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Income Investing Wealth

Dividend Growth vs Median Wage Growth

For most, relying on an honest salary to create prosperity has failed. Median incomes flatlined in the new millennium. The path many use escape the rat race.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, most people are broke as fuck. The days of middle class growth and prosperity ended a generation ago.

Need proof? Look at real (real = adjusted for inflation) median household income in the United States. For years it was declining. Median real household incomes were flat from 1999 to 2016.

This seemingly simple measure is a driving force behind many of the recent societal shifts across America and much of the developed world. This is because while the economy has grown, the average Joe has been left behind. The wealth created by the overall economy didn’t simply evaporate – instead it went to a select few.

The 1%.

The owners of capital.

Labor has been shortchanged for a generation and people are looking for answers. This is precisely why far-left and far-right views are growing in popularity. Both wings of competing political parties offer radical solutions (and scapegoats) to their constituents who – driven by desperation – eat it up. The same situation has occured many times throughout history, often with tragic results.

Luckily, real median household incomes have started to improve. Still, the experience over the past 20 years has been horrible.

On average, despite a couple good recent years, real household incomes in America have grown by 0.53% each year this millennium! Compare that to average real GDP growth over the past 20 years of roughly 2% (which is already on the low side, historically).

Now compare real median household incomes and real GDP to real dividends paid by the S&P 500. The chart below shows real dividends per share for the S&P 500.

On its own this line doesn’t provide much information to evaluate against real household incomes or real GDP. The chart below, however, shows year-by-year growth in S&P 500 real dividends.

The average annual growth in real dividends this millennium: 5.14%.

5.14% vs 0.53% growth in real income growth (dividends vs. wages) is a massive difference. Especially if you compound this over 20 years as you can see below.

At 5.14% annual growth, $100 of annual dividend income grows to $272.

At 0.53% annual growth, $100 of annual wage income grows to $111.

That’s 145% more income for the person who derives their income from dividends. This clearly shows that the owners of capital (shareholders) have far outperformed the providers of labour (workers) over the past 20 years. And this doesn’t even count the capital gains on shares during the same period.

So who would you rather be?

This is the reason why many people have chosen to transition from providers of labour to owner of capital by saving and investing heavily. The aim is to accumulate enough capital to replace labour income with dividend income + capital growth. It’s the path many use escape the rat race.