Save the whales. Save the children. Save the tiger. Save the rain forests. Save the Jaguar. Save the planet.
All noble campaigns; bold initiatives. But if the goal is to save ourselves, we might want to reshuffle the “save” deck and put this one first: Save the money.
If we can not save enough money to keep ourselves out of a recession, how can we hope to help the rest of the world save anything? According to the American Bankruptcy Institute, the industry is having a great year. To be more precise, they are expecting more than a million bankruptcies this year (yippee!). But here’s a ray of sunshine: “The worst is still to come,” reports Jack Williams, a law professor at Georgia State University and the ABI’s scholar-in-residence. “Bankruptcies often lag two or three-quarters behind an economic downturn.”
On a personal level, I am no fan of big banks. And to be perfectly honest, little banks don’t do much for me either. For all the millions of dollars they spend each year advertising their great rates and services, when’s the last time you saw a single ad telling you to save?
And for that matter, when’s the last time you saw a savings & loan? They pretty much disappeared in the late 1980s along with the FSLIC amidst all the failures of out-of-control institutions. Ok, we at least still have the lender-approved loans option.
So who in the world, if not the banks, is out there telling consumers and businesses to save their money? We are a spend crazy nation. So crazy in fact that we are spending money that we don’t even have. And yes, the federal government has not set a good example for us, but really, let’s blame ourselves for this mess.
My dad always told me that if I didn’t have the cash in my pocket to buy something then I shouldn’t be buying it. And he routinely chastised all eight of us (including my seven brothers and sisters) because we acted as though our money was burning holes in our pockets.
We couldn’t spend it fast enough. And it would seem that we are not alone.
In fact, I was checking Google trends this morning and discovered that the phrase “missing money” was the top search of the day, described as volcanic. And I wondered why so many people were searching that term. Though I can not confirm the answer, I can guess that these Internet users are either desperate for cash or so disorganized with their finances that they do not even know where there money is. Either way…
I am not chastising anyone, nor am I pointing a finger, as I am just as guilty as the next guy of not saving enough of my hard-earned income. But I am making a strong suggestion: the next time you reach into your pocket or your wallet or your purse for an impulse purchase, think about those whales and tigers and jaguars. Think about the rain forests and the oceans and the children.
And ask yourself how the United States can maintain its position as a global leader if we don’t have a pot to piss in. A wise man once said: “A penny saved is a penny earned (not the same guy who said a walk is as good as a hit).” I never really appreciated that thought until now. According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. population now exceeds 303 million. If each one of us saved just a penny a day, our total annual savings would exceed $1 billion.
I would call that a good start.