The way we were

PiggyNowadays, financial institutions inundate us with offers for credits cards, knowing we’ll use the plastic to grant ourselves high-interest loans. Little wonder, then, that we’ve become a nation of spendthrifts.

AdFreak staffers in New York got a reminder on Monday of the very different role banks used to play in forming Americans’ attitudes toward saving and spending. Our parent company’s holiday party was held in a grand old savings-bank building, opened in 1924 and still in service as a bank until about five years ago. As we downed our drinks, we noted the sober words engraved in stone high above us: "The habit of saving is itself an education. It fosters every virtue, teaches self-denial, cultivates the sense of order, trains to forethought, and so broadens the mind." (A bit of Googling identified one Thornton T. Munger as the author of these words.)

Can you imagine a bank today lecturing its customers on the virtue of self-denial? Neither could we, as we crowded back to the bar before last call.

—Posted by Mark Dolliver