You don’t hear much about America’s personal savings rate these days, and the reason may be because the news is discouraging: collectively, the percentage of our income that we save is trending downward again, and may be about to hit record lows. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis tracks the U.S. personal savings rate, going back to the late 1950s, when when people were setting aside a thrifty 11% of what they made. Americans achieved a record 17% savings rate in the mid-1970s (see chart) before a long decline set in. In 2013, the rate briefly spiked again above 10%, but as you can see from the chart, Americans have become less thrifty since then. The most recent data point shows Americans saving just 3.6% of their income.
Chances are, you’ve heard that tax “reform” is right around the corner—that is, if you can call it “reform” when hundreds or perhaps thousands of new pages are about to be added to the tax code. First, the White House released its tax legislation wish list. Now the Republicans in the House of Representatives have released a proposal called the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” which fleshes out some of the details.
The urge to splurge is one of the toughest challenges to a monthly budget, and leads to unhappy encounters with the credit card statement. But psychologists say there are solutions for the chronic overspender.
What does it really cost to own a pet? More than non-pet-owners probably realize, although if you do own a dog, cat or fish, you probably have a good idea that they’re not cheap.
The most common way to transfer assets to your heirs is also the messiest: to have a will that is so out of date that it doesn’t relate to your property or estate, to have your records scattered all over the place, to have social media, banking and email accounts whose passwords only you can find—and basically to leave a big mess for others to clean up.
Is there a better way?
Imagine a person who always, in every circumstance, makes rational decisions with his money. He saves when he ought to and spends exactly as he should spend, in order to maximize the “utility” of whatever wealth he happens to possess. He defers gratification with ease. When he invests, he has instant and total access to all possible information related to every item in his, including the details of every company’s financials and any impactful world events, even if they haven’t reached the news media yet. If he found a $100 bill on the sidewalk, he would immediately go out and invest it in a steel mill.