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TheStreet Open House

AP IMPACT: Families Hoard Cash 5 Yrs After Crisis

Still, he thinks a new distaste for debt is playing a big role.

"A whole new generation of adults has come of age in a time of diminished expectations," he says. "They're not likely to take on debt like those before them."

___

SPENDING

In France, Arnaud Reze has stopped buying coffee at cafes to save money. The Kawabatas in Japan rarely eat out. Glen Oakes in the state of Washington used to take an expensive vacation every year, such as to Disney World in Florida. He stopped five years ago.

Around the globe, in small ways and large, in expanding economies and contracting ones, consumers remain thrifty.

You can see it on some High Streets in the U.K., dotted now by secondhand boutiques and pawn shops. Or in weak car sales in Europe, which have plunged to their lowest level in more than two decades. Or in the remarkable rise of Dollar General, a discount chain with 10,000 stores in the U.S. that has more than doubled its profits the past three years.

After adjusting for inflation, Americans increased their spending in the five years after the crisis at one-quarter the rate before the crisis, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. French spending barely budged. In the U.K., spending didn't just grow slowly, it dropped. The British spent 3 percent less last year than they did five years earlier, in 2007.

High unemployment has played a role. Unemployment in Europe is 11 percent. But economists say scarring from the financial crisis, and the government debt crisis that started a year later has spooked people who can afford to splurge to hold back instead.

Reze, 36, is the last person you'd think would feel pressure to save more. He owns a home in Nantes, has piled up money in savings accounts and stocks, and has a government job that guarantees 75 percent of his pay in retirement. But he fears the pension guarantee won't be kept. So he's not only stopped buying coffee at cafes, he's cut back on lunches with colleagues and saved in numerous other ways. He figures he's squirreling away an additional 300 euros ($400) a month, or about 10 percent of his pay.

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