Consumption: Full Speed Ahead?

Many Cards

If part of your work involves educating others on how consumption can affect their ability to build and maintain wealth, looking for outside patterns of data and trends might be a way to bring an “ah-ha” moment to clients, children, friends, or family members. A string of articles in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal wove an interesting pattern for me, and the interpretation might prove educational for consumers and clients.

First, this: Holiday Shoppers Were in Good Spirits

The online version title is U.S. Retailers on Pace for Best Holiday Season in Years but the print version title is more telling. In essence, the 2016 holiday shopping figures haven’t been “’seen since the mid 2000’s.’” We’re all feeling great about jobs, the economy, our income, so let’s go shopping. Spirits are high, and consumer-confidence levels are the highest since August 2001 according to the article.

Next, this little snippet: Cards Overtake Cash

It was only a matter of time, of course, that credit cards overtook cash for spending, and this article highlighted the global nature of credit.

Market research firm Euromonitor estimates that 2016 was the first year that noncash payments exceeded cash payments globally, thanks largely to increased card adoption in China. Cards surpassed cash as the largest single payment method, accounting for 44.1% of global consumer payments, compared with 43% for cash.

Finally, a reminder of the aspirational attitudes that continue to fuel luxury sales, regardless of economic conditions: Shoes Help Luxury Retailers Step Up Their Sales. The author writes:

Leather handbags traditionally have served as the entry product for many aspiring fashionistas, and that has helped power double-digit growth at many fashion groups for years. But a sharp slowdown in sales has forced brands to look elsewhere for growth. At the same time, prices of handbags have steadily increased, leaving shoes a much more accessible item.

There’s always going to be something that makes us feel good when it comes to consumption. From cars to shampoos, there is a little luxury for everyone’s wallet size (or credit card). This article indicated that luxury retailers are, ahem, helping consumers find something attainable–a pair of shoes–since the luxury handbag market is no longer accessible for some consumers. Some research suggests that as long as that luxury thing isn’t conspicuous, there could be some value in wearing luxury shoes or carrying a luxury bag.

At any rate, the patterns here are clear: the economy is looking up, we are using credit more than ever, and retailers are vying for our attention. Highlighting these patterns can help prevent profligate spending and accompanying buyer’s remorse, as well as ensure financially successful habits are established right now even while the good times are rolling. Many advisors will shy away from discussing these important topics…will you?

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