines of credit or burning through savings. The cost of living is simply TOO high relative to incomes.

This is why there simply cannot be a sustainable recovery in the US economy. Because we outsourced our jobs, incomes fell. Because incomes fell and savers were punished (thanks to abysmal returns on savings rates) we pulled future demand forward by splurging on credit. Because we splurged on credit, prices in every asset under the sun rose in value. Because prices rose while incomes fell, we had to use more credit to cover our costs, which in turn meant taking on more debt (a net drag on incomes).

And on and on.

Does this mean the market is about to tank? Not necessarily, stocks have been disconnected from reality since November if not July. Bubbles (and we ARE in a bubble) take time to pop and this time around will be no different.

Best Regards,

Graham Summers

PS. I’ve put together a FREE Special Report detailing THREE investments that will explode when stocks start to collapse again. I call it Financial Crisis “Round Two” Survival Kit. These investments will not only help to protect your portfolio from the coming carnage, they’ll can also show you enormous profits.

Swing by to pick up a FREE copy today!

Graham Summers: Graham is Senior Market Strategist at OmniSans Research. He is co-editor of Gain, Pains, and Capital, OmniSans Research’s FREE daily e-letter covering the equity, commodity, currency, and real estate markets. 

Graham also writes Private Wealth Advisory, a monthly investment advisory focusing on the most lucrative investment opportunities the financial markets have to offer. Graham understands the big picture from both a macro-economic and capital in/outflow perspective. He translates his understanding into finding trends and undervalued investment opportunities months before the markets catch on: the Private Wealth Advisory portfolio has outperformed the S&P 500 three of the last five years, including a 7% return in 2008 vs. a 37% loss for the S&P 500.

Previously, Graham worked as a Senior Financial Analyst covering global markets for several investment firms in the Mid-Atlantic region. He’s lived and performed research in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the United States.

    © 2010 Copyright Graham Summers - All Rights Reserved
    Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

    Graham Summers Archive

© 2005-2018 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.

Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

6 Critical Money Making Rules