Growing up, I heard it a lot…. “Save your money….”
I finally bought into it, and for the most part I’m glad I have lived by that approach – with a few glitches along the way.
But lately, as I’ve absorbed this business beat, I’ve been hearing something else as the economy takes a dive — respected people, business leaders, politicians…now many of them are saying, “Spend your money….”
It’s the only way we are going to bring our consumer-driven economy back to health.
Noted leaders in retail, in car sales, lament the downfall of their industries as they plead with consumers to keep the economy going by buying their products. It’s the only way titans such as GM became such titans, and employed so many people – because people spent money on their products, which fueled and came to symbolize the American way of life, some say.
Consumer-driven our economy absolutely is. Consumer spending drives 70 percent of our economy. It’s what creates jobs, buys homes, cars….
It drives our credit markers. It drives everything…
I’d like to think much of that spending is for what we need. But I doubt it. For some – even myself at times – the swipe of a credit card feels good, and that debt I’m tacking on to my balance might even be to indulge myself.
But I’m still worried.
We’ve got conflicting messages in this society. Spend vs. Save. Spend vs. Save.
Commercials for cars and awesome televisions lure us while our parents and the people who know better tell us to not take the bait.
While some may say this is just a byproduct of living in a market economy, it seems to me the consequences are very dangerous. Credit card companies get kids out of college to get credit cards, and they go out and rack up a bunch of debt. Our own government -our own leaders – rack up trillions in debt, as if it’s a good thing.
And then we act shocked when our economy goes down the drain because a bunch of bankers sold off their risk to a bunch of other financial folks, who sold off their risk.
What’s the message – if you’re not a business school graduate. Should we save? Should we buy?
It seems like a tension that needs to be worked out. I don’t know about you, but it seems like some of the tension can be worked out in our schools. How come I feel bad that none of this financial stuff came my way while I was in school? Maybe I wasn’t listening, but I’m pretty sure there was no class at my school called Financial Literacy 101, or Bank Account Basics. In a society geared on getting us to spend, it seems like we need some kind of counterbalance to get us to save – or at least know the best way to spend.
I don’t think we get that. We have to learn in times like these – and that’s the worst time – because we are scared to spend. And that fear isn’t good for any business.
I’ve resigned myself – again, with a few glitches on the way – to buying what I need, instead of what I want. Maybe that’s the only way to go. But it’s hard. I want that fancier car, the nicer suit, etc.
But is buying all that stuff – or even being able to buy all that stuff — the American dream?
Let’s hope we haven’t come to that.
Among the things I’ve learned on this beat over the last four months as a business reporter, is that our economy is grounded on consumer confidence. Close our wallets and the entire economy shuts down.
That sure seems like an awfully flimsy foundation for an economy. I hope I’m wrong.
There’s got to be more than getting people to buy something that drives society.
At the end of the day, maybe saving will get us to whatever that something is. But that’s going to take a lot of sacrifice.