Financial Good Intentions (for What They’re Worth)

How seriously should we take it when consumers vow to clean up their financial act? A recent Experian/Gallup survey gives reason to think the right answer is “not very.” Seventy-three percent of respondents said it’s at least somewhat likely they’ll reduce their overall level of debt in 2008; 61 percent said it’s likely they will reduce their level of credit-card debt. This would suggest a sizable majority of people will cut back on their spending, no? However, when the same poll asked people whether they’ll “cut back on your spending for entertainment items” — a discretionary category if ever there was one — people were split evenly between those saying they will and those saying they won’t (49 percent each, with 2 percent undecided). Among respondents in the 18-29 age bracket, 82 percent virtuously declared it is likely they will reduce their overall debt level. But many fewer, 56 percent, said it’s likely they’ll cut back on their outlays for entertainment items.