Consumerism |

Half of Americans Have No Savings

I guess this shouldn’t be surprising given the number of cars you see lined up at Starbucks every morning and extrapolate from there about the state of personal finances in America.

GoBankingRates offers up this item today about how much money people have in their savings accounts (granted, this doesn’t include retirement accounts, so it’s not the end of the world – it’s just moderately disturbing), along with the rather simple explanation that out-of-control spending is the primary reason for the chart below.

I remember getting lots of blank stares when people would ask how my wife and I retired at such a young age and I’d say, “It’s not just how much money you have, how much money you spend is pretty important too – the little things really add up”.

Then again, conventional wisdom these days is probably, “Why do I need a savings account as long as I’ve got credit cards”, an attitude that banks probably just love to hear.

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The Madness of Burgers and Obesity

Having just finished season two of Mad Men (missed it from the start and figured I’d record the whole series on AMC just prior to the finale a few weeks ago), it’s impossible to miss the delicious juxtaposition of the most recent obesity data from Gallup and the latest offering from one of America’s fast food chains that will no doubt be a big hit in Mississippi.

Though that generation clearly smoked too much and consumed way too much alcohol, obesity is virtually non-existent (at least on Madison Avenue). I’m guessing that 1960s era Mad Men would be a little shocked at a lot of changes that have occurred over the last 50 years, things like obesity and burgers probably being near the top of that list.

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April Retail Sales Disappoints

Markets will likely cheer the news from the Commerce Department that U.S. retail sales flat-lined in April (when most analysts were expecting solid gains) as this makes it less likely that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates anytime soon.

As shown above, the result for April was slightly negative, but rounded to zero and, when combined with the report on business inventories in the next hour or so should make for an exciting update to the Atlanta Fed’s closely watched GDPNow forecast at 10 AM.

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Confidence is (Relatively) High

The latest Gallup data released just this morning showed that, after moving into positive territory for the first time since prior to the Great Recession, Americans’ confidence in the U.S. economy remained positive for a second straight week.

Actually, the index fell last week, from +2 to +1, but let’s not quibble about that.

An improving job market (albeit without the wage gains), falling energy prices, and U.S. stock indexes that remain near all-time highs were key factors behind the improved outlook as more than half of the poll’s respondents commented “everything is awesome”.

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Young and Dumb Again

Via this story by Catherine Rampell at the Washington Post comes the graphic below showing how personal savings rates have changed over the years by age group.

Recall that the personal savings rate is simply disposable income less spending, so, if you’ve got a negative savings rate, it means you’re probably not putting away much (or anything at all) for retirement while subsidizing your spending by going further into debt.

The 0-34 crowd is quickly getting back into the “buy stuff with money you don’t have” mindset as the yellow line has recently diverged sharply from the others. Presumably, some of this is being forced upon them due to wages rising slower than the cost of living.

Also, it’s interesting to note that, at the peak of the financial crisis/deleveraging , we barely got back to the savings rate of the early 1990s which, as compared to prior decades was well below the 12-13 percent norm.

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