Consider this recent Wall Street Journal front-page headline: “Americans Save Less As Good Times Roll.” The article began: “Soaring stock prices and improving job prospects” — Good news? Good grief — “have set Americans off on a spending splurge that is cutting into how much they sock away for retirement and rainy days.” Between 2008 and the third quarter of 2017, the net worth of U.S. households surged from $56 trillion to $97 trillion (Good news? Remember, that’s an oxymoron), but “previous busts — in the mid-2000s and the late 1990s — were preceded by periods of rising asset values and especially low saving.”
In December, America’s household savings rate was the lowest (2.4 percent of disposable income) since the negative savings rates in 2005 and 2006, before the housing bubble burst. Many Americans, forgetting the most intractable fact — that nothing lasts — turned the equity in their homes into cash to fund immediate consumption. Today, 104 months after the recovery from the Great Recession began in June 2009 (when the savings rate was 6.6 percent), 2.5 million homes are still worth less than is owed on their mortgages.