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No spare cash? Foolish American

You've heard Aesop's fable -- the one about the ant and the grasshopper.

It goes something like this: The ant spends his time industriously storing food supplies for use in the future while the grasshopper lounges around on a leaf, poking fun at the ant. The grasshopper's motto is "live for today," while the ant's creed is "be ready for tomorrow."

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Then, when winter comes and food becomes scarce, the grasshopper searches for his ant-friend and begs for scraps.

Fortunately, the grasshopper doesn't have access to credit cards, or he'd just go deep into debt feeding his family and paying usurious interest rates for the privilege of doing so.

So which set of values applies to your personal financial situation -- that of the ant or the grasshopper?

Americans as grasshoppers
The philosophy that best describes our national psyche might be the grasshopper's. In a survey of 38 countries released last week by ACNielsen, the United States ranked first -- top in the world -- as the country with the highest percentage of consumers living paycheck to paycheck. More than a quarter of us -- 28 percent, to be exact -- said we "have no spare cash" after paying for our essential living expenses.

Meanwhile, countries such as the Philippines, India, Mexico, Indonesia and Thailand boast the highest savings rates. These countries ranked at the bottom (a good thing for them) in the no-spare-cash department.

Does the irony grab you by the collar and hurl you across the room?

The United States is the richest country in the world, with the highest gross domestic product out of 192 countries.

GDP is defined as "the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year." On a per capita basis, the United States ranks third out of 192 countries. The Philippines ranks 107th; India, 125th; Mexico, 66th; Indonesia, 121st; and Thailand, 72nd.

Obviously, we can't attribute our strapped-for-cash predicament solely to our financial circumstances. We live in a rich country and, as a whole, are not deprived of income opportunities. Yet, somehow many of us fritter away our hard-earned resources.

-- Posted: June 22, 2005



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