February 6th, 2008
05:00 PM ET

Americans learning to live within their means?


FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Americans may finally be learning how to tighten their financial belts. But it's not by choice.

The U.S. economy is in trouble, and people are feeling it. They're seeing the number of jobs shrink, housing prices fall while their debt continues to grow. The New York Times reports that what this means for more and more of us is we're being forced to live within our means. Imagine that.

Some experts are convinced that most Americans, especially baby boomers, will never stop living on credit. But the fact of the matter is that millions of families already have been left with very little choice.

And, it's starting to show. Some have stopped using credit cards, or going to the movies and restaurants. There are also clues at malls and shopping centers across the country, where people are heading to discounters instead of higher-end stores. Business at stores like Wal-Mart and TJ Maxx is booming, while places like Coach, Tiffany and Williams-Sonoma are seeing a slow-down.

Remember that consumer spending is two thirds of our economy, and if people are starting to spend less, it will only make any recession worse.

And then there's this: economists say people are going to have start saving the old-fashioned way – instead of relying on the stock market and rising home values. Statistics show that in 1984, Americans were saving more than one-tenth of their income. Today, the savings rate is actually slightly negative.

Here’s my question to you: In today's uncertain economic times, are Americans finally learning how to live within their means?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

David from Vernon Hills, Illinois writes:
Americans save, are you kidding? What would our economy be if Americans didn't spend all their money plus money they don't have? Just ask my 27-year-old daughter who makes over $60K and spends it all no matter what I say to her about saving. Spending and debt is today’s American and the Chinese appreciate it.

Jeffrey from Boston writes:
Americans will likely never learn to live within their means with the entire system working against us. Politicians and corporations work hand-in-hand to make sure that every American outspends his or her means in the name of continued economic growth.

Michael from Houston, Texas writes:
My wife and I are almost debt-free with the exception of our mortgage. Americans could buy stuff ‘till they turn blue and the only economies we will be helping are China, India, Mexico and places like that - because all our jobs have been shipped over there so these greedy companies can get even richer.

Allen from Coon Rapids, Minnesota writes:
Yes, we may be finally getting it. But the problem is that we've all made our credit card charged bed, and now we've got to sleep in it... and pay for it. The recession is here, and it is a necessary correction. Admit it, already... and start working through it!

Jack from Chattanooga, Tennessee writes:
Jack, I have stopped spending and started saving my money. I stopped smoking, quit drinking (unless someone else is buying), stopped chasing women. I am now a reclusive, frugal hermit, going to work every day, staying home at night, and just buying what I need and nothing else. I have even cut down on my food purchases, making it easy to lose some of that needed weight. I have stockpiled several thousand dollars with my lifestyle change, and may need it with the way our country is going.

Filed under: Economy
soundoff (151 Responses)
  1. Ron Margheim, Hood River, OR

    Live within their means? Come on, doesn't anyone get it? People are having trouble just getting by, paying for their homes, autos, fuel, utilities, groceries.....there is nothing left over! We are living in a false economy with a majority of Americans working in the service sector buying cheap products at Wal-Mart produced in China. America needs to wake up before it is too late.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:12 pm |
  2. Rex in Portland

    There are a few Americans which have learned this lesson due to the real estate recession and the "mortgage" crisis. In general, however, the American citizen is still held hostage to the constant bombardment of advertisements, incentives, peer pressure, greed, and hubris – consumerism – which is the pervasive atmosphere of choice of the US government.

    The idea "what can trickle-down do for me?" has been drilled into our very souls. The answer, of course, is that the supply side theory of economics can do nothing except deplete the nation of its resources.

    A change is needed in governmental philosophy, which includes not only foreign policies, trade agreements, cessation of war, national defense, and health insurance, but the entire economic package as well.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:13 pm |
  3. Daniel

    Perhaps to some extent... now if only we can get the government to live within its means.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:13 pm |
  4. Thomas, FL

    Absolutely not. The sense of entitlement is only growing in this country, and if you think a Democrat president with a Democrat congress is going to change that, I have some real estate to sell you at the bottom of a lake.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:17 pm |
  5. MIKE A

    americans are not learning to live within their means, they're being forced to live within their means thanks to the recession no one admits to being in. i hope that people who recieve additional tax breaks don't spend the money like bush wants. instead i hope they payoff some debt and save a little back because it's going to get worse before it gets better. the economy will return strong when the problem departs in january of 2009.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:17 pm |
  6. Rakesh Sheth

    I hope so Jack. 2/3 of the economy based on consumer spending is a very scary reality. I was always taught save as much i can not spend as much i can. Americans need to change their lifestyle and become globally competitive consumers and workers.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:19 pm |
  7. Catherine

    "Little Engine that Could " - and Does...

    No, they aren't, and our economy deliberately encourages them to overspend on things we don't really need through advertising and easy, convenient, credit. Just think about it, Jack. Suppose we all lived within our paychecks by paying cash for what we could actually afford. The credit card companies would crumble, the banks backing the credit cards would lose profits, the Dow that trades in bank stocks would nosedive, everyone's 401K would lose value, etc. etc. We see this pattern already following the housing industry foreclosures - did you notice the plunging Dow the last two days due to a downturn in the "service sector" - which contains banks and the real estate markets? No, we Americans are the "Little Engine that Could" that pulls the rest of the world economy behind us. We'd better just keep chugging along, spending those dollars we don't really have, if we know what's good for us.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:21 pm |
  8. Ron SD CA

    Good Afternoon Jack:

    For most of us we spend more than we make just on housing and the normal items we need to carry us from one day to the next. So how could we finally "LEARN" to live within our means. We HEDGE one weeks pay against the next, then write a check to pay a bill, and offer a prayer it clears the bank.

    Best of LUCK to everyone. Even you Jack!

    Ron K. – CA

    February 6, 2008 at 2:23 pm |
  9. tco

    How? With gas, food, utilities, and other necessities up by at least 20% and stagnant salaries, often the credit card is the last resort. We used to put 10% of our income into savings but after 2 major medical hits last year we can no longer do that. We're working harder and longer just to stay even. Bush and his war have destroyed our economy except for himself and his rich friends, the only ones the GOP truly cares about.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:32 pm |
  10. Scott B

    No we are not learning anything – The government is being called to save the people who live beyond their means so they can turn around and make sure the money gets channeled back to the rich who heaven knows can't survive a recession. We are a very weak nation

    February 6, 2008 at 2:33 pm |
  11. Caryl

    Jack – NO I don't think so. Not from my observations. I think most working Americans think the bubble won't burst. They are still pulling up to the pumps in their big SUV's and sports cars and spending ( using charge cards ) at the Malls. The ones not working are already with-out means so they don't count for this question.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:35 pm |
  12. Paulette Bent

    No Jack, I do not think that Americans are living within their means as yet. When the car gets repossessed, the morgage is overdue, the kids are sick and they can't afford the doctor or the medicine,and finally when there is no food on the table –maybe then Americans will wake up to reality. People in this country never thought that this could happen to us. Well it has and now the public is going to have to cope. Necessity is the mother of survival in this case.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:36 pm |
  13. Terry North Carolina

    Are you kidding, Americans will never learn to live within their means, we will have as many credit cards as we can fit in our wallets and we will use them to purchase everything till there all maxed out. Then we will file for bankruptcy. Jack this is the American way.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:36 pm |
  14. Swe

    Time has come for old days where they said "You spend it only if you have it".. A little financial discipline on the part of consumer could have saved all of us from the subprime mess. I hope atleast now people will pay attention to their mounting balances on their credit cards...

    February 6, 2008 at 2:39 pm |
  15. Pat

    Unfortunately no, some of us have learned our lesson the hard way, believe me
    it wasn't easy! But as long as credit card companies keep offering cards to everyone regardless of their financial status, people will continue to use them
    and dam the consequences. Hey, it is the American way

    February 6, 2008 at 2:40 pm |
  16. Pop

    No. Americans will spend every cent they have for that home with the white picket fence dream. Keeping in mind ones man mansion is another mans mobile home. In fact, they will go beyond that and get credit to buy more then they can pay for. That is the American way. To live just at or just beyond our means. No one goes to jail because they can't pay their bills they just go into virtual jail with a sign over the door that says, "DEBT". That has become the Americans lot in life.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:40 pm |
  17. W B in Las Vegas

    I doubt it. I think the last time the average American "lived within their means" was probably World War II. as long as they can get credit, they will continue to spend like congressmen.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:48 pm |
  18. Erin in Kalamazoo

    Sadly no. Fiscal responsibility is not taught through short-term deprivation. Stabilizing our economy will bring about a sigh of relief and an epidemic of short-term memory loss. It took the Great Depression to change a whole generation.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:54 pm |
  19. Bob Johnston


    The fact that Americans will have to start living within their means almost sounds like a morality tale but a look beneath the surface reveals it to be a cruel trick played upon the vast majority of us by Alan Greenspan.

    First he gave us the Internet Tech Stock Bubble and then he followed that with the Housing Bubble. The first bubble ravaged our retirement accounts and the second bubble steeply and rapidly increased the cost of housing. Some people made out like bandits but most were sucked into financial traps.

    There is another bubble about to be inflated by the next round of recklessly low interest rates and that will be an inflationary or stag-flationary bubble rapidly driving up the cost of food, energy and most commodities. Some demagogues will try to convince you that China is to blame but the real culprit is the banking industry , The Fed and our negligent government.

    -Bob Johnston, New York NY

    February 6, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  20. David,San Bernardino,CA.

    I stopped spending money on unnecessary things a long time ago. I have more stuff than I can possibly ever use,why should I go and buy more. The worst thing that was ever invented was the credit card. People were given the cards and have spent like drunken sailors for decades. Well,the bill has finally come due. Remember,we are the the only country in the world that has so much junk that we have to rent houses for the excess that won't fit in the garage.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:57 pm |
  21. Bill

    I don't know about everyone else, Jack, but I sure have. That's because I'm still recovering from the last recession. Now George Bush can add to his legacy that he is the first president to have two recessions during his watch. Thank God he can't get a third term or I would be living in a refrigerator box.

    February 6, 2008 at 2:59 pm |
  22. Michael "C" in Lorton, VA

    Jack: I'm a baby boomer and I asked my youngest son , who is a "financial advisor" to provide me with some sound financial advise during these trouble economic times. He paused for a while and said that the best advice he could give me at this point in my life is to "die broke." Now, the baby boomers are being blamed for the trouble economy, and that is truly a "crock of crap." There are three classes of people in America: the wealthy, who enjoy the perks and pay no taxes; the middle class, who does the work and pays a majority of the taxes; and the poor, who are a "constant reminder" to the middle class. America had better hope that the "baby boomers" don't change their lifestyle.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:01 pm |
  23. June

    YES, and this will blow up in the GOP face. Less people working, less tax dollars coming into the Treasury. Bush and this Administration deserve to have a legacy of being fiscally irresponible. The Republicians always make out like they are smarter and better than Democrats and Independents.
    When you have the Administration and the GOP hostile against the American people they are now getting just reward.
    I am sick to death of all them, Ronald Reagan, this Ronald Reagan that. He did nothing for the deficit.

    Cheney always said under Reagan we learned DECIFITS don't matter. He told that to Tim Russert on Meet the Press, after the war had started.

    Well, the rich get richer, and they have Broken America finacially and spiritually.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:02 pm |
  24. Jeff DuShane


    Learning to live within our means? Here in Michigan, we have little choice. So many jobs lost, so many bankrupt and abandoned businesses, for sale signs everywhere and no end in sight. The U.S. is close to being up for bid, and nobody even wants to buy us!

    February 6, 2008 at 3:03 pm |
  25. Tina

    I have cut back since Bushy Boy took office. I have to shop frugally. I shop at goodwill and Thrift Town for my clothes or Resale shops. I still have to buy my shoes at Walmart. I never could afford a $1,000 purse and am happy getting to buy one at Ross For Less. People are nuts to keep spending like there is no tomorrow. Tomorrow has arrived.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:06 pm |
  26. Scott

    Jack, my son and i are both disabled, we survive on $266.oo a month, the only thing we splurge on is a extra $9.95 so we can watch CNN,
    and i think even Wolf would say it's o.k. for a man to have that as his only treat.

    bowling green,mo.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:08 pm |
  27. George Wilson

    Most of us who are on the short end of the stick already know how to eke it out. However things are getting so bad, that not only do the lower income people need help, so do a lot of the higher income workers. Everyone knows that going into deeper debt, and spending all of the money in the Treasury in order for this administration to buy more time to clean up the mess they have made in Iraq is just sinking us into a place where we may never recover. The loss of life by many Americans, the cofers emptied in the Treasury , and the overwhelming debt will be George Bush's legacy..

    February 6, 2008 at 3:11 pm |
  28. Ken KS

    With all the information you gave in your introduction to this question, how can you seriously ask such a question? It doesn't look very good for the Middle Class. In fact, a great journalist once said, "It's Getting Ugly."

    February 6, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  29. Francis Xanthias, Macomb IL

    Jack, In todays global economic turmoil, I think one doesn't need a philosopher to advise living within ones means. It should be a habit. Americans should quit the unnecessary spending habit and save the little that they have. People should know that there is a difference between being economical and spendrift. Its not all that glitters is gold. For me I have always made it my philosophy that the only person I am in competition with is no one but myself. The so-called American dream is sometime a facade, which usually comes with debt. You could be the world most renowned financial expert, but if you can not balance your menu on the dinner table, you will not be able to balance your personal account.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:20 pm |
  30. John, Johnston, IA

    We humans are definitely creatures of habit, and we don't take it kindly when those habits are challenged by forces outside of our control. However, we typically find that we get ourselves in trouble well enough without those 'outside forces'. The current credit crisis is a testament to that fact. Despite our resistance to change, although to go by what the political campaigns are touting that's ALL we want, we can and do change, and sometimes dramatically, when faced with few if any other choices.

    If Americans are suddenly beginning to live within their means it's by no choice of their own. Well ... I take that back. It's a choice we're making. But not really, because we've not really many other choices to pick from. Either live within our means and survive the current economic downturn, or don't; those who don't will be the folks lining up to file bankruptcy before it's all said and done.

    Whatever the cause, if we're living within our means, let's hope that the lessons that we're learning as a result of our having to won't be soon forgot.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:20 pm |
  31. Joy

    American's live within their means, I doubt it. How can the average family today live without a T.V. in every room, cell phones for every member, tennis shoes that cost $200 for the teens in the family and SUV's that rarely transport anything but groceries! Unless one is a Sr. Citizen, Americans don't know how to go without, they weren't raised to economize, they were spoiled rotten and filling up their gas tank only once week would be sacrificing to most!!! We reap what we sow!!!!!!!

    February 6, 2008 at 3:25 pm |
  32. James

    The reason the savings rate has plumeted over the last two decades might have something to do with the cost of living going up so fast while national wages have remained stagnant. Some people might be learning how to live within their means but the rest of us are just going without. If your lucky enough to have a job your probably not being payed worth a damn, with no benifits and no retirement. I'm not learning to live within my means Jack, I'm just learning to live without health insurance, dental insurance, or prescription coverage. Without the braces my wife needs or enough gas for my car. I'm learning to shop a Wal-Mart because I have no choice and I used to love having choices. So Americans are finally learning to live within their means, I think not. Rather, learning to live without choices.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:29 pm |
  33. Amnesty is Treason

    7 long years too late; debt ceiling is maxed out so now they stuck with it!

    February 6, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  34. Ern in Tulock,ca.

    With in their means??? I would say "living below thier means !!" Our economy is fastly becoming a nation with low paying jobs in the service industry to replace the well paying middle class jobs this economy desperatly needs. As a result Americans are working more, for less, just to keep what they have as they watch the Bush and Cheney Administration call for even more tax cuts and breakes for the companies that are seeing record profits or crying for better tax cuts.
    Ern In Turlock, Ca.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:33 pm |
  35. Bill from St. Cloud, FL

    We live in an instant gratification society. We must have everything NOW.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  36. Steve H

    Think back to September of 2001, was the world at peace and everyone living within their means? Did Enron grow so big because they were giving away electricity on the power grid in California? I'll try not to be sarcastic when I say the government has to try and bail out the economy, while at the same time trying to live within its own means (trimming pork barrel spending), all due to a majority of people living within their means? I don't blame it on what the government is doing, but instead on how the government is failing.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  37. Richard Sternagel

    Jack, I doubt that Americans are living within their means by economic necessity. We have been spoiled into the belief that whatever we want we must get! And we get SUV's knowing full well that price of gas has sky rocketed in recent years! We get enticed into buying a home on variable rates without first determining whether we can pay for such rates! We extend ourselves with credit cards until we get into debt! I think we may need a recession however painful that may be to awaken us!

    February 6, 2008 at 3:36 pm |
  38. Toby

    Are Americans living within their means? I don't think so! Living within their line of credit is more like it. Even our own Government doen't live within its' means. So who does? We don't need more credit we need real incomes! It's like a game where we don't get to use real money.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  39. Bill PA

    I don't know if learning is a right word? But being forced into living within your means might be a better way of putting it. I think we have come to the end of the road when it comes to spending more. Now we have to learn to live within our means. Because of the perfect storm we if created for ourselves, credit card debts, buying homes on a floating interest rate, the rising cost of oil. Plus our gov't out of control spending and paying millions of dollars a day on the Iraq war doesn't help either. They have the people over a barrel of oil, so to speak.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:42 pm |
  40. Ronald Holst

    Jack That depends on What Americans you are talking About If you are talking Bush Like American they probley feel there will be some body to help bail them out weither It is Mommy and Daddy Or thier circle Of Rich Friends From other countrys Of from thereFrat House like Skull and Bones .
    Of If you are talking about the majority of Americans If you mean the Majotity They have no choice they Have to ,But If you are tlking About The Bush like then no way in hell.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  41. Dennis

    Yes we are all learning to live within our means and could we please stop it. IS the economy at level orange today? Know your role and play it. If your not a thinker thats ok. The World needs you now more than ever.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  42. Cookie

    Why is the recession being blamed on the baby boomers? I am a boomer and I live within my means. Yes I have a credit card and use to pay certain bills as they come due and then pay the card off. I own my home with no mortgage, I have three vehicles which includes a sports car and all are paid for. I have two motorcycles and they are paid for. There are people like me out there that lives within their means and are not in debt up to their eyeballs. I also taught my children to be responsible and have not debt as fast as they can in their lives. Now I have income to enjoy life and owe no one. That is what retirement should be. So to answer your questions, some of us have always lived within our means, and the rest of the country better start now!

    February 6, 2008 at 3:48 pm |
  43. Jenny from New York

    No. As long as credit cards and easy loans are available, people will not live within their means. What happened to paying cash?

    February 6, 2008 at 3:50 pm |
  44. Diane


    I have been living within my means for several years now
    and still keep getting further and further behind. Everything
    has gone up except my pay check.

    I don't know how much more the American people
    can stand - losing jobs, costs rising on just about
    everything and people that do have jobs there
    salaries are stagnant.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:52 pm |
  45. Greg from PA

    That's not enough, Jack. And as you pointed out, as consumers spend less, the economy slows. Saving money by shopping at Wal-Mart and clones only exacerbates the problem by increasing our trade deficit, further weakening the dollar and sending more of our jobs overseas. Until the government becomes fiscally responsible, stops throwing billions of dollars down the black hole of the War in Iraq, and gets its trade relationships in balance, Jane and Joe Average don't stand a snowball's chance in Hell to save one dime.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:52 pm |
  46. Mike McKibben, Fl

    Everytime I start living within my means, my electric bill, home owners insurance, health insurance, car insurance, and gasoline prices go up. As I see these prices go up, it puts a strain on my budget resulting in me buying less items. What really makes me so mad about all this is that the profits that these companies show that raise their prices, are at record levels........................and people want less government regulation. Who's fooling who?

    February 6, 2008 at 3:53 pm |
  47. Clay

    Learning to? Hopefully. Having to? More than likely. In turn, look at the state of the economy today. Isn't it sad when an idea as simplistic as living within our means brings about discussions on the adverse effects it could have on the economy? An economy which seems obviously reliant on our over-indulgences. Simply, we are damed if we do and damned if we don't.


    February 6, 2008 at 3:55 pm |
  48. Barrett A. Metzler, Bearden, AR 71720

    The simple answer is no. Ever since organized labor increased the payroll beyond the capability of production to pay for it, Americans have believed that they deserve a 2400 hundred square foot house, two cars, a boat, a motorcycle, and vacations in the Bahamas.
    Until they are willing to receive a fair day's wage for a fair day's work, they will continue to cause jobs to leave America and be living on the edge of disastor.

    February 6, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  49. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    That depends on what sector of Americans you're references, the rich or the poor. What was the middle class are probably the only ones that have learned to live within or below their means.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  50. Peter

    I don't see it happening. Each succeeding generation is more self-entitled, narcissistic and arrogant than the last.

    Oh by the way, I leave within my means. Always have. Always will. I am anti-American, I have no debt.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  51. PDX Ted

    Lower middle class income Americans have their belts so tight now they have to start a second row of new holes. If the Democrats ever stop screwing around with that rebate scam, maybe at least some people could get a check to make a down payment on a tank of gas.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  52. Ed Reed

    The standard of living for most Americans has been in decline for a long time. To keep up, wives went to work. When they fell behind again, they worked longer hours. When that no longer kept them even, they borrowed. I suspect they will stop borrowing only when they can no longer afford the payments are creditors cut them off.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:13 pm |
  53. joe m

    this is a culture of consumption and excess. people are taught in this culture that the person with the most stuff lives the best, is smarter, or is the winner. our government is no example of living within ones means with the way they spend money. americans will be going through major DT's to learn how to live within their means.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:13 pm |
  54. Jon

    Jack, Americans have had no choice but to learn how to live within their means. We can not use our houses as a piggy bank anymore, we keep driving up our debt on our credit cards and we borrow from one credit card to pay another. Americans have learned how to live within our means from our President, even thou you don't have the money right now, it still within our means to spend it.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:16 pm |
  55. Sharon

    As much as we like to see issues in black and white, I think there have always been some Americans who have lived within their means. There may be additional Americans who are now re-evaluating their lifestyles and cutting out non-essential items. For the most part, I believe wages haven't really grown that much, while energy costs have gone through the roof. I know the food banks have seen an increase in demand, so I fully believe many Americans are struggling just to meet their essential needs.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:18 pm |
  56. Hagar - Webster, MA

    No, but we are getting better at defrauding, scamming, cheating and scraping by month to month. It isn't bad enough that working class folks are getting it rammed at them, only to have big business come out and brag about thier record profits.
    %^$#in unbelievable.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:23 pm |
  57. Judy

    We're baby boomers. If there's one thing you can count on, it's that what comes up must go down, except the price of gas and other essentials. Over the past few years, we've watched in amazement the large number of people driving huge SUV's, eating out, and shopping till they drop. All at the behest of the present administration. I remember the 70's when I had to wait in a long gas line with 3 small kids in the car. We have sacrificed to save our money for retirement, and to keep a cushion for emergencies. Living within one's means has always been the wise thing to do.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:24 pm |
  58. Vinny, Texas

    It's more like "living withOUT their means". Can't afford the car payment, can't afford the gas, can't afford the mortgage, can't afford the fuel to heat the house. We need to do without these luxuries like a place to live and transportation to work and we'll be just fine. Oh, and food prices are going up too. Happy days are here again.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:27 pm |
  59. Jayson from Indiana

    I believe that Americans are actually realizing how to live within a budget. I believe they are learning the amount they can spend. On the other hand you have people who can't live within a budget. It is sad to see that some people are spending more than what is coming in.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:27 pm |
  60. Bob

    We don't have a choice. The Bush administration is indifferent to all of us who are struggling to pay our mortgages because it is owned by good and honest American companies, such as Exxon Mobil and Halliburton. The downturn that our economy is in won't stop until the country elects a President that actually cares about solving the problems that currently face our middle class.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:29 pm |
  61. Carol

    Shhhhh! Don't let the beneficiaries of our bad trade policies hear you. They would be maaaaad.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:29 pm |
  62. Beth from Michigan

    If they are, I haven't seen any evidence of it. If they aren't spending as much anymore it's because their cards are all maxed out and they have no equity left in their houses. I'm a baby boomer who had never lived on credit, whose house is paid for, and proud of it. If I'm spending less this year it's because I'm saving up for a big screen TV and when I get it, it will be paid for. So there.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  63. Joe Rogers

    Yes, cutting back on plastic in the short term will hurt, given that we now manufacture little and the "service" sector is the largest part of the economy. Long term, more savings/less charging will strengthen our nation. I don't know about typical "boomers" but my family, including our two adult and married daughters, decided a year or more ago to get off credit. We now have zero credit debit except for house mortgages and an auto payment. Like the saying, "feeling thin feels better than any food tastes", feeling in control of your debt feels better than buying any stuff you really don't need. Besides, what does more spending gain us other than enriching the current Chinese economy, since we've given away our manufacturing base in the name of "free trade".

    February 6, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  64. Jim Farkus

    I remember those days back in 1979 – 1980:

    Double digit inflation
    Double digit unemployment
    Gas lines
    10% cost of living adjustments

    Today's young adults (genration x,y, z or whatever) have no idea how to do without since they have been programmed since birth to have everything scheduled and prepared for them. Lord help you if your needs get in the way of their work life balance managment. With information at their fingertips and technology ever more powerful, advanced education has become much easier to get through with significant down time that allows them to focus on "other things" ........ which cost money.

    I have yet to see a youngster since the mid 90's take on the consistent Jeans, sneaker, and shirt look that so many of us had to go through in the 70's. Now it is designer shoes, jeans and shirts -starting in elementary school.

    They do not know what "living within their means" MEANS!!!! How the heck will they do it?

    February 6, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  65. Jeff in Connecticut

    You know Jack, it makes me cry inside when I think of all those poor folks who have to make ends meet on a paltry tax-free dividend income of a mere quarter million or so a year. Whatever wil they do when do when the G.O.P. (along with it's self-serving tax legislation) expires?

    February 6, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  66. Bert D

    You know Jack, we teach our children a lot of crap in school. But I don't ever remember being taught even a rudimentary lesson about interest rates and loans.
    Thirty years ago I was fortunate to inherrit an income producing property. It came with an attatched debt. I remember sitting down one evening with a pencil, a lot of paper and using long hand arithmatic (this was afterall BC, before computers) calculated how long it would take me to pay off the debt.
    It was an eye opening experience. I never looked at debt in quite the same way. I was astounded to learn that more than half the money I paid would go merely to pay interest. A lot of money. Of course, interest rates back then were 13%.
    Sometimes I think this lack of fiscal education is intentional. After all, interest is easy money for bankers and investors and represents a huge segment of our economy. If people actually knew that their $150,000 house will cost them $300,000, they just might think twice about it. But of course, interest on debt it is also tax deductable, so in a very real way, our government is encourageing debt by rewarding us for paying interest. Funny isn't it.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  67. june

    It will ultimately be decided when more people realize we can't afford to go back to a Clinton administration. We need to face up to the challenges of globalization , work with our allies and confront our enemies. We can't go back to being friends with everyone. We need someone able to deal effectively with the modern world and that's Obama not Clinton.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:37 pm |
  68. CJ

    I can only speak from experience, but that is: only the upper-middle class are living out of their means. Everyone below has been struggling for years. Here in Florida, we are working several jobs and with the property insurance and taxes jacked up 300 to 600% on top of all other rising benefits, low, stagnant wages against all other inflated prices, we reached critical mass last winter.

    Which is why it breaks my brain to hear Hillary "won" here. Now Floridians are hearing about her "possible wage garnishing" to force health insurance. RealtyTrac recently reported a 275% increase in foreclosures from Dec 07 to Dec 06. If we have thousands of bucko's garnished from our wages, make that a 2,750% increase in Dec 08. Florida is sinking, what were they thinking?

    February 6, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
  69. Dave Brooklyn, NY

    Obviously not. When someone making $25,000/yr thinks he can get away with buying a 5,000 sq. ft MacMansion for $500,000 with a loan that will cost four times that, Americans have learned nothing.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:42 pm |
  70. Antoine

    live within our means? if we aren't, we better start. it will take a while to fix this mess. however, if we did, there would no longer be impulse buyers or suckers for credit cards or a "lower" class. we have to have a lower class, who's gonna work at wal-mart.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:45 pm |
  71. Kris

    Consumer Spending has dropped while Consumer Debt has risen. So, Americans may have cut back but not nearly enough to be 'within their means'. Hopefully the rising consumer debt is not being spent on necessities, as that would indicate a far worse economy than the current understanding.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  72. Jerry Wilson

    Sure people know how to live within their means. Lets see...spend thousands on a wedding, buy a dream home, fill the garage with cars, load the closet with designer cloths, max out the credit cards, and then look for a job. Nothing to it!

    Jerry Wilson

    February 6, 2008 at 4:49 pm |
  73. Tom

    Yes , corporation is living over their mean . CEO making 432 time more than average americans. As most americans wages have been stagment for several years. Most americans using a credit card mostly to pay for standard needs like food ,gas,housing,and health care which their wages is not able keep up. America need to wake up , If this has not happen to you yet ,you better wake up , All you need a big medical problem by a accident or a illness you did not suspect.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
  74. Ralph from New York

    No, Jack. This is because of the changes in prices for needed goods, especially our dependence on oil and other goods from overseas. The only answer is to make our country more self-sufficient., and not see prices change on the whim of a tribal sheik and/orother foreign ruler.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
  75. David in Missouri

    For those of us that reside in the land of "middle income", there is no such thing as living within one's means. Health insurance premiums and deductibles have doubled and tripled (assuming you are fortunate enough to have health insurance), there is no such thing as "affordable housing", gas – up 300%. The cost of buying a vehicle in which to put your $3.00 + gas, outrageous. College for our children? No problem. (Of course they'll be paying off their college loans for the next 20 years) For those of us that make this country run, we're hanging on by our fingernails and can't hold on much longer. I would LOVE to live within my means...if I had enough MEANS to do so.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
  76. Skip

    What exactly will our "means" be when all the jobs are gone?

    February 6, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  77. Jim

    Jack, Responsible American's have always lived within their means. We saved our money for many reasons, including hard times due to the economy, a home of our own, health, college tuition, retirement, etc. and received a modest 5 to 7% interest rate on these savings. However, the rules were changed by Republican administrations beginning with Ronald Regan To trickle down economics. Have you checked lately to see how much interest you can earn on savings, CD's, MMC's, T Bills, etc? From 1980 to present, with exception of the latter Clinton years, the poor have gotten poorer and the rich have gotten richer! Look at the government's own published facts and you can plainly see this massive shift in wealth. Throw in Bush/Cheney's economic ignorance, sweetheart deals with big oil and the big business community and you arrive at exactly the place we find ourselves in at this time. I hope the Republicans keep invoking the Regan name. Those of us who lived through that period remember the deficits, Iran-Contra and Ollie North in the Whitehouse basement breaking the constitution to bits!!!

    Prosperity SC

    February 6, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  78. Paul

    Some people blame the credit card companies, some people blame the government, some people even blame President Bush for their own personal debt but I haven't read one blog where someone said "I lack financial discipline and that is why I'm in over my head". People have gotten so accustomed to the creature comforts that they can't imagine life without them but basic nescessities are all we need and we could survive on a lot less. Humans are very adaptable. Makes me yearn for the good old days....when we were hunters and gatherers.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:55 pm |
  79. Raphael

    No, Jack, and this is because we have no faith in our own government. Instead we see our country dependent on oil and on other goods manufactured overseas. The only people who benefit are those in our government who choose to bow down in front of and make their own deals with tribal sheiks and other rulers, the rulers themselves, and the companies whose profits go up by depending on oursourcing. We need a change, where our government and our manufacturers thinks more of the needs of the people and where our nation is more self sufficient for energy and other needed products.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:56 pm |
  80. David

    No!! The younger generation in this country has come to believe that they are entitled to have what they want. Now this is not necessarily their fault but the fault of their Parents.
    It is called the Credit Card bubble which is never talked about! That's right, when this generation grew up and wanted something they got it, not because the parents had the money too but because they had Credit Cards. Every time the kid screamed, yelled and bucked about getting something they got it.
    Before credit cards parents had no choice to say NO! Which taught their kids to live within their means; or so it should have! So this recession is really going to hurt and hurt bad.


    Fort Lauderdale FL

    February 6, 2008 at 4:56 pm |
  81. Ruth McInerney

    I doubt it seriously. At least not until retirement comes. Those of us trying to live on Social Security have no choice but to live within our means.

    February 6, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  82. daniel

    Living Within their means, A small retail store owner's prospective:

    People not spending as much, trying to bargain even more. Hurting my margins, hard to stay in business, laid off a couple people so far. Makes me sad, I'm sure it makes them even sadder. Employees? A few good ones, but ANYBODY from the 20-30 year old range have come to me, application in hand, demanding all sorts of extra money with no job skills, not doing an honest day's work for any pay, and slacking off in general. Entitlement is rampant! What ever happened to earning something? Sure, I have a mortgage, but I buy everything with cash AFTER I save for it. And its not like I have a lot of cash. I save money...about 6 months worth of emergency money...and my significant other has a job that doesn't pay much but she still manages to save money as well. Neither of us have ANY credit card bills, despite having $50,000 to be able to tap if we need it (can't understand why we would, though). What the heck is wrong with this country? America is getting worse and worse, we've lost all the goodwill we had in the world as well.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:04 pm |
  83. Gary, NJ

    I can’t say if the rest of America is living within their means... I can say that the people in power right now don’t want them to. They want Americans in debt because that’s good for business and they don’t care if they have to take the rest of their lives to pay that debt. They want Americans fat and unhealthy because that will that’s good for the Pharmaceutical companies. I know someone who is a Pharmacist and he believes that the drug companies have cures now but won’t release them because there is no money to be made by curing a disease but treating it until you die is a sure way for them to get rich as we get poor.

    As for me, I have no choice but to live in my means. I was married 6 months ago and my wife and I make just enough money to pay all our bills with just a little left over. We live in Bergen County NJ which is one of the most expensive places in the county to live. We bought a home that needs a lot of work on the edge of a nice town. We can’t afford to fix it up all at once so we do a little at a time and hope for the best. This is the price we paid to stay close to our families. But if my wife or I lost our jobs it would be rough if not impossible to manage. We have no doubt that we will both always have to work, and at 41 I suspect if I’m lucky I’ll be fixing up this house and paying it off until the day I die.

    I can’t complain because I know I have it far better off than so many people in the world, but to me this isn’t the “American Dream”... It’s the “American reality”. My dreams are a little bit better.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:05 pm |
  84. Dave from Minnesota

    I have no problems living within my means. I have no credit cards, I drive a 10 year old car that I can fix myself (I am a mechanic). We eat good, have cable , cell phones etc... I dont get it. Look at how your parents lived, I bet they lived within their means and you still ate good and were able to do everything you NEEDED to do. How can you NOT live within your means. Grow Up People, quit whinig and quit trying to keep up with the people who CHOOSE not to live within their means.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:06 pm |
  85. Michael Weber

    Capitalism at its greedy excessive unregulated worst. Welcome to the American nightmare. What did people expect from a system that is based on consuming more than you need or can afford? Who's to blame? Look in the mirror!

    Mike from MN

    February 6, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
  86. Tom

    As long as Las Vegas glitters and want-a -be cities follow , state lotteries thrive, booze sales climb, and americans attempt to privatize their own retierment packages .....families will never live within their means.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  87. dan kness

    The only way we will all learn to live within our means is to stop using credit cards and stop buying anything but a house on credit.
    Clinton Iowa
    Wouldn't it be great if our Federal Government also lived within their means.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  88. Cody

    It's simple, Jack...i'll call it "Economical Darwinism" the smart survive and the stupid...well, they vote for John McCain.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  89. Luke

    Mabye people can finally learn to spend what they have and not a pennt more. Who knows, this could be like a great awakeng.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:10 pm |
  90. Sharon

    Bottomline, you have no choice if youre broke!

    February 6, 2008 at 5:10 pm |
  91. Keith

    Jack, With the $ droping as fast as it is. how are we to save? I am 27 knee deep in student loans paying rent and balancing my debt with no intrested credit cards. We can' even afford to live alone anymore. This is crazy.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:12 pm |
  92. Phil Guercio

    My wife and I are both baby boomers, and God I hate that term, however we have always lived within our means. Our home is paid for, having no need to move up to that McMansion in the gated community, our savings rate has always been better than 25% of our gross income. For a long period we lived only on one pay check and banked the rest. For those with better paying jobe they ought to give this method a try. Don't charge anything you cannot pay in full when the bill comes in. Keep your cars longer, after all they are built better these days, and live in a home you need not the one you oine for while watching the girls on Wisteria Lane.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:12 pm |
  93. Aaron Deskins in WV

    Are you kidding me? hell no we aren't. Everybody has one or two, or five credit cards. Plastic money is our lifeline to make things work. Spending is everywhere. Every five minutes i see a commercial for some sort of debt consolidation on television. Looks like we're still shopping til we drop. Too bad America is very irresponsible with its money.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:12 pm |
  94. Kristy in MO

    I've always gotten a stupid sense of glee over my bargain-hunting, but I've never been in the class that COULD afford to live like a Hilton. I think it's a short-term thing, overall. I see my twenty-something nieces spend $300-$500 on Coach purses they use once or twice and know that the new spending generation is going to rapidly pick up our slack. Americans can be very spoiled and the belt-tightening is less indicative of an awakening of fiscal responsibility than of a mad-scramble to keep the Jones-qualifying items they've already gotten themselves in hock over in the first place.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  95. Greg

    Absolutely not. Most Americans can't even define what their means are because of the poor example set by the Bush Administration. Bill Maher said it best on Larry King this week, the solution to the problem from the Bush Administration: spend! We were attacked, spend! We are going to war, spend! We are close to a recession, spend!

    February 6, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  96. Paul

    With the current state of the housing market and the citi financials of united states doing well, i don't think people are living within there means. I also think you have you quotes mixed up. It was presidential candidate Ron Paul who has been bringing up the point about borrowing from China to pay for our daily expenses. Not Mr. Romney

    February 6, 2008 at 5:16 pm |
  97. Michael Faulkner

    Jack, I don't want any economic stimulus package check. A $600 check from the government is only going to help me pay off my debt – money I've already spent. Instead of making money appear out of thin air, how about the government rein-in the deficit; get rid of corporate tax loopholes, make corporations pay their fair share, and stop spending Trillions on a failed war. That'll make our economy stronger in the long-term. This "package" should stay unopened.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  98. Will

    I work for a company that caters exclusively to the upper-class credit card junkies. Most people like me are forced to tighten the financial reigns and only spend what can be spared. Unfortunately, for me, this means less food and trouble paying for gas so I can get to work and back. While my paycheck dwindles, the government still takes a huge chunk. I need that money to get by, but I guess the government feels my money would be better spent fighting a war I disagree with and countless give-away programs that don't aid people like me. No one's really talking about this problem either. Makes you think, don't it, Jack?

    February 6, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  99. Rob

    Jack, Americans will never learn, When I was Spain in 2006 most people owned their homes there and mean own without a mortgage, what Americans need is a recession followed by a depression maybe they will vote out the people who got them there, I think Congress and the House need a good enema.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  100. Wise Merlin

    Absolutely NOT Jack.
    The average credit debt in this country is $9,400. People will be hurting to pay down this debt. They cannot live within their means until the credit interest in this country goes back down to SANE AND FAIR percentages. I think a depression will occur before we learn to live within our means and credit interests drop. The greatest financial problem this country has is GREED.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
  101. Neil

    Besides the sub-prime banker robbers, the biggest cause of the current economic crisis is the peculiar US tax law that permits the writing-off of mortgage interest. Most countries do not allow this. We certainly do not in Canada. Wonderful to promote home ownership..... but really .... why would you ever pay off your mortgage? It will just cause you to pay more taxes, sooo borrow away ! A tax policy of seemingly good intent, but horrible, horrible, consequences. It does not encourage savings, it encourages debt, and umhh, ahhh, remember too much debt is actually a bad thing.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
  102. Michael

    I wish we were Jack, but that would be too responsible. After years of having the lessons of discipline and delayed gratification destroyed via the all too alluring credit offers, an immature and delinquent consumer base will need some outside help to wiggle out of this recession. Mitt seems to be a cool free spender, maybe when he drops out of the race he will offer us his campaign budget to supplement a mightier stimulus package. What do you think?

    February 6, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  103. Michael


    It's not so much that Americans are learning to live within their means, it's more like they're being forced to. I'm not a baby-boomer, I was born in 1984, so I can't really compare those days to these financially, but I can see how so many people are struggling to get by with what they have. It's a shame that the "Land of the Free" is having trouble holding itself together after a senseless war and a C-average college graduate are crippling the economy. One thing I'm hoping for is that I can give my future children the best of what they deserve. When they ask me, "Daddy can I have that toy?", I would like to answer with, "Of course, sweety," instead of "Daddy's getting paid on Friday, honey. We'll see." I hope January of 2009 will change all that.

    Pharr, TX

    February 6, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  104. Eric S.

    Americans living within their means? Isn't that another way of saying were broke Jack? That's not an American dream. That's 3rd world means.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  105. Cheri, MN

    How can people live within their means if they've never been taught to do so? When your motto is "Give your kids everything you didn't or couldn't have," the kids don't learn to accept what it feels like to not get what they want. When you grow up that way, its near impossible to not run out and get whatever is being shoved down your throat on TV....erm, I mean, advertised on every possible medium.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:21 pm |
  106. Mel in FL

    Which Americans are you talking about – the "have's" or the "have nots"? While the "have's" are considering the future and wondering where to invest their money, the "have not's" are worried about today and wondering how they are going to survive.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:22 pm |
  107. Rob

    Well when we have a President that spends without thought, slaughters a surplus, it makes our money worth nothing. He has put us into so much debt that we are forced to use money that is worth nothing because of inflation, while at the same time having to spend this money that buys relatively nothing. Prices have increased. Jobs have been lost. Income has dropped. It's the worst combination possible. We also have American companies that can't figure out what Americans want. They build SUVs over Hybrids so our demand goes to foreign manufactures. Then to add more we have oil companies claiming that they have to raise prices while at the same time recording record profit. Of course politicians don't care because they receive money from these companies. *cough bush cough*. So yes we have to live within our means because we have a rich war lord president who doesn't care about anyone but the rich. He lowers taxes on the rich who in the grand scheme don't make up the large amount of consumption. The middle class does, and they have to deal with tax percentages higher than the upper 1% of wealth. Now we are going to get rebates that will just put more money (borrowed) into the economy, which will raise inflation and people won't consume it. We have been forced into this situation by ignorant-rich politicians who care about no one but themselves and fulfilling their fathers' wishes.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:23 pm |
  108. Tall

    Every bad situation has a good side effect. As the US became prosperous and didn't know what to do with its money, the citizen started to spend their income without any second thought of possible hard times to come. We have completely forgetten about the economic principles and disciplines that made us a great nation–to live reasonably and most importantly within our means.
    Now that the sky has become cloudy and the storm about to hit, we have no choice but to return to the fundamentals.
    Life is a continuous course with its laws and it can punish those who violate the rules

    Columbus, OH.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:23 pm |
  109. Korrina

    I don't really know about the rest of the country, but I have been living within my means for over 10 years. I was so far in debt that it took way to long to get out of it, I don't not want my children to have to pay for my mistakes(and Junk) when and if I pass away, As I am not even in my 40's yet. I have learned that if I can't pay cash for something other then my House or Car, Then I don't need it. I Have a beautiful house and nice cars and I am lacking nothing, If I really want something then I save and buy it, most times by the time I have the money I really realize that I don't need it. This in turn has paid for some really nice Vacations for my family that have been priceless.

    I have also taught my Children ages 16 and 18 to work for what they want and not go into the credit card trap.

    Stop and think about what you buy with it and what you could do with all the money that you pay them(credit card company's) each month if you could pocket it all for one year.

    It is a tough habit to break, but it can be done.

    Washington State

    February 6, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  110. Josh

    Just as you say it might not be by choice that Americans are learning to live within their means, I don't think for a second that it was by choice that all these Americans got themselves into the mess we're in. I've heard candy-coated phrases like "layers of blame"; I think the public deserves an explanation of how thick some of those layers are. If a company does not carry any moral responsibility for their customers, choosing to employ deceitful advertising and create a wide range of luxury products marketed toward the general public instead of those with luxurious amounts of disposable income, they will always be disappointed in the end. What goes up must come down, and if we always try to keep up with and even surpass "the Joneses," we're going to run ourselves into the ground. Don't forget what people said about the Titanic, and don't be foolish enough to believe the same thing about America, however great we might be.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  111. terry willaims

    Hello Jack as with so many issues the folks in Wa. DC are about 2yrs behind the real people in this country.We have been in a recession for yrs and have been pulling back on all sorts of extras so we can give the Oil co.s more,more for milk and food,etc.
    As far as a boost for the economy,how about a Rebuild America plan fix our bridges,roads,etc. and to pay for it just ask all the defense contractors for a refund of the $Billions that were "lost"in Iraq

    February 6, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  112. SurJo, Michigan

    Many Americans are forced to live within their means. The problem is that many have been tricked in borrowing too much in the past and, in the process, have forgone their current income. What we are seeing today is a correction to a false period of expansion.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  113. Victor

    Jack, "living within your means" for many in the young generation of graduating high schoolers would mean skipping college. For lower-middle class white students, scholarships are few and far between, often forcing anyone who wants a decent job later in life to take out student loans. Basically, that means living beyond your means so you can get a decent job so as to not live beyond your means. I'm graduating with a 4.4 GPA, but considering enlistment in the military simply because the money for college just isn't available. -Victor

    February 6, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  114. Ben

    How do you tell someone who was raised in a "culture of consumption", not to consume? As long as we continue to issue credit to anyone with a pulse, most will not live within their means. It has always been this way. The banks eventually issued easy credit big enough to buy a house, so now we're noticing it more than before, that's all.

    In the meantime, Corporate America will continue to bombard us/them with products and services. The weak will give in to this 'sense of entitlement' and buy, whereas the others (1%), will save.

    Regarding the stimulus, what's up with giving a financially irresponsible person more cash?? What kind of message is the govt sending? "We know spending has gotten you into trouble, so here's some more cash?"

    February 6, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  115. Vincent Mross


    Americans are not learning to live within their means, they are being forced to by the rapid decline of an economic system that is nearing an inglorious collapse. I challenge you to compel all of your viewers to watch Aaron Russo's film "America: Freedom to Fascism"; in fact I challenge you to watch it – if you haven't seen it already – and then discuss it on your program...

    February 6, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  116. Grant Gray

    Jack, No!
    We don't have any more money to be frugal with. What with gasoline costing $3.0 a gallon, we are saving our desposable income to keep the old family Ford full. Perhaps if the and descent people over there at Exxon wanted to play to their greed, they could buy Walmart. That way people like myself could buy our gas on lay-away and pick up some bananas and diapers while we are there!

    February 6, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  117. Josh

    Just as you say it might not be by choice that Americans are learning to live within their means, I don't think for a second that it was by choice that all these Americans got themselves into the mess we're in. I've heard candy-coated phrases like "layers of blame"; I think the public deserves an explanation of how thick some of those layers are. If a company does not carry any moral responsibility for their customers, choosing to employ deceitful advertising and create a wide range of luxury products marketed toward the general public instead of those with luxurious amounts of disposable income, they will always be disappointed in the end. What goes up must come down, and if we always try to keep up with and even surpass "the Joneses," we're going to run ourselves into the ground. Don't forget what people said about the Titanic, and don't be foolish enough to believe the same thing about America, however great we might be.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  118. Wise Merlin

    Absolutely NOT Jack;
    The main financial problem this country has is GREED. The average American family is carrying $9,400 in credit debt. They are paying outrageous interest rate. I think there will be a depression before people will learn to live within their means AND credit interest rate go down to SANE AND FAIR levels again.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  119. Don Chinery

    For proof of how bad the economy is, witness the Giuliani freefall where the fear campaign was replaced by the notion of being possibly broke and homeless. When so many are in this sinking ship, people naturally look for the USS Change to come to the rescue. The reality is that it is always the economy. When times are bad, you could elect the GEICO gekko if it would save people's financial butts. That wouldn't work though, I am pretty sure, judging from the accent, it is not a citizen. Perhaps even illegal.
    Don Chinery
    Kailua Kona

    February 6, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  120. David

    I think Americans will eventually start living within their means, the question is: what will happen when China raises the prices on their exports, where will we find cheap products that Americans have become so addicted to? Have you seen a cheap American made product lately?

    San Antonio TX

    February 6, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  121. Brenda from Albany Oregon

    Its not the babyboomers that cant live within their means. I am one and I think most of us still remember when getting a radio flyer or an easybake oven was the coolest gift ever. Its our children who are used to the newest and latest things. Play stations one,two, and three, or how about the wii? God forbid these kids might have to cook something that does not go in the microwave or come from a fastfood joint. We ( the boomers) have created a generation of kids who have that disposable attitude. What scares me is what are their children going to be like.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  122. Sur

    Many Americans are forced to live within their means. The problem is that many have been tricked in borrowing too much in the past and, in the process, have forgone their current income. What we are seeing today is a correction to a false period of expansion.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  123. Ben

    How do you tell someone who was raised in a "culture of consumption", not to consume? As long as we continue to issue credit to anyone with a pulse, most will not live within their means. It has always been this way. The banks eventually issued easy credit big enough to buy a house, so now we're noticing it more than before, that's all.

    In the meantime, Corporate America will continue to bombard us/them with products and services. The weak will give in to this 'sense of entitlement' and buy, whereas the others (1%), will save.

    Regarding the stimulus, what's up with giving a financially irresponsible person more cash?? What kind of message is the govt sending? "We know spending has gotten you into trouble, so here's some more cash?"

    February 6, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  124. jillian

    I Iused ot live within my means but my means have been shringking in value since oil prices and other prices have risen. I used to be able to easily afford gasoline and milk but not anymore. What has changed is that was the middle class has now beome the upper lower class under the economic team of Geroge "W"....Thanks for the re-classification!

    February 6, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  125. Mary Ellen

    Hey Jack!

    I am a baby boomer, and I have to tell you, my plans for my "tax rebate" is putting away for a rainy day, not spending. I have eliminated using credit cards months ago, streamlined my budget, once then again and again. I have cut back everywhere! I have worked for private non-profit which rates are driven by the Michigan Government. We have seen no raises for the last three years and almost didn't receive a new contract due to budget cuts. So yes, living within means and then some, but not by choice. Michigan has been in a bad state for a long time so this is not new for us....and the govenment did nothing to help.

    Thank goodness Bush will be gone soon and the country can get back on track.
    Clinton/ Obama ticket and then Obama can pick up in 8 years with experience .... we would have 16 years of healing and repairing for this miserable mess we are in!

    February 6, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  126. Linda Caverly

    They want Americans to save, tighten our belt. How when the government thru taxes, fees, and any other way to get out money takes over 70%. They tell us to use less water, electricity, fuel, the up the costs when we do, so these big companies will still make mega profits. In hard times, why can't they be happy making smaller profits. If we try to use less they just raise the rates. Where can Americans cut back?

    February 6, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  127. Cheri, MN

    How can people live within their means if they've never been taught to do so? When your motto is "Give your kids everything you didn't or couldn't have," the kids don't learn to accept what it feels like to not get what they want. When you grow up that way, its near impossible to not run out and get whatever is being shoved down your throat on TV....erm, I mean, advertised on every possible medium. Instant gratification is what its all about. We don't know any other way.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  128. Greg Williams

    Jack, I doubt Americans will learn. At least not yet. Wait until gas hits $6.00 or more. Wait until groceries are so expensive, you can't afford them. If we as Americans had the good sense to learn from past mistakes we would not be in the mess we are in now in the first place. Maybe we will learn when we have to keep the desperate away with force because we ourselves are desperate.

    Greg, almost desperate in North Carolina

    February 6, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  129. Phillip Jaszczuk

    Americans do have a sense of financial responsibility and consumer confidence but they tend to abuse their credit in part because it is pretty easy to do it. Who hasn't thrown the plastic around like some kind of cash frisbee. If they are anything like me they end up having to cut that out when the tap is dry. As economic turmoil increases Americans will hole up their money or go homeless (with a bang of course).

    February 6, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  130. James Jacobs

    Why should they? The government has been doing it for years and getting by with. The people will stop when the government goes bankrupt, and there is no more social security, health coverage or anything else connected to the government. Congress and this administration is doing everything in their power to hurry the process along. Tax cuts??? If you are not making enough income to pay your expenses, you don't give away some of your income so you will have enough to live on. Come on, give me a break. Why does it make sense to these Washington idiots?
    If this country survives George Bush, Maybe John McCain will get elected and we will stay in Iraq until there is not enough money left to fund the war, I just hope they hang on to enough to get the troops home, at least.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:33 pm |
  131. Alan Hinden


    It' All An Illusion. No matter how carefully people save or watch their spending, it simply doesn't matter.

    The Bush administration's Corporate Welfare Program trumps everything else.

    Power bills have more than doubled during his term with no increase in consumption, health care costs have dramatically risen, health inurance companies are litterally getting away with murder, oil companies are making excessive profits in order to maintain profit margins to the average family's detrement, yet consumers are violating federal law if they buy prescription drugs from Canada so they can live within their means.


    February 6, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  132. Jane Crone

    Dear Jack. I'm not sure younger American people will ever learn to live within their means, they are pretty spoiled. BUT when you get to be my age you learn real fast how to get by on Social Security. You use a lot of coupons, buy things that are buy one, get one free, go to thrift shops, learn how to make left overs stretch, and stay home and watch CNN so you can stay up on the world. Now if only we could put Congressmen on my budget for a while, maybe they would quit spending like they do. Come to think of it, if they had to personally live on my income for just a month, they would either commit suicide or quit their job and then we could replace all of them.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  133. Patrick- Atlanta

    How can Americans be expected to live within their means when a gallon of milk and a gallon of gas combined is more than most make in an hourly wage? While the Congress continuously gave themselves raises over the past ten years and good old George W. spent every dime in a war that has never been justified, the middle class has been sold up the river. We have lost our identity. We have for far too long measured our successes under a veil of monetary and material gain that now the bubble of our American greed is bursting. I can see it now..."coming to you live from Sovereign Wealth Stadium in Washington D.C., it's the United States of America brought to you by China." The dollar isn't worth the paper it is priinted on but the Fed keeps churning it out somehow and the government continues to spend it as quickly as possible. There is no quick fix here. A lot of people will have to tighten their belts a lot more because their pants wont fit when they can no longer put food on the table. Maybe Wal-Mart will let us break up their giant parking lots and let people start farming their food again. If governments were put on a credit rating system, the U.S.A. would be as sub-prime as it gets.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:37 pm |
  134. Janice

    Living within one's means has not been taught by parental example ( nor by all levels of government spending) for over 30+ years, so the answer to your question is no. Instead of responsibly managing financial tough times, individuals seek out another credit card to max out.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  135. Vincent Mross


    Americans are not learning to live within their means, they are being forced to by the rapid decline of an economic system that is nearing an inglorious collapse. I challenge you to compel all of your viewers to watch Aaron Russo's film "America: Freedom to Fascism" – in fact I challenge you to watch it (if you haven't seen it already) and then discuss it on your program...

    February 6, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  136. Rick Wening

    Probably not. As long as we keep buying into the image of $60,000 cars that "return the favor" and the sixty-something husband and fourty-something wife planning their retirement from their ocean view house it'll never stop. We moved to rural Utah two years ago from 55 years in California. And among the benefits of rural living is the refreshing fact that out here no one cares what you drive or what you wear. It really puts things in perspective.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  137. Michael

    I wish we would finally learn to save but that would be too responsible. After years of the lessons of discipline and delayed gratification having been destroyed via the all too alluring credit offers, it will take an outside influence to wiggle us out of this mess. I hear Mitt is a pretty free spender. Maybe when he drops out of the race he could allot his massive campaign budget as a suplement to the anemic stimulus package. That might actually make a difference, and then maybe Mitt would finally learn to run within his means. What do you think?

    February 6, 2008 at 5:45 pm |
  138. Randy

    Learn to live within their means? When a family of four on an income of $16,000 a year buys canned dog food to bulk up the meatloaf, buy out dated milk and water it down to make it last longer, but old bread and cut out the mold, buy second hand clothes and patch the holes and sew the tears, and yet still find nothing left over at the end of the month what have they to learn? When Americans resort to tactics of survival such as this and still can’t make ends meet it is not what they have to learn, but it’s what the government and Wall Street have to learn. They need to learn that abusing, and ignoring the middle class will have dire consequences to the socio-political structure of this country.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:46 pm |
  139. stacy

    Jack, I've been living within my means all my life,pay check to paycheck.Now that may not work I may need to get a second job,that is if I can find one.Lets talk more about our government and the way they spend our money before you go talking about how I should spend mine.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:46 pm |
  140. Dudley

    We Americans should stop criticizing government leaders and take a look at ourselves. After all, our leaders are only a reflection of our greed and lack of discipline. We sure know how to spend; don't need a stimulant for that. So government leaders and candidates are promoting various bailouts to help citizens out of mortgage crises they shouldn't have gotten themselves into in the first place. I'm retired, on a limited income so I bought a house within my means to pay. My family and I don't have much but we have enough and have no debts; we are perfectly happy in our little comfortable house. We would like to have one of those big flat screen HD TV's and could get one at BestBuy's easy pay plan with no interest for three years but have decided to wait until we can pay cash. There is no such thing as a tax free loan.

    Those who live in big expensive houses, which they couldn't afford in the first place, should get no help; let them lose their houses and go out and buy something they can afford. I have no sympathy with these folks, gluttons who are never satisfied, who feed their overconsumption with ever higher debt. After all, isn't that what is wrong with our country.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  141. Arthur

    We can only hope Jack. Living on borrowed money beyond your means is playing with fire and the market will burn you. No government regulations are required to correct this, the free market is at work and this is the only way people learn to be smarter with their finances. Life's not a joke and not everyone can have a million dollar mansion, think little America is finally growing up Jack.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  142. Sam Ayer


    Learning to live within means is like the New Year resolution to lose weight. A good plan that mostly fails.

    Why? Because people want the American Dream, not American Reality.

    We live a life of loans – mortgage, auto, even "Tax Refund Anticipation Loans". Existing debt to pay off + less means = less money to spend and less credit we can qualify for.

    People were saving in 1984 because they were getting as much as 21% interest on savings – more money to spend.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:49 pm |
  143. Steven Saunders

    You asked the question will the overspenders "learn" to live within their means?

    Those people who have always lived within their means will continue to do so. The people who have never learned personal economic responsibility will probably continue to be a drain on society. They've never lived within their means and I doubt seriously that they will start now.


    February 6, 2008 at 5:49 pm |
  144. Will

    Americans, especially upper-middle class Americans will never learn to live within their means. As long as they have room in their credit, they will rack up debt. However, all the rest of us at the bottom or near the bottom are forced to narrow our means even further in order to get by. The government needs to get out of my wallet.

    February 6, 2008 at 5:51 pm |
  145. Ken

    Living within their means, maybe! However, I believe we are realizing a decline in the standard of living caused by corporate facisim, the de-industrialization, the exportation of jobs, the outsourcing/insourcing using cheap foreign labor. We have transferred the "value added' processes, such as making Whirlpool appliances to Mexico or elsewhere and them simply import and cosume the same products Americans used to make and contribute their earnings throughout their communities. It is part of the "Downward Spiral" of the American way of life! You said as much in your book, I read it!

    February 6, 2008 at 5:52 pm |
  146. Steven Saunders

    You asked the question will the overspenders "learn" to live within their means?

    Those people who have always lived within their means will continue to do so. The people who have never learned personal economic responsibility will probably continue to be a drain on society. They've never lived within their means and I doubt seriously that they will start now.

    Steven from Fort Myers, Florida

    February 6, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  147. Mary from Oakland, CA

    I have no more means within which to live.

    February 6, 2008 at 6:00 pm |
  148. Chris

    No way, I just bought a house I can't afford with a 40 year mortgage.

    My wife and I just got new cars with 7 year payment plans.

    We leave on our cruise next week and DisneyLand 2 weeks after that!

    February 6, 2008 at 6:03 pm |
  149. Dave Hilo, HI

    I think, hopefully, we have had a wake up call. I could never understand the advertising on TV for loans and mortgages where they said you do not need good credit for loans and even bankruptcy filings will be considered!!!???
    And now with job losses and clear indicators of a recession, hopefully, Americans are re-evaluating their economic situation. And tax rebates will be applied to a reduction in their indebtedness.

    February 6, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  150. Daniel, Chicago, Illinois


    How can Americans live within their means with inflation, prices, and the value of the dollar the way it is?

    February 6, 2008 at 6:07 pm |
  151. Caryn Frettoloso

    Absolutely not!
    Of the abundant money spenders, we should be worried about the buyers that think they have to buy all the video games ever created or a new outfit for their dog so that the furry friend can have matching boots. It is easy to understand that back in the 1980's, everyone wanted that new computer. But now, computers are not the rage anymore, the new rage is seeing what we can buy with every dollar we find, even though we don't need it; and it's a rage that is weighing down our already broken economy.

    Irving, Texas

    February 6, 2008 at 6:09 pm |