Friday, February 09, 2007

Savings? What Savings?

It’s hard to make ends meet. But is it Great-Depression-like hard?

Personal savings fell to its lowest level in 74 years in 2006 — negative 1 percent, according to a Commerce Department report. That means Americans spend 101 percent of their income, up from 100.4 percent in 2005 and the most since 101.5 percent in 1933.

Only four years in American history have seen a negative savings rate for the entire year: 1932, 1933, 2005 and 2006.

There are numerous reasons for the 21-consecutive-month slide into the red, economists say. But the most widely acknowledged is lifestyle. That is, we’re living beyond our means.

The rich want to live like the super rich; the super rich want to live like the Sultan of Brunei, and everyone else watches them on TV. Common folk like you and me want just a little more than we can afford, too. Wages have not kept pace with inflation, but the middle class has refused to scale back on lifestyle.

Another mistake, according to financial consultants, is trying to live without a budget. You wouldn’t run a golf course without a budget, so how can you run a successful household without one?

Superintendents always have a contingency plan for golf course cuts if push comes to shove. The real question is: What’s your personal contingency plan? What would you cut if you need to shrink total expenses — by oh, say, 10 percent — tomorrow?

— David Frabotta, Senior Editor

Monday, February 05, 2007

Selling Out

Several months ago I downloaded the Kansas song “Dust in the Wind” to my new iPod. That 1980s spiritual anthem, with its nifty and meditative violin-based groove, always stopped and made me contemplate the status of the world. Yeah, it dripped a little sap, but it was still a cool tune to me.

So it was good to hear the song again on my iPod after all these years. It took me back, and it still made me think. That is, until I heard it on TV. A few days after downloading “Dust in the Wind,” I was watching TV and the song was played on a car commercial.

It seems you can’t turn the channel these days without coming across a commercial that sports a rock or pop song as its jingle. It doesn’t matter what a song’s lyrics entail — “Dust in the Wind” flaunts a Biblically based message — just as long as the song is a good fit metaphorically. And, yes, as long as the song’s artist is cashing in on its corporate use.

So I pose a question to you. If you were John Mellencamp and Chevy offered you enough money to buy a small town for your song to be used in a car commercial, would you take the money and run? Why or why not? And, by the way, if Titleist offers you 10 grand to paint an advertisement on your course's 18th green, are you going to accept?

— Larry Aylward