We should all remain concerned about what happens to consumer behavior beyond 2010, as the recovery moves into an expansion mode. While retail sales received substantial coverage recently, the Fed's latest Flow of Funds report causes some concern about the future without further spending restraint from households. Net worth is still below peak levels, and the deleveraging process has only started.

And given the challenges that households face, it's not surprising that equity markets have only inched up so far this year. Some restraint is justified, despite consumers starting the year spending at a pace above expectations.

So let's breathe a sigh of relief for 2010, but there remains many questions in the years after that.
Paul Ballew is senior vice president of customer insights and analytics at Nationwide Mutual Insurance in Columbus, Ohio. Ballew previously served as a Fed economist, a partner for J.D. Power and a senior executive at General Motors.

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