Income & Personal Finance
Learn why it is imperative that you understand the various types of income



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Learn Why You Must Have Working Knowledge of the Various Types of Income



Over the years we have found that consumers are often confused by the different types of income that they hear or read about.


In this discussion we will attempt to remove the confusion that you may have about the various types of income that you may hear or read about on a consistent basis.




Adjusted Gross Income




Adjusted Gross Income or (AGI) as it is often called is used in the United States on individual income tax returns and it represents the total gross income that you earn for the year minus certain deductions.


Taxable Income is adjusted gross income less allowances for personal exemptions and itemized deductions and taxable income will be explained in greater detail later in this discussion.


For most consumers who file a U.S. individual tax return AGI is more relevant than gross income.





Gross income is income that you receive from all sources and include—sales price of goods or property, less cost of the property sold, plus other income.





It includes wages, interest, dividends, business income, rental income, and all other types of income that you may receive.


Adjusted Gross Income is that income you receive for the year—less deductions.


Several deductions (e.g. medical expenses and miscellaneous itemized deductions) are limited based on a percentage of AGI.


Certain phase outs, including those of lower tax rates and itemized deductions, are based on levels of AGI. Many states base state income tax on AGI with certain deductions.



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After-Tax Income



The amount of money that you have left over after all federal, state and withholding taxes have been deducted from your taxable income equals your after-tax income.


After-tax income represents the amount of "disposable income" that you have to spend on future investments or on current consumption.


After-Tax Income is often called “income after taxes” or disposable income.


When analyzing or forecasting your personal cash flows (or budget and personal income statement), it is important to use an estimated after-tax net cash flow.





This is a more appropriate measure because your after-tax cash flows are what you actually have available for consumption.





This is not to say that all of your investments are purchased with after tax income—some companies offer salary deferral retirement plans that deduct money on a pre-tax basis.


The money would be taxed once you decided to withdraw the amount (such as for retirement).


However, because most people have less income during their retirement years compared to their prime earning years, the amount of your tax paid would normally be less.




Discretionary Income




Discretionary Income is the money that you would have remaining after all of your bills are paid off on a monthly or yearly basis.


It is income after subtracting taxes and your normal expenses such as rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance, medical, transportation, property maintenance, child support, inflation, food and other miscellaneous monthly expenses that you pay to maintain a certain standard of living that you desire for yourself and your family.



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Discretionary Income is the amount of your income available for spending after the essentials (such as food, clothing, and shelter) have been taken care of on a monthly or annual basis.





To derive your discretionary income you would take your gross income and subtract your taxes and necessities on a monthly or annual basis.


"Disposable Income" is often incorrectly used to denote discretionary income—therefore, it is important that you are able to distinguish between the two.


The meaning and your understanding of disposable income and discretionary income should be interpreted from the context in which it is spoken or written.


"Disposable Income" is the amount of money you have left after the payment of your "taxes"—left to spend or save.





When applying for a loan (mortgage, consumer loan), lenders may take into consideration your discretionary income in order to assess your loan repayment capacity.





Discretionary Income provides the lender with more information on your capacity to repay than the debt-to-income ratio in the case where you have a lot of debt.


In some cases consumers may have a lot of income, such that the percent of available income may be smaller than normal standards would allow, but the actual amount of money is still large and will support a loan that the consumer is requesting.


Discretionary Income is the amount of your income that is left for spending, investing or saving after your "taxes and personal necessities" (such as food, shelter, and clothing) have been paid. 


It is money that "you" have "discretion over" as to how you want to utilize it (spend or save)!





Discretionary income includes money spent on luxury items, vacations, savings and non-essential goods and services.





Discretionary Income is “derived from” disposable income, which equals gross income minus taxes.


The total discretionary income levels for an economy will fluctuate over time, typically in line with business cycle activity.


When economic output is strong (as measured by GDP or other market indicators), discretionary income levels tend to be high as well. 


Or another way of looking at it is when the economy is booming discretionary income among consumers tend to be higher.





If inflation occurs in the price of life's necessities, then discretionary income will fall, assuming that wages and taxes remain constant or relatively constant.





Discretionary spending is an important part of a healthy economy.  People will only spend money on things like travel, movies and consumer electronics if they have the funds to do so.


Some people will use credit cards to purchase discretionary goods, but increasing personal debt is not the same as having discretionary income—and can be a dangerous strategy as it is possible that you could run your credit balance up to a level where it would be difficult or impossible to repay in a manner that made good financial sense.


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Disposable Income



It is important that you distinguish in your mind that Disposable Income is money that you have left after paying your taxes—while discretionary income is money that you have left over after paying your taxes “and” mortgage/rent, food, utilities, and life's other necessities.


Disposable Income is the amount of money that you and/or your household have available for spending and saving after income taxes have been accounted for.


Disposable Personal Income is often monitored as one of the many key economic indicators used to gauge the overall state of the economy and it is calculated as follows:





Disposable Personal Income versus Discretionary Personal Income





If you earn $100,000 and were in the 28% tax bracket your "disposable income" would be $72,000 on an annual basis.


Let’s say you have yearly household expenses of $40,000—your “discretionary income” would be $32,000 on an annual basis.





On a monthly basis your disposable and discretionary income would be as follows:





On a monthly basis your earnings would be $8,333 and your taxes would be $2,333—leaving you with disposable income of $6,000.


With monthly expenses of $3,333 per month your discretionary income ($8,333 minus $2,333 minus $3,333) would be $2,667 on a monthly basis.


Be sure to understand the two examples above as by doing so you will be in position to understand disposable and discretionary income in clear terms!


In 2005, the average disposable personal income dipped into negative territory for the first time since 1933.


This means that in 2005, Americans were spending their entire DPI or Disposable Personal Income—and then tapping into debt for further spending. 


Do your best to avoid that scenario in your and your family’s credit and financial life.



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Gross Income




Gross Income is your total personal income before taking taxes or deductions into account.


Your gross income is how much you make before taxes. Gross Income is the figure people are looking for when they ask you how much you gross a month.


Gross Income is an important number when analyzing your personal finances, it indicates how you could more effectively plan your and your family’s credit and financial future.


Keep in mind that gross income varies widely from individual to individual.


You must always remember that “Gross Income” is all of your income from taxable sources, before subtracting any adjustments, deductions or exemptions.  Be able to contrast that with Net Income which is your income after subtracting the above.




Modified Adjusted Gross Income




Certain tax calculations are based on modified versions of AGI.


The definition of Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) varies according to the purpose for which it is used.


These modified versions may add certain items to AGI that were excluded in computing gross income. Common additions include tax exempt interest and the excluded portion of Social Security benefits.


Modified Adjusted Gross Income or MAGI is often used when calculating the alternative minimum tax (AMT).



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Net Income




Simply put, income is defined as money that comes into your personal household, usually generated as compensation in the form of a paycheck for work you and other household members have done.


Net income refers to take home pay or the amount of money earned after payroll withholding such as state and federal income taxes, social security taxes, and pretax benefits like health insurance premiums.


If you are enrolled in a flexible spending account to pay for medical costs, the amount withheld from each check is also on a pre-tax basis.


Always realize that you save on your taxes when you pay for benefits on a pre-tax basis and if used effectively you can build a large nest egg.


If your employer matches your retirement contributions be sure to contribute at least up to the match and even more if your financial position allows you to do so. 


By doing the above you can put yourself in position to live your retirement in a manner that you desirenot in a manner that others desire that you live! 


To maximize your retirement returns be sure to start early in your life stage and be sure to put a plan in place that allows you to reach your "retirement number" that you need to reach so that you can enjoy retirement on your terms!



In simple form Net Income is Gross Income  less Deductions!



Net Income also includes other sources of income that you may have from selling goods or services by doing a side job, getting paid for consulting services or selling products you've made or are reselling on eBay/Amazon, your own website, at art and craft shows or other venues.


Another form of income is passive income, which is generated when you rent out rooms, homes or apartments, or you earn capital gains, interest or dividends on investments or interest bearing accounts like savings accounts or some checking accounts.


Other types of income come from royalties, which are gained from agreements made relating to copyrights, patents, or gas, mineral or petroleum properties.


Believe it or not even bartering can be a way of generating income, if you strike a really good deal.


It is not uncommon for consumers to pursue multiple streams of income based on the times that we now live in.


If you are computer savvy you can track your personal finances on software, like Quicken or you can go online to mint.com.


Other helpful links that could help you improve your personal finances and income can be found by going to the credit and personal finance page on this website.  It is a page that we feel is the most empowering credit page on the webvisit the page now by clicking here...


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Personal Income



Personal income is also known as your "before-tax income" and is used in calculating your adjusted gross income for income-tax purposes.


Personal Income is basically your “Gross Income” that was discussed earlier. It is your total income before taxes or any deductions and can include various sources.




Taxable Income



Taxable Income is a tax that governments impose on financial income generated by all entities or individuals within their jurisdiction.


By law, businesses and individuals generally must file an income tax return every year to determine whether they owe any taxes or are eligible for a tax refund.


Personal Taxable Income is derived by including all taxable income sources and subtracting out adjustments, exemptions, deductions and credits to determine your taxable income.





You Must Be Able To Distinguish Between a Tax Credit & a Tax Deduction





It is important that you realize that a  tax "credit" reduces your tax dollar for dollar!

For example, if you owed $3,000 on your taxes and you were in the 25% tax bracket and you had a tax credit of $1,000—your taxes would then be reduced to $2,000!


A tax "deduction would also reduce your taxes, however it would not be dollar for dollar—but would depend on your tax bracket!

For example, if you owed taxes of $3,000 and you were in the 25% tax bracket and you had a tax deduction of $1,000—your taxes would then be reduced to $2,750!


The point is that a credit is more valuable to you than a tax deduction—so always keep that in mind! 




You Must Properly Purchase Your Home & You Must Properly Understand Housing Ratios!




Keeping your housing ratio under 30% and your housing and debt ratio under 40% of your monthly income are a wise use of benchmarks.


If your take home pay (or gross income) is $10,000 per month—your maximum mortgage payment should be $3,000.


$3,000/$10,000 = .30


or 30% on the front-end housing ratio (monthly housing payment only versus your monthly income)


If you have monthly recurring debt of 1 year or more such as monthly credit card debt of $500, monthly car payment of $500 and student loan debt of $1,000—your housing and debt ratio would be at 50% which in many cases would signify you had to much debt.


$5,000/$10,000 = .50


or 50% on the back-end housing ratio (monthly housing payment plus your monthly debt payments of 1 year or more versus your monthly income)



Keep in mind that compensating factors—and extinuating circumstances (expected financial windfall, better school district for your kidsetcetera) could make it possible for you to have a need to exceed the above benchmarkshowever use caution! 


In addition, you must ensure that your discretionary income (mentioned above) is at an acceptable level so that you can live the lifestyle that you desire for yourself and your family.


If you were to eliminate your student loan debt of $1,000 per month prior to purchasing your home—using the above scenario your housing and debt ratio drops down to the more acceptable benchmark area of 40%now you get the picture?


$4,000/$10,000 = .40 or


40% on the back-end housing ratio (monthly housing payment plus your monthly debt payments of 1 year or more versus your monthly income)



Income tax is a key source of funds that the government (local, state, federal) use to fund its activities and serve the public.



Most countries employ a progressive income tax system in which higher income earners pay a higher tax rate compared to their lower earning counterparts. That is the case in the U.S. as well.


The first income tax imposed in America was during the War of 1812 and its original purpose was to fund the repayment of a $100 million debt that was incurred through war-related expenses.


After the war, the tax was repealed, but income tax in the United States became permanent during the early 1900’s.



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What it all Means in a Practical Sense




Understanding the various types of income that you may hear or read about from various sources on a daily basis can be difficult if you do not have a mental system to distinguish effectively among the various types.


Below we will review what you have just learned to further increase your understanding.




• You now know that your Adjusted Gross Income represents the total gross income that you earn for the year minus certain deductions.


• You now know that your After-Tax Income represents the amount of money that you have left over after all federal, state and withholding taxes have been deducted from your taxable income.


After-Tax Income is the same as "disposable income"—so be aware of the interchanging use of the terms.


• You now know that your Discretionary Income represents the money that you would have remaining after all of your bills are paid off.


Discretionary Income is income after subtracting taxes and your normal expenses such as rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance, medical, transportation, property maintenance, child support, inflation, food and other miscellaneous monthly expenses that you pay to maintain a certain standard of living that you desire.


• You now know that Disposable Income differs from Discretionary Income.


It is important that you distinguish in your mind that Disposable income is money that you have left after paying your taxes—while discretionary income is money you have left over after paying your taxes “and” mortgage/rent, food, utilities, and life's other necessities. 


Discretionary Income is money that you can spend or save at your discretion!


Disposable Income is income that you have at your disposal after the payment of taxes.


You now know that disposable income and after-tax income are basically the same thing—just expressed differently.



• You now know that your Gross Income is your total personal income before taking taxes or deductions into account.


• You now know that your gross income is how much you make before taxes. Gross Income is the figure people are looking for when they ask you how much you gross a month.


• You now know that your Modified-Adjusted Gross Income varies according to purpose and who is requesting that you modify.


All modified versions may add certain items to AGI that were excluded in computing gross income.

Common additions include tax exempt interest and the excluded portion of Social Security benefits. Modified-Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) is often used when calculating the alternative minimum tax (AMT).


• You now know that your Net Income refers to take home pay or the amount of money earned after payroll withholding such as state and federal income taxes, social security taxes, and pretax benefits like health insurance premiums.


In short, gross income less certain deductions equal Net Income.


• You now know that your Personal Income is basically your “Gross Income” that was discussed earlier. It is your total income before taxes or any deductions and can include various sources.


• You now know that your Personal Taxable Income is derived by including all taxable income sources and subtracting out adjustments, exemptions, deductions and credits—to determine your taxable income.



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Make it a point to increase your income and reduce your expenses so that you can enhance the future for yourself and your family!


Did you know that you can increase your income by making compound interest work for you
and not against you?


By understanding and being able to distinguish among the various types of income and understanding how compounding works you put yourself in position to understand your personal finances in a more intelligent (meaningful and effective way that works to your benefit) manner!


You also put yourself and your mind in a more favorable position where you can control your future in a more "financially alert manner" and in a manner that will lead to true success for you and your family!




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About This Article:

 

The above article was written by Thomas (TJ) UnderwoodThomas (TJ) Underwood is a former fee-only financial planner, a former top producing loan processor and is currently a licensed real estate broker in the state of Georgia. 


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He is the writer behind The Real Estate & Finance 360 Degrees Series of Books that include The Wealth Increaser, Home Buyer 411, Home Seller 411, and  Managing & Improving Your Credit & Finances for this MILLENNIUM.  

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He is the creator of TheWealthIncreaser.com where he regularly blogs about helping consumers improve their credit, finance and real estate pursuits in an intelligent, consistent and proactive manner. 

He’s always looking for ways to make intelligent finance improvement happen for those who “sincerely desire” success in their future. He was the first financial planner to coin the phrase "financially alert mind"  and he consistently writes in a style that is designed to provide consumers the ability to take control of their lives and achieve great results.

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