The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) keeps track of our “piggy banks” in a metric called the Personal Savings Rate (PSR). This is a measure of disposable income less spending on consumption items. The rate is a percentage of savings to disposable income. Below is a graph of the past 60 years, showing the steady decline in personal savings that began in the 1980s. (Source)
The stock market has cheered the recent rise in consumer confidence and spending but – a word of caution. As the graph shows, the PSR was at 4.7% in December 2011. This past Friday, the BEA reported that the PSR had declined to 4.3% in January and declined again in February to 3.7%. In real inflation-adjusted dollars, personal incomes declined slightly at the beginning of this year, making it doubtful that the recent rise in consumer spending can be sustained.