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The Stock Market: The Biggest Driver of Wealth Inequality in America

The average person (we will refer to as 'Person A') in America looks like this -

Annual Income: $61,937

Annual Consumption: $61,036

Net Worth: $121,411

Estimated Stock Investments: $54,000*

Annual Stock Income: $4,968

Annual Tax Savings: $348

*greater than 95% of this stock investment is via 401-K or pension plans

And here is what the the average person in the top 10% ('Person B') looks like -

Annual Income: $309,348

Annual Consumption: $96,036

Net Worth: $2,598,400

Estimated Stock Investments: $1,392,830

Annual Stock Income: $128,140

Annual Tax Savings: $19,221

A couple of quick observations based on the above include -

  • Person A lives paycheck-to-paycheck, meanwhile;

  • Person B saves more than 3 times Person A's salary every year

  • Although Person B makes more than 5x the income of Person A, they only do 1.5x the spending; aka consumption does not rise proportionally to income

  • The stock market produces 28x more income and tax savings for Person B

  • If Person B suddenly had no income, they could live the exact same lifestyle just on their stock market income and tax savings... for the rest of their life

  • If Person A suddenly had no income, they would drain their entire net worth in just two years

  • Assuming both keep their current pattern of income and consumption and don't sell any stock; the gap between Person A and Person B in just five years grows by 159%, where Person B has nearly 6.5 million more dollars

It is easy to see based on the above how the stock market perpetuates wealth inequality by widening the gap between top income earners and average income earners. What does this number look like as an entire population?

The difference between the top 10% of US earners and everyone else is about 15.37 trillion dollars. To put that number into perspective it is just about the size of China's GDP as the second wealthiest country in the world. Let me say that again, the difference between average consumers that barely participate in the stock market and the top 10% that have more than half of their net worth in stock is the size of China's economic output.

On the other hand, if every American invested just 1% of their consumption back into the stock market, the wealth gap would close by approx. 2% each year. If Person A put away just 1% of their consumption into the stock market, in 10 years that person would be able to pay about 1/3 of that consumption each year with just stock market income. Person A would also have a 50% higher net worth than if they didn't do this. Food for thought next time anyone asks whether participating in the stock market is good for everyone.


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