A penny saved ...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Americans have one of the lowest savings rates in the world. While baby boomers are waking up to this fact as they approach retirement age, most Americans in the 25-to-34 age bracket -- Generation Y -- are not only not saving, but are also overspending to an extent that has some analysts concerned.

Those in the Generation Y group face daunting financial pressures. Many of them are overwhelmed with college debt. They also face the spending demands of young families. And they are part of the biggest surge of consumer spending in history.

Every generation has faced many of those same pressures for paying education debts and starting families. But the new tide of consumerism is far more prevalent today. Many Americans old enough to remember the Great Depression are in their 80s now, and their sense of putting something aside for the future is all but lost on Generation Y.

How bad is the overspending for consumer goods? The statistics for Americans as a whole is alarming: The average American spends $1.22 for every $1 he or she earns.

Credit cards are part of the mix that make spending more than you have so easy. Too many Americans regard credit-card debt differently than other debt. In most cases, credit-card users are spending money they never had in their wallets in the first place. It's almost as if it's make-believe money. The sad fact, however, is that creditors' demands for payment are no fairy tale.

For those who watch such trends, the lack of preparation by today's younger earners for their retirement years ahead is a significant concern. Anyone who starts a systematic savings and investment program early in his career will have a good chance of having enough money for a comfortable retirement. But it's hard to get that message across workers in their 20s and 30s. By they time they're in their 50s, they suddenly realize what a burden their future needs, including rising medical costs, will be.

What do the experts say? Start saving as soon as you start earning. Now if there were only a magic pill that would make us understand the importance of that message.

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