Category Archives: investing

Household Savings Improves to only 36% Spending more than Income

After analyzing data from the 2017 Consumer Expenditures Survey (CEX) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 35.9% of US households spent more than they earned. This is the most recently available data from the BLS. Overall, 46 million out of 129 million US households are estimated to have had expenditures that exceeded their after tax income (table below).

Large Improvements since 2015

Comparing these results to the previously reported ones for 2015’s CEX survey where I reported 38.5% spending more than income, the percentage American households saving has improved significantly. Almost 2.5 million fewer households are spending more than they earn, which is a huge improvement. In addition households tended to save more than in 2015, as the $0-$10k group dropped by 1.4 million households, with large increases in households saving larger amounts of income. One of the largest shifts appears in the decline of household who spent more than $150k than they earned. Shockingly, this category decreased 54%! I suspect that the losses of this size were primarily due to investments and housing losses, and values for both of those assets have increased significantly in the past few years.

# of Households by Savings 2017

The graph below is interactive and show the number of households who are estimated to have saved within a certain amount of income in 2017.  

The original Consumer Expenditures Survey considers retirement contributions as an expense, so the savings rate will be slightly higher if you were to adjust these numbers to account for that. Previously, I reported adjusted numbers from the 2015 data, but they trended very similarly to the un-adjusted values.

Source Data and Methodology

These results are calculated using the 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Expenditures Survey (CEX) microdata. I used the pre-exported summary tables to aggregate these values. This is a slight change from the previous report where I used the SAS import. The final numbers seemed to track very closely to 2015’s data, so I don’t believe this adjustment made a huge difference. The microdata contains household level data that is weighted by the BLS on a variety of measures to make the sampled population representative for the whole population. Granted, the smaller you slice and dice the data, the less representative it gets.

Annual Savings Amounts Table

Households 2017: 35.9% of US households spent more than they earned in 2017. This was calculated using the CEX total annual expenditure by household. One thing to note is that the CEX lumps all retirement contributions (401k, pensions, TSP) into expenditures. Household annual savings calculated as : [Estimated Pre-Tax Income] – [Estimated Taxes] – [Estimated Expenditures]. I have adjusted this to add back in contributions to pensions and 401ks so that they do not count as spending. For me personally, I would not consider my 401k contributions as an expense. Social Security is still counted as an expense.

 <-$150k               864,543           1,867,628 -54%
 -$150k to -$140k               138,558                242,359 -43%
 -$140k to -$130k                 47,988                303,275 -84%
 -$130k to -$120k               269,581                363,365 -26%
 -$120k to -$110k               312,160                411,577 -24%
 -$110k to -$10k0               476,362                513,501 -7%
 -$10k0 to -$90k               419,197                477,909 -12%
 -$90k to -$80k               603,319                581,473 4%
 -$80k to -$70k               619,058                646,504 -4%
 -$70k to -$60k               839,521                932,389 -10%
 -$60k to -$50k           1,166,458            1,215,488 -4%
 -$50k to -$40k           1,640,628            1,833,831 -11%
 -$40k to -$30k           3,053,661            2,888,244 6%
 -$30k to -$20k           5,155,602            5,229,834 -1%
 -$20k to -$10k           9,945,276            9,421,512 6%
 -$10k to $0         20,929,701          21,187,798 -1%
 $0-$10k         25,439,006          26,860,088 -5%
 $10k to $20k         17,318,481          17,137,557 1%
 $20k to $30k         11,672,699          11,312,717 3%
 $30k to $40k           7,991,685            7,590,525 5%
 $40k to $50k           6,102,965            4,965,180 23%
 $50k to $60k           3,785,373            3,342,971 13%
 $60k to $70k           2,304,070            2,250,973 2%
 $70k to $80k           1,620,960            1,584,928 2%
 $80k to $90k           1,550,191            1,064,559 46%
 $90k to $100k           1,032,460                830,612 24%
 $100k-$110k               792,750                659,814 20%
 $110k to $120k               879,661                618,322 42%
 $120k to $130k               539,349                484,008 11%
 $130k to $140k               387,455                347,594 11%
 $140k to $150k               424,410                217,597 95%
 >$150k           1,077,366            1,053,230 2%

Related Topics

Savings Rate Ranking : This uses the adjusted savings rate calculation listed above using 2015 data to compare savings as a percentage of income.
Net Worth Ranking by Age : Compare your net worth against similar ages to get a percentile rank for your net worth.
Income Ranking by Age : Compare your income against similar ages to get a percentile rank for your income.

Possible changes to Scottrade after the merger to TD Ameritrade

A month ago TD Ameritrade and Scottrade agreed to merge for $4 billion. In this merger TD Ameritrade will be buying Scottrade, and they expect to see $450 million in benefit by merging.  That $450 million will be realized through cost cutting and revenue growth.

What could this mean for you, if you have a Scottrade account?

TD Ameritrade generally has higher rates than Scottrade by as much as 43% (see below for transaction pricing differences).   Most likely after the merger Scottrade’s pricing will be increased to match TD Ameritrade.  This means that those price increases will be passed on to you to help the company “earn” the benefit from merging.  In addition, if there are TD Ameritrade branches that are nearby Scottrade branches, the merged company will most likely close one of those branches.  Read through the comparison of pricing to see if the cost differences could impact you.  If the differences are substantial for the types of trades that you do, you may want to consider moving your accounts to other brokerages.

Scottrade Pricing vs TD Ameritrade Pricing

Scottrade and TD Ameritrade do not charge inactivity fees or minimum monthly transaction fees.  So at minimum after the merger, nothing should change there.

Stocks and ETF Trades

Scottrade TD Ameritrade Difference
Online $7 $9.99 +43%
Broker $32 $44.99 +41%
Phone (IVR) $32 $34.99 +9%

One benefit that TD Ameritrade has is that they offer a wide array of around 100 ETF’s that you can trade for free.  Scottrade used to have a handful of no trading fee ETF’s but that program was discontinued.

Mutual Funds

Scottrade TD Ameritrade Difference
No Load, No Transaction Fee (NTF) $0 $0 0%
No Load $17 to sell $49.99 to sell 194%
Load $32 to sell $0 to sell -100%


Options and Contracts

Scottrade TD Ameritrade Difference
Online $7 + $0.70 per contract $9.99 + $0.70 per contract +43%
Broker $32 + $0.70 per contract $44.99 + $0.70 per contract +41%
Phone (IVR) $32 + $0.70 per contract $34.99 + $0.70 per contract +9%
Option Exercises Assignments $17 $19.99 +18%


The merger has not yet been approved by the FTC, but is it likely to be approved as there are other competing brokerages that would be larger than the combined company.