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Breaking the Consumer Addiction

May 4th, 2008 at 09:16 pm

I recently read an article by Henry K. (“Bud”) Hebeler at Bankrate.com. Bud, the former President of Boeing Aerospace, has spent his retirement years helping people prepare for retirement. His popular web site, analyzenow.com, has many helpful retirement tools. Bud was also kind enough to provide a technical edit of my book, before it was published, as well as to write my book’s Foreword.

In his article, Bud shows that the personal savings rates in the US have deteriorated from 10% in 1985 to 5% in 1990 to 2.5% in 2000 to 0 today. Personal savings rates today are the same as they were from 1929 through 1931, after the stock market crash that led to the great depression.

As savings rates have receded, personal consumption has climbed. In inflation adjusted dollars, consumption per capita in the US has climbed 25% from 1985 to today. From these figures, it is easy to see why the average American now saves nothing, compared to a 10% savings rate in 1985.

What you may not realize is why this has occurred. We all know that, until recently, credit was extremely easy to get. Credit cards, interest only mortgages, home equity loans and car loans helped transform us into a society of debtors instead of savers.

Since the vast majority of our GDP now comes from consumerism, US industry wants you to spend. Our financial institutions make significant profits from credit card interest and other forms of personal indebtedness. Even the government encourages spending over savings by providing tax deductions for mortgage interest while taxing savings interest at the same rate as earned income. State and local governments get much of their income from sales taxes that are placed on the goods and services that you buy.

Our President once said that we are addicted to oil. I would take that a step further and say we are addicted to consuming. Look at how often the media refers to you as a “consumer “ and see if you ever see the US population called savers.

If you have an addiction to consumption, now is the time to break it. As I often recommend, when you get your pay check, pay your self first by saving a portion of your paycheck. If, at age 30, you save $50 per week, with a 7% investment return, that $50 payment will be worth almost $400,000 when you are age 65.

As your pay increases, increase your saving amount until you are “paying yourself” at least 10% of your take home pay. By paying yourself first, you will have adequate resources to live an abundant retirement. This approach will also help you overcome the “consumption addiction” that industry, financial institutions and the government are all hoping that you will never break.

2 Responses to “Breaking the Consumer Addiction”

  1. luxlivingfrugalis Says:

    Here! Here!!

    Pay yourself first!

  2. Rachel @ Master Your Card Says:

    I agree with you. It is well worth saving some money each month to prepare for the future. I only wish that I had started saving when I first started earning, instead of spending it all on going to the cinema!

    I do think there is a lot of pressure in today's society to spend money and if you do not have new clothes, nice presents for people or lots of possessions you seem to be looked down upon.

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