His comment fits perfectly with the less-funny modern philosophy of acting humble so long as we make sure that we get everything we could ever want.
- Andrew Leckey
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IN THIS PACKAGE
- The January barometer
- Reluctant landlords still can benefit at tax time
- More wives becoming primary breadwinners
- Just starting out? It's the time to save
- The savings game
- The Leckey file
- Getting started
- Spending smart
- Taking stock
- Consumer stocks are familiar, but not always the best choice
- The week ahead
- Personal Income
See more topics »
The savings rate is the result of subtracting total spending from total personal income after taxes and doesn't reflect increasing real estate and investment values. But it does indicate that the future of many families is dependent upon myriad factors over which they have no control.
Banks actually own the homes and cars of most Americans, while credit cards issued by banks control seemingly everything else. Social Security and retirement-account money is unlikely to go as far as expected, making retirement for many Americans a journey into the unknown.
Founding father Thomas Jefferson, adamant against banks wielding too much control over our lives, wrote:
"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."
The difference is that many Americans these days will have homes. It's just that they'll never actually own them because of the home-equity borrowing they've racked up. Easy credit has become increasingly seductive.
Individuals, and not the institutions lending them money, ultimately are to blame. Saving more and spending less is difficult. To exert greater control over the future, it is necessary to save regularly with each paycheck. Just as important is reining in those credit cards that are enormous moneymakers for their issuers.
"In buying goods, it is best to pay ready money, because he that sells upon credit expects to lose 5 percent, by bad debts," wrote Benjamin Franklin. "Therefore, he charges on all he sells upon credit an advance that shall make up that deficiency."
The individual must make up that difference. We can't know for sure what Franklin, the American philosopher of saving, would say about this country's negative savings rate. But even in the 1700s he was issuing warnings about the ultimate reality of the financial system.
"Creditors have better memories than debtors," Franklin wrote.
Andrew Leckey is a Tribune Media Services columnist.