Have Americans lost their addiction to more and more stuff?

Have years of economic stagnation tempered the US consumer’s habit of accumulating ever more stuff..?

Americans might just be kicking the habit. Because while manufacturing is picking up and property sales and construction are both coming up off the floor, US retail spending remains distinctly shaky.

Spending fell in June, down 0.5% from May, and the spring numbers were the worst since the dark days of late 2008. The fall in sales is expected to hinder economic growth…

In 2005, the personal savings rate in the US was 1.5%, compared to Japan’s 15%. Today, Americans are saving about 4% of their personal income, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“It has been an absolutely fundamental shift in consumer behaviour, coming in no small part from an absolutely fundamental shift in where consumers think they are and where they think they can expect to be, not just six months from now but five years, 10 years down the road,” says Ken Goldstein of the Conference Board…

Maybe America’s decades-long buying binge is drawing to a close – or at least shoppers are taking a breather.

It is hard to believe, so ingrained is shopping and consuming in the American way of life. But, says Mr Goldstein of the Conference Board, there has been a shift.

“It’s like that play Waiting for Godot,” he says. “Anybody who has seen the play knows, by the time the curtain comes down, Godot never arrives.

“I’m not saying that the consumer will never arrive. But don’t hold your breath.”

Could be. I was never a compulsive consumer – even with my heart’s delight geek gadgets and digital devices.

Though we have more electronic gear than most of my peers – and my wife and I are both geeks, I’ve been online since 1983 – we only buy stuff we use on a regular basis. For example, we’re fans of both of Apple’s operating systems and matching devices, I have an iMac for my desktop computer and an iPad which replaced my laptop. My wife has a MacBook Air which she uses as a portable device and desktop replacement.

For larger storage, we have Apple’s Time Capsule which serves both as router and network storage. And an additional standalone hard drive for redundant backup.

Neither of us has a smartphone, though my wife will probably get an iPhone when the price on an unlocked iPhone 4 gets down to what she considers reasonable.

Our HDTV is about 4 years old and though I have an upgrade model I’d like to get, I know how far the price can come down – having watched the process with our existing set. We can wait.

My Dodge pickup is 18 years old, her Volvo is about 30 years years old. Each has over 200,000 miles on the clock. Hey, they both run just fine. We have the next purchases figured out – but, not until we need to replace what we have.

Though retired 10 years, now – I have more money saved than when I retired. Nothing magical, no stock market secrets – jut diligent disciplined savings and investing. I’m decent at picking market bottoms. Cripes – it sounds boring; but, it just makes sense.

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About eideard

Senior contributing editor Dvorak Uncensored. Lifetime political activist. Crank. Geek. Green. Progressive.
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