A Foolish Take: Attitudes About Saving Money Have Changed

The financial crisis of 2008 altered how people think about saving money.

John Maxfield
John Maxfield
Jun 5, 2017 at 12:00PM

A recent Gallup poll shows that people who are experiencing financial stress largely prefer to save money rather than spend it.

This may seem like common sense, but it hasn't always been the case. Prior to the financial crisis, 50% of people who were under financial stress said they nevertheless enjoyed spending more than saving, while 46% preferred saving over spending.

The numbers today are dramatically different, with 63% of respondents in Gallup's poll saying that they enjoy saving more while only 35% feel the same about spending more.

Comparing peoples' feelings on saving vs. spending money.

Data source: Gallup. Chart by author.

This shouldn't be a surprise. After all, how many times have you read or heard about someone in an older generation who attributed their frugality to memories from the Great Depression?

Yet for a country that looks to consumer expenditures to account for the majority of gross domestic product, this change in preference may not bode well for economic growth.

And there's reason to believe that people's minds won't change on this score anytime soon. As Gallup's Jim Norman notes: "While Americans' recession-born financial fears have abated as the national economy has improved, the increased desire to save has held firm."

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