Discretionary Income

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DEFINITION of 'Discretionary Income'

The amount of an individual's income that is left for spending, investing or saving after taxes and personal necessities (such as food, shelter, and clothing) have been paid. Discretionary income includes money spent on luxury items, vacations and non-essential goods and services.

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

BREAKING DOWN 'Discretionary Income'

Aggregate 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 gross measure), discretionary income levels tend to be high as well. If inflation occurs in the price of life's necessities, then discretionary income will fall, assuming that wages and taxes remain 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.

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RELATED FAQS
  1. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do I know how much of my income should be discretionary?

    While there is no hard rule for how much of a person's income should be discretionary, Inc. magazine points out that it would ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What category of retailers will perform most strongly when the economy is doing well?

    When the economy is doing well, the market segments that perform best are volatile segments with products and services that ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How does discretionary income relate to autonomous consumption?

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  5. What are the key metrics used to measure the business cycle?

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