- A recent INSIDER and Morning Consult survey asked Americans to choose how they would spend an extra $US1,000.
- The respondents also self-identified with a socio-economic class, and the top choice for each class is telling of their financial situation.
- The self-identified poor and working class respondents were most likely to choose to pay off debt; the middle-class respondents were most likely to choose to save; and the affluent respondents were most likely to choose to invest.
- The lowest priority for each class was donating to charity.
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Americans’ financial tendencies appear to be fairly in step with their socio-economic status, according to a recent INSIDER and Morning Consult survey.
The survey asked Americans to choose how they would spend an extra $US1,000 from a list of nine options: pay outstanding bills, pay down debt, save it, invest it, donate it to charity, use it for travel, purchase necessities, go shopping, or don’t know/no opinion.
Of the 4,400 Americans polled, 897 identified as poor, 1,327 identified as working class, 1,364 identified as middle class, 451 identified as upper middle class, and 79 identified as affluent.
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When their answers for spending a hypothetical $US1,000 were combined with socio-economic class, the results were telling.
The self-identified poor and working class respondents were most likely to choose to pay off debt; the middle-class respondents were most likely to choose to save; and the affluent respondents were most likely to choose to invest. The least popular choice for each class was donating to charity.
Given an extra $US1,000, nearly 30% of the self-identified poor respondents said they would pay outstanding bills and 22% said they would pay down debt. The most popular choice for self-identified working class respondents was pay down debt (32%).
Meanwhile, nearly 31% of both the middle-class and upper middle-class respondents would save an extra $US1,000 above all else.
The pool of affluent respondents was smallest (just 79 people) but their responses provide insight as to why they may have identified as affluent – extra money goes toward investments and savings rather than debt, perhaps because they have less of it. Twenty-eight per cent, a plurality, said they would invest the extra money, while nearly 25% said they would save it. Less than 20% of the self-identified affluent would either pay outstanding bills or pay down debt.
These results aren’t surprising considering other findings from the survey and conventional financial advice. Financial planners often recommend paying off debt, saving for an emergency and retirement, and then investing, in that order.
According to the INSIDER and Morning Consult survey, the respondents who identified as poor and working class are most likely to have credit-card debt and student-loan debt and least likely to have a retirement savings account with more than $US15,000 put away. It makes sense, then, that they would leap at the chance to use a windfall to get out of debt.
Meanwhile, more than half of respondents who identified as affluent have a brokerage account, which is a type of investing account. They’re the least likely class to have credit-card or student-loan debt, and more than half of the affluent respondents already have $US100,000 saved, compared with about 30% of those who identify as middle class.
The emphasis on saving by the self-identified middle-class respondents underscores an earlier report from the Urban Institute. The data show about one-third of middle-class Americans, defined as a family of three earning between $US40,840 and $US81,680, felt financially insecure in the last year.
It’s important to note, however, that results can be skewed when people self-identify with a class – it’s often based on feeling like they have enough money to cover their expenses and accomplish goals, and not on their actual earnings.
In total, 570 of the INSIDER and Morning Consult survey respondents reported income of more than $US100,000, but 10% identified as working class and 3% identified as poor, while only around 6% identified as affluent. The majority identified as middle class (nearly 42%) or upper middle class (nearly 36%). In some places across the US, a six-figure income may feel inadequate, but according to the official definition, most Americans earning that level of income are considered at least middle class.
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