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What Is Disposable Income And How To Calculate It?

Disposable income is a crucial indicator of an individual, household, or nation’s economic health
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Karolina Grabowska
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Disposable income is a common term used by economists across the world. While it says ‘disposable’ it is not the income that is trashed. In simple words, disposable income is the money people are left with after paying all their taxes and expenses. This is the money that they can spend as per their choice or need. It is an important economic indicator and every citizen should know how to calculate their disposable income to manage their money efficiently.

A hand holding coins | Getty Images | Photo illustration by Christopher Furlong
Getty Images | Photo illustration by Christopher Furlong

Disposable income or disposable personal income (DPI) is the amount of money that an individual or household has after income taxes and mandated costs from government legislation have been deducted. Thus, it is the portion of income that may be freely available to spend on discretionary items or activities such as saving, investing, and living costs.

Representative Image : Pexels | Photo by Karolina Grabowska
Pexels | Photo by Karolina Grabowska

The general formula to calculate disposable income is as follows: Disposable income = Total Gross Income-Mandatory Deductions

The total income here represents the entirety of gross wages that an individual, household, or collectively society earns. This may be calculated by adding up the returned wages or sales or other income that is earned.

Further, mandatory deductions here mean the mandatory costs imposed by the government, sanctions, income taxes, other payroll taxes, and other compulsory contributions such as Society Security.

Thus, to calculate your total disposable income, follow these steps:

1. Identify and calculate your annual gross income

2. Note all tax rates that apply to the gross income

3. Multiply the annual gross income by the applicable tax rate

4. Subtract the total tax amount from the total annual gross income

Disposable income is a crucial indicator of an individual, household, society, or nation’s economic health. Economists across the world closely monitor disposable income trends to track consumer spending and economic growth, per Investopedia.


Disposable income is the primary driver of consumer spending and saving and when it rises, people generally have more money to spend which leads to economic growth. On the other hand, if people have less disposable income then they may cut back on spending and in turn the economic growth could slow down.

Economists use disposable income data to study consumer behavior and help make informed decisions about how governments should manage debt and where they should allocate money to stimulate growth in the economy.

Also, a higher average disposable income of a country indicates a higher level of living as it is possible for people to enjoy quality goods, services, leisure pursuits, and ensures participation in social and cultural events.

Further, disposable income data is also helpful to understand the income disparities and poverty levels in a country. By comparing disposable income levels across different demographics and in different areas, economists and policymakers can identify the areas where inequality or poverty needs to be addressed.


Discretionary income is another financial metric and it is often confused with disposable income. While the two are similar in nature and have a similar impact on the economy and the money an individual spends on products, they are inherently different.

Discretionary income is part of the income that is available to spend as per choice. This is the money left after paying the necessary costs such as housing, utilities, health insurance, EMIs, etc. Thus, in simple words, discretionary income is calculated by deducting all the necessary costs from the total disposable income.