Disposable income is total personal income minus personal current taxes. In national accounts definitions, personal income minus personal current taxes equals disposable personal income. Subtracting personal outlays (which includes the major category of personal [or private] consumption expenditure) yields personal (or, private) savings, hence the income left after paying away all the taxes is referred to as disposable income.
Restated, consumption expenditure plus savings equals disposable income after accounting for transfers such as payments to children in school or elderly parents’ living and care arrangements.
The marginal propensity to consume (MPC) is the fraction of a change in disposable income that is consumed. For example, if disposable income rises by $100, and $65 of that $100 is consumed, the MPC is 65%. Restated, the marginal propensity to save is 35%.
For the purposes of calculating the amount of income subject to garnishments, United States’ federal law defines disposable income as an individual’s compensation (including salary, overtime, bonuses, commission, and paid leave) after the deduction of health insurance premiums and any amounts required to be deducted by law. Amounts required to be deducted by law include federal, state, and local taxes, state unemployment and disability taxes, social security taxes, and other garnishments or levies, but does not include such deductions as voluntary retirement contributions and transportation deductions. Those deductions would be made only after calculating the amount of the garnishment or levy. The definition of disposable income varies for the purpose of state and local garnishments and levies.
According to the Better Life Index study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States of America has the highest average household disposable income of all of the OECD member countries in the world.
Discretionary income is disposable income (after-tax income), minus all payments that are necessary to meet current bills. It is total personal income after subtracting taxes and minimal survival expenses (such as food, medicine, rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance, transportation, property maintenance, child support, etc.) to maintain a certain standard of living. It is the amount of an individual’s income available for spending after the essentials have been taken care of:
Discretionary income = gross income – taxes – all compelled payments (bills)
Despite the definitions above, disposable income is often incorrectly used to denote discretionary income. For example, people commonly refer to disposable income as the amount of “play money” left to spend or save. The Consumer Leverage Ratio is the expression of the ratio of total household debt to disposable income.
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