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I’m getting fed up with consumers – the little guys like you and me – taking the blame for the economy. We as a nation spent like crazy, lost a ton of money in the housing and stock market, and now are getting blamed for being careful with our money. “Even as the economic recovery plods ahead, many American consumers are refusing to come along,” says an AP story published today. “They’re not spending freely – and they have no plans to.”
The story makes it seem as if “spending freely” were a good thing. Craziness!
The headline of the story in my local paper (it might have been different in yours) is, “Economy’s new threat: frugality.” If so, here is the face of the enemy: Marjorie Feldman of St. Louis, who owns a home that lost 20% of its value and who saw her retirement account shrink by 15%. Marjorie’s confidence in the economy will “never” recover, according to the story.
That’s code for she’s not spending like she used to. Marjorie’s new frugal spending habits, which many Americans have adopted, are important because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of our nation’s economy. If Marjorie and others in her situation would max out their credit cards, we could see the economy recover, the story seems to say.
Or…we could recognize that our economy has an unhealthy dependence on consumer spending that is not sustainable.
Instead of spending beyond our means, we could budget and live within our means. We could save money to retire before we croak. We could save so that social security, Mediccare, and unemployment are not our only safety nets. We could save so our kids can get through college without crippling debt. We could save so that when times get tough we have emergency savings to rely on.
Americans currently save an average of 3.1 percent, down from last year’s peak of 6.4, the story says. I save 10-20% of my income because I feel responsible for my fiscal future. Why do you save?