Americans Americans Are Saving Once Again

The Globe and Mail reports that Americans are once again saving money. From a negative saving rate earlier in the decade (i.e. spending more money than they earned) and a zero savings rate in 2008, Americans are now saving more. In other words, more Americans are becoming frugal whether they want to or not. An excerpt from the article:

In one of the biggest and most misunderstood changes in modern economic history, citizens of the largest economy in the world are suddenly doing something they haven’t done in years: They’re saving money. It is having myriad consequences, including a tsunami of money in one part of the world, and an air pocket in demand in other parts of the world, especially China.

Americans are suddenly spending less than they earn. While that might not sound heretical or surprising – how long can you go on spending more money than you earn? – it is an epochal moment for the free-spending United States. After saving an average of more than 7 per cent of disposable income until almost 1990, the United States went into a savings tailspin. Savings rates fell, in fits and starts, from 8 per cent, through 6 per cent in the early 1990s, to 2 per cent around 2000, to the ignominy of a negative savings rate by mid-2005.

Now, however, that is changing rapidly. November economic data showed U.S. savings spiked to 2.8 per cent of disposable income, up from zero at the beginning of 2008. Is it that Americans have suddenly figured out that saving is a good thing, or are they taking some sort of moral stand against profligate spending?

Be serious. Americans remain the wild-eyed spenders of the world, and that was never likely to change without external pressure. They have, however, been forced into this, with their equity investments and real estate investments all sliding into nothingness, and with the economy in a deep recession. They must repair their broken personal balance sheets, and so, as painful as it might be, they are saving money.

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