Atlantic Capital Management

Atlantic Capital Management (89)

Tuesday, 26 July 2016 20:35

Why Are We Saving More and Spending Less?

Written by

Have our memories of the Great Recession altered our habits?

 

Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity in the United States. Lately, that spending has moderated. Across the 12 months ending in March, personal spending advanced 3.4%. That matched the gain seen in 2015.1,2

Is a 3.4% annualized gain in personal spending adequate? Not in historical terms. During 2014, consumer spending accelerated 4.2%. The average monthly gain in consumer spending across the past 12 months (0.28%) is roughly half the historical average seen since 1959 (0.54%).1,2

While the personal spending rate has slumped recently, the personal savings rate has not. In March, it was at 5.4%. It has varied between 4-6% for more than three years, staying notably above the levels seen prior to the Great Recession of 2007-2009.3

Has consumer psychology been altered since then? That is an interesting question to consider, and it especially begs consideration, given the fact that inflation-adjusted personal spending has declined for three straight quarters.4

Real disposable income (that is, disposable income adjusted for inflation) has been rising without fail. It has increased for 13 straight quarters, beginning in Q1 2013 after the payroll tax cut at the end of 2012. You would think unflagging increases in real disposable income would promote greater economic expansion, but real gross domestic product grew just 1.5% in 2013 and only 2.4% in both 2014 and 2015. Those GDP levels are well below those seen in the early 2000s, not to mention the 1990s.4,5

When is too much frugality a bad thing? When it risks hampering economic growth. The 5.4% personal savings rate recorded in March tied a three-and-a-half-year high. As we are well into an economic recovery, it would seem only natural for Americans to spend more than they did several years ago.4

Perhaps people are just not ready to do that. As a Deutsche Bank research note asserted this month, the memory of the Great Recession may be too hard to erase: “The shock of the crisis likely increased the desire to hold more savings for precautionary motives.”4

Since 2001, Gallup has consistently asked Americans a question each year: “Are you the type of person who more enjoys spending money or who more enjoys saving money?”6

This year, 65% of respondents said they preferred saving and 33% of respondents said they preferred spending. That gap has never been so pronounced in fifteen years of polling.6

As recently as 2009, just 53% of Americans told Gallup they preferred saving while 44% indicated they preferred spending. The gap has gradually widened ever since, and it is now fairly consistent across all age groups.6

A little more polling history seems to affirm a perception shift. In 2006, Gallup found that 51% of Americans rated their personal financial situation as “excellent/good;” in that year, 50% of Americans preferred saving to spending. Four years later, only 41% of Americans felt their personal financial situation was “excellent/good”, and 62% indicated a preference for saving. This year, 50% of Americans ranked their personal finances as “excellent/good,” yet 65% preferred saving dollars to spending them. “The appeal of saving over spending shows some signs of being the new normal rather than a temporary reaction to the hard times after 2008,” Gallup’s Jim Norman observed last month.6

In its latest report on personal income and outlays, the Bureau of Economic Analysis says personal incomes were up 4.2% year-over-year as of March. Consumer prices rose but 0.9% in the same span. Unimpressive wage growth aside, it would appear that many households are nicely positioned to spend. Of course, what these two numbers do not take into account is debt: mortgage debt, student loan debt, credit card debt. The rebound in the personal savings rate surely relates to the goal of reducing such liabilities.7,8

The Great Recession taught America a great lesson about living within one’s means. Could that lesson, as vital as it is, now be constraining the economy? As economists try to pinpoint reasons for America’s slow recovery, they may want to cite the psychology of the consumer.

  

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Citations.

1 - cnbc.com/2016/02/01/us-personal-income-dec-2015.html [2/1/16]

2 - tradingeconomics.com/united-states/personal-spending [5/22/16]

3 - tradingeconomics.com/united-states/personal-savings [5/12/16]

4 - usnews.com/news/articles/2016-05-11/years-later-psychological-scars-from-great-recession-skew-spending [5/11/16]

5 - statista.com/statistics/188165/annual-gdp-growth-of-the-united-states-since-1990/ [5/12/16]

6 - gallup.com/poll/190952/nearly-two-thirds-americans-prefer-saving-spending.aspx [4/25/16]

7 - shopfloor.org/2016/04/personal-spending-remained-soft-in-march-despite-decent-income-growth/ [4/29/16]

8 - reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy-inflation-idUSKCN0XB1I4 [4/14/16]

Let them know how they will receive retirement assets and insurance benefits.

  

Will your heirs receive a fair share of your wealth? Will your invested assets go where you want them to when you die?

 

If you have a proper will or estate plan in place, you will likely answer “yes” to both of those questions. The beneficiary forms you filled out years ago for your IRA, your workplace retirement plan, and your life insurance policy may give you even more confidence about the eventual transfer of your wealth.

One concern still remains, though. You have to tell your heirs that these documents exist.

That does not mean sharing all the details. If you have decided that some of your heirs will one day get more of your wealth than others, you can keep quiet about that decision as long as you live. You do want to tell your heirs the essential details; they should know that you have a will and/or an estate plan, and they should understand that you have named beneficiaries for your retirement accounts, your investment accounts, and your insurance policies.

Over time, you must review your beneficiary decisions. In fact, you may want to revisit them. As an example, say you opened an IRA in 1997. Your life has probably changed quite a bit since 1997. Were you single then, and are you married now? Were you married then, and are you single now? Have you become a parent since then? If you can answer “yes” to any of those three questions, then you need to look at that IRA beneficiary form now. Your choices may need to change.

Here is a quick look at how beneficiary decisions play out for a few of the most popular retirement accounts.

Employer-sponsored retirement plans. These are governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which rules that if the late accountholder was married, the surviving spouse is entitled to at least 50% of the account assets. That applies even if another person has been designated as the primary beneficiary. In such a case, the spouse and the primary beneficiary may split the assets 50/50. (The spouse can actually waive his or her right to that 50% of the invested assets through a Spousal Waiver form. A spouse usually has to be older than 35 for this to be allowed.) These rules also apply for other types of ERISA-governed retirement assets, such as pension plan accounts and corporate-owned life insurance.1,2

The Supreme Court has decided that these rules take priority over state laws (Egelhoff v. Egelhoff, 2001; Hillman v. Maretta, 2013) and divorce agreements (Kennedy Estate v. Plan Administrator for the DuPont Saving and Investment Plan, 2008).3,4

If a participant in one of these retirement accounts remarries, the new husband or wife is entitled to 50% of those assets at death. While a plan participant may name a child as the beneficiary of a retirement account after a divorce, remarriage will leave only 50% of those assets with that child when the accountholder dies, rather than 100%, unless the new spouse waives his or her right to receiving 50% of the assets. The new spouse will be in line to receive that 50% of the account even if unnamed on the beneficiary form.1

   

IRAs. Unlike an employer-sponsored retirement plan, a spouse does not have automatic beneficiary rights with an IRA. That is because IRAs are governed under state laws rather than ERISA. One interesting estate planning aspect of an IRA rollover is that the owner of the new IRA has the freedom to name anyone as the primary beneficiary.1 

Life insurance policies. The death proceeds go to the named beneficiary; occasionally, a beneficiary may not know a policy exists.

Recently, 60 Minutes did an expose on the insurance industry. Major insurers had withheld more than $7.5 billion in life insurance death proceeds from beneficiaries. They had a contractual reason for doing so: the beneficiaries had never stepped forward to file claims.5

While many of the policies involved were valued at $10,000 or less, others were worth over $1 million. The deceased policyholders had either failed to tell their heirs about the policies or misplaced the copies and the paperwork. Their heirs did not know (or know how) to claim the money. As a result, the insurance proceeds lay unclaimed for years, and the insurers only now feel pressure to pay out the benefits.5

   

Update your beneficiaries; let your heirs know how vital these forms are. Make sure that your beneficiary decisions on retirement, brokerage and bank accounts, college savings plans, and life insurance policies suit your wealth transfer objectives.

  

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

      

Citations.

1 - 401khelpcenter.com/401k_education/connor_beneficiary_designations.html [4/21/16]

2 - nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/claim-payable-on-death-assets-32436.html [4/21/16]

3 - marketwatch.com/story/check-your-beneficiary-designations-now-2013-09-17/ [9/17/13]

4 - forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2013/06/03/supreme-court-favors-ex-wife-over-widow-in-battle-for-life-insurance-proceeds/ [6/3/13]

5 - cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-life-insurance-investigation-lesley-stahl/ [4/17/16]

Our Blog

2017

(20 articles)

2016

(24 articles)

2015

(15 articles)

2014

(18 articles)

2013

(12 articles)

2012

(3 articles)