Six months ago, the country's saving rate was 0.8%, meaning the typical American saved $8 of every $1,000 of after-tax income. Now, it has more than quadrupled, to 3.6%, so we now save $36 of every $1,000. That's still nowhere near the 50% savings rate in China but, according to American economists, we're now saving too much.
"In the long-term, it's best for Americans to save more. But right now, with the economy underwater, it's the worst time for that," economic researcher Rich Yamarone told CNNMoney.com. Saving money isn't usually a problem, except when everyone's doing it all at once, creating a dearth of funds that could be stimulating the economy.
So first, we're spendthrift Americans creating a consumer-based economy propped up by credit cards and real-estate bubbles. Now, we're too stingy and not doing enough shopping to help our country.
I understand the dilemma here, and I do feel a little bad for holding onto my 10-year-old car istead of buying a new, fuel-efficient one, and waiting to shop at Circuit City clearance sales until they drop their prices into the basement. But I'm far from overwhelmed by guilt. My shopping-as-therapy ways helped to shape "Consumer Culture" in America (although luckily, I resisted getting a subprime loan to buy an overpriced house in California) and I, for one, have learned my lesson.
It's best to save for a rainy day, and today it's pouring. It's time for the U.S. to create a new kind of economy, one that's weaned off of credit cards and consumerism. Isn't it time we create more hard goods and services within our own borders that people worldwide will buy, rather than offshore the production elswhere and have them shipped back here as "must have" stuff sold at Wal-Mart? Rather than go off into unsubstantiated economic theories, I'll just keep saving and wait for more economic arrows to point upward. Besides, with California issuing IOUs to taxpayers getting refunds this year, I won't have any money to spend anyway.
First we spent too much, now we're saving too much