Deconstruction of Social Media Facts

You may have seen the below image circulating on various social networks to highlight the financial hardships of people on the average salary. I saw it earlier on Facebook and it is one of many "facts" that just bothers me, being that they appear baseless and controversial.

With no references to where these numbers came from and people sharing it without fact checking I decided i'd do some checking of my own.

Here's my deconstruction.

Average Income Average income This is the biggy for me, where does this number come from? Is it before or after tax? Does it include or exclude any benefits, tax breaks, etc?

There are a ton of sources out there for UK average income, and obviously this varies massively region to region, person to person.

However if we go from Wikipedia (as this references a ton of other sources, so is the most comprehensive number I could find). This states £21,000 as the average annual salary in the UK, after tax this comes down to £18,700.

So already this is a fair chunk over the average salary mentioned above. This is also the UK average, if we look at the London average we can say around £24,000 (based on £500 p/w based on some neighbourhood statistics).

My first amendment then is the monthly average salary, £1,477 is the monthly take home based on a £21K salary after tax. Calculated using the salary calculator.

Average rent Average rent I'm not sure why we'd be comparing the UK average salary to the London average rent, the London average salary is higher than the UK average salary and this rule clearly applies to rent too. A good way to see this variation is in this report from HomeLet

My parents being estate agents, i've grown up around this industry and know very well how much property rental varies by location, size (one bedroom could be big or small, etc.) and whether it's furnished, unfurnished. There's so much variation it'd be near enough impossible to put together an average for the UK, London would be tricky enough.

Taking a look at RightMove's rental index, the average UK rent (in general, it's surprisingly difficult to find an average rent for a specific property type).

RightMove Rental Index

If I'm being generous you could say the average rent is £800 outside of London, that's fairly high but again depends exactly on area.

What's more, there is no real reason a single adult needs to be in a one bedroom apartment over a studio apartment.

If we assume this image isn't about people living above their means, then people would be living somewhere they afford not necessarily somewhere they want to.

Utility Bills

Utility bills can be difficult to pin down with averages these vary on what you use, who you use, when you use it and how you're billed.

To simplify this I've checked averages from NPower and Thames Water. The number given actually isn't far off the values provided by NPower and Thames.

Gas/Electricity averages out at £63 on a high tariff, we'll assume this for now to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Image of stats from NPower

Water gives us an annual average of £288.11 so a monthly cost of around £24.

Image of stats from Thames

This brings a combined monthly total of £87, not too far from the £95 given.

Council Tax

Council Tax

Averaging council tax is obviously not simple, it's in the name, a tax set by your council based on a property band which the government set against your property.

The government do say though that council tax band D is the most common tax bracket so we'll stick to that and the average they provide for that is £1,484. Divided monthly is £124.

Image of the council tax preview

This is a lot higher than the value given in however this isn't with the 25% discount for single occupiers, if we're doing that then we'd be looking at £1,113 and a monthly cost of £93.

TV License TV License

This one is nice and simple, £24 a month for your first 6 months and then after £12 a month. We'll use the secondary cost of £12 a month, and assume that if it was over 6 months you'd just save in the later 6.

TV License cost

Transport (Zone 1-2)

Public transport varies so so much throughout the country, with everyones journeys being different and pricing variations between private and nationalised companies.

For this only I'll follow the London pricing as this is fixed. £124.50 is the lowest monthly cost if you travel regularly in Zone 1-2, this drops depending on what zones so again can be less.

Image of fares

The only issue I have now is that this is a London specific average where people have a higher average wage, this will bring down the accuracy (as low as it is already).

Mobile (sim only)

Mobile cost

Even though Sim Only deals might not be great for young people, needs must and some of these deals are great value for money.

Searching for 2 minutes I found deals over half the price of the average listed here, at £4.95 p/m.

Image of monthly deals

Food

Food Cost

I'm not even going to try come up with an average backed up with any numbers or research. This really varies per person, but having been on benefits for a while I know how to save cost with food.

It's not glamorous nor enjoyable but you can live on it, buying frozen meat and veg is a great way to save money. As well as avoiding the brands, when you can't afford it you don't need it - the off brand and own brand stuff is great for any one on a budget.

Based on frozen meat and veg, combined with staples like pasta, rice and potatoes you can reduce your weekly food to around £20-30 for a single person (hitting the reduced section, poundland stores etc. help too). Monthly food could be around £120.

This is based on my own experience but obviously will vary massively based on what shops you have access to, dietary requirements etc.

Internet

Internet Cost

The same as with Mobile, it's just about looking around for the best deals and if you can't afford a TV package (and tbh why would you pay anyway, Freeview and the Internet has it all) then you just want the cheapest broadband you can get.

I found a package for just £17 (line rental cost) for 18th months, roughly half the price of the pictured cost.

Image of prices

Adding it all up

Average Salary: £1,477 Average Rent: -£800 (£677)
Average Utilities: -£87 (£590)
Average Council Tax: -£93 (£497)
TV License: -£12 (£485)
Travel: -£124.50 (£360.50)
Mobile: -£4.95 (£355.55)
Food: -£120 (£235.55)
Internet: -£17 (£218.55)

Salary Remaining: +£218.55

That leaves us with over £200 spare, so we could up the monthly cost of food, travel and rent slightly if need be.

The conclusion to all of this is to not just share/retweet facts when you can't verify them. Otherwise you'll just annoy me...

NB

This post is purely about the annoyance of incorrect, biased or simply misleading facts circulating social media. Nothing political or similar.