Americans Are Still Spending Like There’s No Tomorrow

Consumers should be spending less by now. Interest rates are up. Inflation remains high. Pandemic savings have shrunk. And the labor market is cooling. Yet household spending, the primary driver of the nation’s economic growth, remains robust remains robust. From a report: Americans spent 5.8% more in August than a year earlier, well outstripping less than 4% inflation. And the experience economy boomed this summer, with Delta Air Lines reporting record revenue in the second quarter and Ticketmaster selling over 295 million event tickets in the first six months of 2023, up nearly 18% year-over-year. Economists and financial advisers say consumers putting short-term needs and goals above long-term ones is normal. Still, this moment is different, they say.

A tough housing market has more consumers writing off something they’d historically save for, while the pandemic showed the instability of any long-term plans related to health, work or day-to-day life. So, they are spending on once-in-a-lifetime experiences because they worry they may not be able to do them later. “It’s not a regret-filled, spur-of-the-moment decision,” says Michael Liersch, who oversees a team of advisers as head of advice at Wells Fargo. “It’s the opposite of that, where I would regret not having done it.” Liersch cautions that it’s too soon to say whether the spate of spending is a fleeting moment or a new normal. And consumers remain frustrated about inflation as the price of many goods remains significantly higher than a few years ago.

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