Income vs. Savings

Amey Stone

I always find Department of Commerce releases on personal income and consumer spending a bit mind boggling. The numbers are tinkered with to factor in the impact of taxes, inflation and the time of year (to name just a few adjustments). Independent economists then pour over the release and pick and choose which number to highlight.

Here's a sentence in the Bureau of Economic Analysis' personal income highlights release for May that I think merits the most attention: "Over the last 12 months, real disposable personal income has increased 3.2 percent, and real consumer spending has increased 3.4 percent."

So there we have it. More proof that Americans are on a path to spend more than they make.

I spoke this morning with Keith Millner, a senior vice president at Nationwide Financial Services. He heads the group that provides insurance and investment products for retirees. He sees economic numbers like the ones released today as further evidence that baby boomers need to do more to prepare financially for the future.

For starters, he says, they should save more. "They tend to be more aggressive about spending vs. saving. While that's good for the overall economy in the short-term, from an individual financial planning perspective, it's very risky."

Nationwide's surveys show that most people want to retire around age 62, but don't think about how long they will live. If they retire that young, they will likely spend 30% of their adult life in the so-called non-productive phase, says Millner. That puts them at risk of running out of savings during their lifetime.

In general, he says the boomers are, "a little overconfident about the future."

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