If You've Got It, Spend It

Anne DeVivo Demesa loves being a stay-at-home mom, except when it's time to pay the bills. There's nothing fun about that.

"It's very frustrating," she tells CBS News correspondent Trish Regan. Expensive, too, with three kids to raise. That's why she plans to go back to work this fall, even though she and her husband, Alex, both wish she could stay home.

"It wouldn't be possible," she says of continuing to stay at home. "I'm already pulling more out of savings," she says, adding to her husband, "you don't even realize!"

What few of us realize is how saving less and spending more is becoming a way of life.

Our personal savings rate has been steadily falling — from almost 10 percent in the 1970s to about 5 percent in the '90s. Since June of last year, our savings rate has been in the negative numbers — meaning that month after month, we keep spending more money than we take in.

The last time we had a sustained negative savings rate was during the Great Depression. Now, with the economy going strong, Wyss says the reasons for the savings crunch are much different.

"It's the rise in the value of the stocks, it's the rise in the value of your house," says David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's. "Those have been going up nicely enough that most people don't see why they have to save any more on top of that."

But both stocks and home values can plunge — remember the dot-com bust in 2000? Economists thought that downfall in the stock market would make people become better savers. But it didn't.

"We always think something will work out, growth is going to be great, the stock market is always going to go up, and therefore, why worry?" says Wyss.

But Wyss says Americans should be worried. We're not saving enough for retirement — and we're relying too heavily on credit.

Still, Anne, like most Americans, is optimistic.

"The money will be there, I really think so," she says. "Not in great quantities, but enough."

So far, though, it's that sentiment, not savings, the Americans are baking on. As interest rates move higher, debt becomes more expensive, making it that much more difficult to save.
  • John Kreiser

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