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(Published: 2009-01-13)

Our economy hasn't been this tough since the Great Depression. The reasons are both complicated and simple, but one of the major culprits is our hyper-consumer 'shop til you drop' culture. It's no surprise to learn that over the past several years the personal saving rate in the United States dropped below ZERO as Americans spent more than they earned.

But there's hope. We've gotten the message loud and clear: we need to change our spending habits. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Kelly Evans points out: "Americans, fresh off a decades long buying spree, are finally saving more and spending less." Evans reports that economists now expect the 2009 saving rate could rebound as high as 6% to 10%.

That's certainly good news. But in true Trend/Countertrend fashion, there’s a flip side to the equation. The bad news is that we are finally cutting back our spending just as the economy needs those retail dollars the most. Economists call this 'the paradox of thrift.' Evans notes: "Usually, frugality is good for individuals and for the economy. Savings serve as a reservoir of capital that can be used to finance investment, which helps raise a nation's standard of living. But, in a recession, increased saving--or its flip side, decreased spending—can exacerbate the economy’s woes."

So how do we deal with this paradox?

A friend of mine has a great suggestion to address our "spend and save" woes. Nathan Dungan is the author of "Prodigal Sons and Material Girls: How NOT to be Your Child's ATM Machine." His mission is to help families achieve Financial Sanity™ by developing and maintaining healthy money habits. His process is called Share Save Spend (

Share Save Spend helps people think about, talk about and do money in ways that honor their values. Nathan says that it's important to engage in frequent money conversations about all THREE components. Doing so creates a strong foundation for making a lifetime of responsible financial decisions.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said: "The test of a first class mind is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the head at the same time and still be able to function." We’re really good at spending, and now we’re relearning how to save. That’s a step in the right direction. Share Save Spend offers us a third consideration: sharing. Research suggests that when people focus less on spending and more on sharing and saving, they are happier and healthier.

Share Save Spend. Here's to a happier and financially healthier New Year!

Robyn Waters is president and founder of RW Trend, LLC. She is the author of The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next, and The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape. Learn more about Robyn at All Rights Reserved.

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