Think Americans Don't Save? Think Again

Here's a perfect example of how the media plays the economy:

We're lousy savers.

To read almost any publication, hear any news program, that's the take.

We spend more than we make. And they quote a Commerce Department figure that shows the savings rate for 2006 was a negative 1 percent.

That's the line everyone quotes — without examination, without so much as a single question.

Well, since I'm a geek, I look at these numbers — very closely. And let me tell you something about that savings rate number:

It leaves out retirement plans, pension plans, 401(k) plans, stocks, mutual funds and a myriad of other investments.

It leaves out the simple fact fully seven out of 10 Americans are invested in the stock market.

And it leaves out their homes — for many, an enormous source of equity, even with the recent downturn in prices.

I'm not saying we Americans are wonderful savers. We're not.

But I'll tell you what: We're apparently a hell of a lot better savers than workers in France. According to an AXA Equitable Global retirement survey out this week, we save twice as much as they do.

Ditto Italy and Germany. And nearly 10 times what they do in China.

In all, we're putting away about 700 bucks a month.

So yes, we could do better than that figure. But it figures the media wouldn't even report that figure.

A negative number sells. But I'm positive now a positive one does not.

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