Survey responses — what jumps out at you?

Ramit Sethi · September 4th, 2007

Here are the survey responses from 1,167 respondents from last week’s gender and money survey. Rob from Bankswitcher helped with the analysis, and is willing to dig into the data a little more. I personally don’t believe all of the data — look at the household income, for example — but much of it is interesting and even surprising.

Rob has offered to do a deeper analysis if there are concrete questions about the data. From taking a look below, what jumps out at you? What questions do you have?

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  1. I agree with the strange data on personal and HHI. I think that many people are not aware of the two exact definitions, which are sometimes hard to apply if you’re still young.

    For HHI, I think we needed to differentiate between people living with their parents (high HHI), whether living with roommates or siblings or significant others should count, etc.

    Most PMB surveys include a definition so people know exactly how to answer. But for your first survey the data and analysis is still impressive. Way to go!

  2. Rachel Popkin

    On which questions did gender have a significant impact on people’s answers? I’d like to see those results.

  3. Why do the reported incomes surprise you? A full 1/3 or respondents have some kind of post-graduate training or schooling.

    What I found most amusing was the fact that only 75% of respondents get their financial information from finance blogs. And what? A quarter of the respondents just happened to stumble across your site that day?

  4. I’m dumbfounded by the 37% of respondents that answered “Never” to the query “I negotiate my own salary.” (Slide 10) This really stands out to me because here we are on a blog called I will teach you to be rich and a large percentage of people are remarkably passive in the one area where the majority of their personal wealth is derived.

    Perhaps Ramit would consider a “How to Negotiate Your Salary” article as timely.

  5. What the…??

    Um… no offense, I think you did a basically good job of conducting a general analysis, but wouldn’t the ultimate purpose of the survey be served better if the answers were grouped by gender? I sure would like to see how man and women differed on their answers and I hope that info will be coming…

  6. This was a gender and money survey, yet the results show no correlation between the two. In addition to the total sample pool percentages, could we see the responses by gender?

  7. Finn Hunaus

    I’d like to see;

    How women/men answered Q20, Q21, Q23 – is there a gap between how women see themselves and money vs how men see women and money?

    I’m also curious how people answered “Only good debt” (Q1) answered “I have following types of debt” (Q9) (answering: What do people think good debt is?) In particular, I want see how people see student loans (answering: do people see student loans as good debt?)

    Likewise, I’d be interested in seeing how the student loans were distributed among those with education and income levels. (How do the loans distribute against level of education; does the level of education significantly affect income; does income relate to the types of debt being carried.)

    I’d be curious to know how often student loans were related to other types of debt (answering: how many people who have student loans also have mortgage/consumer debt/etc. suggests: student loans prevent taking on other debt?)

    I’d like to see how income and “Types of debt” -> “I have no debt” correlate (answering: do high incomes mean low debt?)

    I’d like to know how higher education and “Main priority” (Q5) – Personal Development were related. (suggesting: there are other factors than just money that motivate people to go to school?).

    I’d like to see if “Main Priority”(Q5) – “Personal development” correlated to higher income. (suggesting: this attitude helps generate higher income)

    And I’d like to see how age relates to types of debt being carried and income level (is it the older crowd that has “no debt” and the younger crowd that dominates the student loans? Is age a good predictor of income, if controlled for education? )

  8. I’d like to see the breakdown of responses by gender. How many women vs. men felt x about budgeting, etc.

  9. dittoing Rachel Popkin and Laura–there is remarkably little content on gender considering that this is described as a survey on gender and money.

  10. I agree with Kevin above. You gathered a bunch of information that could be analyzed in a number of different ways and gave us the simplest and most generally grouped data. Could you please present the same data in a number of different ways? I think Finn Hunaus above is on the right track.

  11. Aside from items which have already been mentioned, given the age breakdown of respondents (11% over age 38), I though it was interesting that 25% plan to rely on Social Security for retirement.

  12. I’d also like to see the differences between genders since this survey was supposedly geared toward that issue. However, the all-inclusive numbers are still interesting.

  13. I’ll second TT’s thoughts on Slide 10 (salary negotiation). While I have negotiated my salary in both my post-college careers, I still don’t feel comfortable doing so and I always feel like I under-negotiate.

  14. MyNameIsMatt

    TT (commenter #4), I don’t see that as very surprising seeing how young of an audience this blog has. Most people who are young haven’t had much of an opportunity to negotiate compensation yet. Also, it’s not always advantageous to do so at a young age where just having more experience can be more important than an extra thousand or two annually. That and maybe they’ve just been lucky enough to work for companies that pay fair wages, you always hope this is the case.

  15. rob rubin

    I’ll update the slides to reflect responses by gender.

  16. I think an important omission from the survey was whether the respondents are parents. I don’t have children, but as I was taking the survey, I remember thinking that several of my answers would have been markedly different if I was a parent.

  17. In addition to ditto-ing the breakout by gender that others have mentioned, what about breaking it out by age? Do people in their 20s answer differently than those in their 40s?

  18. Brandon Mitchell

    I suspect a general lack of self-awareness either due to conceit or ignorance, based on
    the over-confidence of the respondents. It interests me that 73% report being unconcerned
    with their level of debt, the majority of respondents believe they handle financial matters
    at least “OK” and 75% *never* ignore financially unpleasant information. We seem to consist
    primarily of 20-something college graduates who are confident in financial matters,
    believe we have control over our debt and budget and are concerned with retirement,
    investing and personal development. That sounds like the target demographic Ramit is after,
    but one wonders whether an outside observer would be as confident in us as we are.

  19. I’m wondering wether there were some interesting comments on the “other” responses:)
    Also, I feel that both women and men are discouraged from talking about money – how was I to answer that tricky question about women being discouraged? “Yes they are, as are men too” or “no, they aren’t any more than men are”?

  20. Molly Bennett

    I didn’t find the household income numbers that surprising, but perhaps that’s because it’s inline with my household’s income. I do agree with what Lisa said, above, that a lot of people probably don’t know how to calculate household income if they live with relatives, roommates, etc. I know I didn’t when I was in my early 20s.

    I would also like to see the results broken down by gender for each question since this was a survey about gender and money. I think Finn Hunaus has the right idea.

    The biggest surprise to me was that 30% of people said that they don’t donate either time or money to charity! As someone who gives both plentifully (and also who feels I could always give more than I do), this really shocks me. I feel that it’s my duty to give charitably, and I’ve always made it a priority to do that even when my income was limited. I would be really interested to see how this breaks down by gender, and also by income level.

    I’d also be interested to see if having a higher income meant lower debt.

    I agree, too, that a lot of people might not know what counts as “good debt.” If my mom hadn’t given me Suze Orman’s Young, Fabulous, and Broke book a few years ago, I wouldn’t know what counts as “good debt,” either!

  21. I’d be interested in comparing income and education levels with the answers given in the charity question and the financial priorities question.

    It kind of astounds me that 30% of the respondents donate neither time nor money to charity. That’s over 300 people! Just imagine if those people all gave $10 to something today. $3000 is a lot of money! Or if all of those people donated blood? The Research group Independent Sector calculates that 1 volunteer hour is worth $18.77, as of 2006. (source) If those 300 people volunteered for 4 hours this month (one half-Saturday), that would be $22,524 in time donated.

    Sorry if I seem pushy, but volunteering and charity is important! Maybe you need to write an article about it, Ramit.

  22. Actually, before discounting the numbers for household income and personal income, I would wonder if they say something about who is frequenting this type of site. Is it possible that the people most likely to read this site are people with household income that might already classify them as rich? Also, the rest of the numbers make a pretty nice bell curve. I wonder if you had continued the household earnings breakdown into the upper reaches it might have continued as a bell?

  23. What jumps out at me? Either you have a very, VERY savvy readership or a WHOLE LOT of people are LYING.

  24. Why are people so shocked that the responses indicate a young, financially savvy readership? This IS a financial blog written by a 25 year old, geared towards a similar audience. It’s not exactly a sample of the average US population. Plus people seemed honest about time/money donated to charity and concern over negotiating salary, which would indicate they were honest in most answers.

    I myself was surprised at the income levels, with the same percentage making over 100K as making under 20K, and would be interested in seeing a breakdown of income levels versus age and education to see how that correlated. That might help it make a bit more sense (ie: a lot of the people under 24 making 20K since they might still be in school or whatever). I also thought it would have been interesting to include areas of the country and job descriptions (maybe just self-employed, work for a small business, big company, etc), but I guess it’s a little late to ask for that…. maybe on the next survey.

  25. guinness416

    The incomes indicated (and I’m also on the highest end for both personal and household) seem to bear out what I’ve often noticed in your comments – a lot of readers who aren’t the college-age wannabe-entrepreneurs you might assume – fully 70% of us are older than 25, apparently. But also, aren’t colleges heading back at the moment? Maybe that keeps the students off the site right now.

    I’d also be interested in seeing the results by gender. I’m certainly one woman whose peers are very financially savvy women, the “CFOs” of their households more often than not.

  26. Women do make less than men for the same job, generally speaking. This has been observed by social studies.

  27. Hey, Rob, thanks for volunteering your time to sort through the data. I’m sure everyone else here appreciates it as well.

  28. Minimum Wage

    TT – I have a minimum wage job. I’ve never heard of negotiating pay for a minimum wage job. It’s take it or leave it, no negotiation!

  29. Minimum Wage

    I suspect the 4% who feel overwhelmed and the 4$ who feel depressed are nearly identical groups. I also suspect that the union of the two groups comprises a very interesting group.

  30. I just don’t believe this is an accurate survey. Something is going on here. But here’s a couple of comments…

    – Regarding job negotiation… I’d be that around that percentage of jobs are actually non-negotiable. Gov’t jobs for example are hard to negotiate as are many entry level jobs.

    I wonder if some of the household income stats are including their parent’s income? A larger percentage of people in the 25-30 year old category are still living at home these days.

    – I’m particularly surprised that there are so many young rich people reading this blog but 41% have student loans as their primary debt. Also, this many are rich but only 30% have mortgages!?!

    – Finally… 70% get their financial information from blogs??? No offense to this blog. It’s entertaining and informative. But if I told my financial advisor on friday morning (when we have a meeting scheduled) that I was getting most of my information from blogs I hope he’d fire me as a client.

    – Are 77% really preparing for retirement or see it as their #1 priority. I have not experienced this in real life. Most of my friends can’t afford to even think about retirement yet.

  31. RE: salary negotiation – I thought that was a stupid question, honestly. I’m a stay at home mom. Nope, I never negotiate my income. It would be pointless. And this is something that bothered me about this survey altogether – you have to have your own personal income in order to want to do more with your money?

  32. I didn’t finish my thought….I thought it was silly that a gender and money survey didn’t take into account that at least some portion of women will choose to live on one income in order to raise kids. So this was a gender and money survey aimed only at those who work out of the home…not really a gender and money survey!

  33. This is really super cool stuff. Congrats on this achievement.

    First thing I’d do is add the Medians to all the demographics. Simply gives you a more tangible number for each parameter to work with, especially when you want to compare your numbers against other research.

    A few comments:
    > Q14 (slide 20): wow, Robert Kyosaki couldn’t agree more with this slide, if it weren’t for his “rich dad” that wasn’t actually his biological dad. No wonder, wealth, in general just grows gradually throughout generations. We seem to be copying what our parents did (or avoid what they did wrong)
    > Q16 (slide 22): amazing to see that even for a rather young audience retirement seems to be the #1 priority. Yeah, nobody really wants to work through their 67th birthday

    Some more analytical questions:
    – what is the correlation between “have no debt” (slide 7) and the answers from slide 9 (problems budgeting)?
    – what are the socio-demos of the group answering “family” on slide 11?
    – Do the answer for slide 19 (interesting topics) change significantly with demographics (e.g. HHI, debt, age, education)

    Thanks and keep up the great Blog work!

  34. styleosophy

    I took the survey and was galled by question #26, “do you women are expected to buy clothes, makeup, etc.”? I didn’t understand how this was relevant by way that your asked both males and females to participate in the survey. Who was that question for? And why didn’t you ask one specifically geared towards men-example: do we expect men to buy NFL licensed merchandise now that it’s football season? Do we expect men to drop everything at the site of a tech store? My point is, what does such a stereotypical question help to answer in regards to women and finance?

    Beyond that, what jumped at me was that you had more men answer the survey than women. Can’t wait to see the results.

  35. Keep up the great work! I love your blog.

    I’m also a stay at home mom so I do not draw a traditional salary so that can skew that portion of the survey as well. Plus- maybe several stay at home moms filled out the survey as they have more time than others- or more students filled out the survey due to having more time. Just pointing out other factors in play…

  36. Just wanted to comment that I took the survey and answered the household income question as if it only applied to myself ($46,000) since I don’t really pool my income with my housemates, although we do share some expenses. If I had counted the income of all of my housemates, we would have a household income of almost $300,000, to give you an idea of what a huge difference it would make if I had answered the question the other way.

    And if you want to know why I have five housemates and a decent salary… well, it’s an expensive city, and I’m saving a lot of money this way 🙂

  37. styleosophy: I thought the question about if we thought women were expected to purchase make-up, purses, clothes, etc. was a good one to ask. I don’t think Ramit asked because he was suggesting that women have to do these things. The reality is that a lot of women feel that they need to do those things in order to be successful in business. When there are already salary disparities between men and women, more out-of-pocket expenses for women widens the gap even further. It also means that those women have less money to invest because it is being spent on make-up, purses, clothes, etc. If those things are actually somewhat necessary for many woman to be successful in business, it impacts their ability to truly be empowered with their own personal finances.

    As a female entrepreneur, I have found that engaging in those “trappings” of femininity (ie: make-up, dresses, purses, heels, etc), has made a difference in how successful I am able to be with my business. It impacts how seriously I’m taken by other business people (both men and women). It may have more to do with the confidence I have when I know I look “the part” of a successful business owner, but regardless of WHY it makes a difference, it definitely makes one. One of the distinct advantages of being a business owner, however, is that I get to take some of those “trappings” as write-offs.

    At the other end of the spectrum is my partner (life-partner, not business-partner), who is a butch lesbian. She doesn’t wear make-up, dresses or carry a purse, and she’s very successful in her field. If she presented in more traditionally feminine ways, she would probably look like she was in some bizarre kind of drag show. I don’t think that being female necessarily requires one to look traditionally “feminine” in order to be successful in business, but I do think that this is a consideration for many women. I think that I am more of the “norm” than my partner is with regards to the question Ramit had on the survey regarding this issue, and I think it was a very relevant one to ask on a survey about gender and money.

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  39. styleosophy

    molly: taken from your perspective, you have given question #26 a different meaning to me…thank you. And I like your blog!

  40. TT – I never negotiate my salary as I work for the federal government and am paid on the government pay scale. These are not negotiable. There are many reasons people are not able to negotiate their salaries, as others have mentioned above.