ARBOR WEALTH: The lost art of saving in America

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 02:46 PM.

The flip side of this research is, of course, that about half of American households say that they indeed can come up with $2,000 in emergency funds on short notice, and there’s a modicum of reassurance there. These families earn more, obviously, and for them, bill paying is a monthly process, not an impossible task.

But many of these families learned the art of financial conservation and saving, even when they weren’t enjoying larger incomes. And they often wisely pass this habit down to their children. 

For many in America, saving has become a lost art, especially when we contrast our lifestyles with cultures from around the globe. Many foreign countries survived the toxic mortgage meltdown with aplomb, primarily because families save such a large portion of the cost of a new house before purchasing. In fact, many American banking executives were dispatched to India following the 2008 U.S. financial meltdown to learn how banks and markets there had avoided the problems that we encountered.

Many returned with a new appreciation for the culture of saving that exists in other countries.

It’s old fashioned, and it’s not very exciting, but saving still works for those with the willpower to accomplish it. Say you’re planning a home improvement project a year from now, and you estimate that the total cost will run approximately $6,000. Setting aside $500 monthly for a year in advance and then paying cash for the project upon completion is not only fiscally prudent, it provides the saver with a sense of satisfaction.

Many Americans would simply write a check to fund such a project, and so saving up for the project’s consummation is unnecessary. But it’s probably safe to say that at one time these same people learned to save before they didn’t have to anymore.

Margaret R. McDowell, a syndicated economic columnist, chartered financial consultant and accredited investment fiduciary, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (, a fee-only registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.

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