Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tired of Living Paycheck to Paycheck

From CNN Money:

Question: I've been trying to be a little more thrifty lately. I realize that a lot of the luxuries Americans have are "wants" not "needs." Basically, I'd like to balance my household budget so I don't end up with just $30 at the end of the month. I'd even like to start building some savings. Any suggestions? --Kim, Idaho Falls, Idaho

Answer: A lot of people are experiencing the epiphany you've had about wants vs. needs.

Of course, we also have to keep in mind that one person's indulgence may be another's necessity. For example, a recent MainStay Investments poll that asked just over 1,000 baby boomers about their attitudes toward saving for retirement found that 46% considered weekend getaways not a luxury but a basic need.

I guess I can understand that. Someone who puts in lots of hours at a high-pressure job might very well see the occasional short trip not as an extravagance but a way to preserve sanity in a hectic life. I have to admit that I'm less sympathetic, though, to the 2% of my fellow boomers who classified professional manicures and pedicures as a basic need.

But despite individual differences in what we may consider "wants," it does appear that Americans have been rediscovering thrift of late. Last week's figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that Americans saved 6.4% of after-tax income in June, the highest percentage this year. Granted, that's less than the 8.2% in May 2009. But it's a huge improvement from the 1% to 3% rates that were common back before the financial crisis.

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