Since the 1970s, our personal savings rate has fallen from 12 percent to just 3 percent today. Almost half of all households don’t have enough money socked away to meet a $400 emergency. At least one-third of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.
It’s easy to blame this on failings of individual discipline, and plenty of people do. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) recently griped about Americans who “are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” And there’s a whole cottage industry of personal finance scolds insisting that everyone could save massive amounts if they just had the willpower.