Spare Cash? Yes, We’ve Heard Of It

Economists wring their hands over Americans’ derisory savings rate, and they’ve got a point. Unfortunately, an ACNielsen survey finds that more than one-fourth of Americans have an unimpeachable excuse for their failure to save: After covering their basic living expenses, they’ve got nothing left to save (see the chart below). Despite their well-earned reputation for shiftlessness, men were less likely than women (22 percent vs. 30 percent) to say they have no spare cash left after paying their inescapable expenses. Men were somewhat more likely than women to use their spare cash to pay off debt (36 percent vs. 32 percent). And how, you might ask, did the lads get into debt in the first place? Perhaps it’s because they’re much more likely than women to use their spare cash—or, one suspects, some of their not-so-spare cash—to buy the latest technological gadgets (20 percent vs. 8 percent). The large number of Americans who pour spare cash into home improvement and decorating can plausibly argue that their outlays are actually a form of investment, since they help push up the market value of the home.