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More House, Less Booze: How Spending Changes From Age 25 To 75

As anyone who has been 25 and not 25 can tell you, spending patterns change over the course of adult life.

We built the graph below to track these changes. It shows how different categories of spending change between age 25 and 75. For each category, spending at age 25 is equal to 1 on the graph.

The graph is based on data from this paper (PDF) by Princeton economist Mark Aguiar and University of Chicago economist Erik Hurst. It focuses on nondurables, which means it does not include some big-ticket items like cars and appliances. It also does not include health insurance and education spending.

A few key points from the graph:

  • Overall, spending rises steadily from young adulthood into middle age, peaks around age 50, then falls steadily.
  • Eating out, gas and clothing all follow the same pattern as overall spending. The authors of the paper suggest this is driven by the typical career arc, where spending on getting to work, looking presentable and eating while at work peaks around age 50.
  • It's confirmed: You'll never drink as much, or go out as much, as you do in your 20s.
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