NEW YORK (MainStreet) — At a time where interest rates have been historically unfavorable to savers, consumers have elected to adopt a more austere approach to their finances. According to a recent Gallup poll, 62% of Americans enjoy saving their money compared to 34% that prefer spending it.
Since the beginning of the Great Recession, the gap between the self-reported enjoyment in savings and that of spending has widened considerably. In 2006, the difference was merely 5% and since then has increased five-fold.
What was interesting about this finding was its consistency among different age groups and tax brackets, but not different regions. Consumers in the South showed the largest inclination towards savings over spending - to the tune of 73% to 23% - while responders in the West showed the narrowest (51% to 45%).
Understandably, much of this change in behavior has come as a result of the financial crisis. Many households have become more forward-thinking, electing to stash away cash for emergencies and retirement rather than spend it on things that aren't essential.
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In many ways, the past half-decade has forced consumers to become more financially literate. Fortunately, there is a growing abundance of tools in the form of blogs, apps, and financial advisories to aid consumers in this process. The ease of access to these resources has transformed the way people manage finances.
There has also been a fundamental change in the way consumers make purchases. The Internet and the abundance of choices it provides, has allowed consumers to take their time to find lower prices, sales promotions and online coupons before buying items.
Yet, not all consumers feel that they are doing enough to prepare for the future. While consumers may report that they enjoy saving over spending, it doesn't mean that they are saving adequately. A recent survey conducted by Bankrate revealed that nearly seven in ten Americans are not meeting their monthly savings goals.
These findings raise many questions about the evolution of the consumer spending culture, and the implications of this shift. What effect will this change in habit have on the economy at large?
Some experts argue that this change in habit will reflect negatively on the economy, particularly in sectors such as retail that rely on spending.
"Americans choosing to save instead of spend and invest is likely to have a negative impact on the economy since close to two-thirds of the national GDP comes from consumer spending," said Maxime Rieman, senior financial markets analyst at NerdWallet.
Other economists have pointed out that good saving habits can be beneficial to the economy over time.
"As the economy continues to improve and housing prices continue to recover it would not be surprising to see Americans saving less," said Amy Schmidt, associate professor of economics and business at Saint Anslem College. "While this gives our consumption economy a short-term boost, in the long run savings are required for capital formation and long run growth."
While it is unclear what effects these changes will have on the economy, it seems that the legacy of the Great Recession has not been merely financial, but cultural; altogether, that may not be a bad thing.
--Written by John Okoye for MainStreet