Regular readers of You Have More Than You Think know my opinion of the “I deserve it” mentality. A few days ago, I was reminded of another line of reasoning that caused my neck muscles to tense up. While reading the Wall Street Journal article “Saving Again? Here’s a Way to Do It Right,” I experienced an involuntary spasm when Harvard economist, David Laibson, cited a startling statistic. Approximately 10% of Americans save too much.
Wow! Ten percent, huh?
The patriotism of the 10% who refuse to adequately participate in our consumer driven economy isn’t the issue here. The problem is one-tenth of my fellow Americans are at risk of *gasp* leaving an inheritance to their children (or their favorite charity or whoever).
Now, I don’t know how Mr. Laibson arrived at this figure, but let’s assume his methods are reliable. When I came across his claim, I had to stop reading the article immediately and take a deep breath. I was overcome with flashbacks of previous warnings from concerned loved ones, colleagues, and random people I meet on the street to be careful not to be too frugal. As Mr. Laibson suggests, an epidemic is under way.
There’s a segment of the population that’s all too eager to worry about an affliction of absolutely no threat to their financial well being. If you’re 30 years old with $60,000 of student loan debt, $22,000 of car loan debt, $7,293 of credit card debt, and zero savings, then don’t you worry about a looming case of obsessive frugality. Clearly, you’re not predisposed to cash hoarding.
It’s like when you’re trying to lose weight. Happily out of shape people love to bring up the risks of developing a food related obsessive compulsive disorder. Not that these sorts of things can’t happen, but how many people do you know are at a serious risk of not eating enough or exercising too much? Personally, I like food too much, and I’m too lazy to hit the gym more than 3 to 5 times a week to worry about such things.
Even if your memory banks can produce someone who’s suffered from over occupation with their weight, I’ll bet you can think of 100 times as many people who are under occupied with it. Do you know anyone whose overdosed on a medley of broccoli, squash, zucchini, and carrots? I don’t. I have, however, almost eaten myself into a cupcake coma. On more than one occasion.
My point is excessive consumption of vegetables isn’t a real threat to my health. Likewise, I’m not the least bit concerned I’ll fool around and amass too much wealth. Those of us made in America, constantly have to stay on our toes so we don’t succumb to the deep seated desire that lies within all of us: consumption.
Too often, I stumble upon articles warning of the perils of extreme frugality. But I don’t know anyone who saves too much. You? Please let me know if you’ve ever been pulled aside by a concerned and destitute loved one who cautioned you against stacking up too many millions. I couldn’t possibly be the only one who’s suffered the misguided pity of broke people.