Londoners have a habit of leaving their newspapers behind when they deboard a carriage on the Tube. Copies of the Financial Times, the London Daily, People, and many other papers flutter on the seats, their pages spread out, marking, perhaps, the spot where the readers left off. Then the next batch of commuters streams in and the discarded papers are snatched up, automatically, as if they were expected to be there, left waiting by a diligent paperboy. The latest market shifts, fresh gossip about Beckham and Posh or Paris Hilton’s shenanigans, the last football (soccer) game’s statistics — all are gleaned from the pages of the assorted papers.
I learned from my copy of the Financial Times that Brits and Americans are not apt to save for a rainy day. It appears that despite the wide array of financial services available to us, we tend to save less than our Chinese and Canadian counterparts. Indeed, it appears that the more highly developed the retail financial services of a country, the less that country saves (Canada being an exception). This paradox is in part explained by the fact that the more diverse our investments, the less we focus on actual savings. In fact, active financial systems are associated with higher consumption. Dire analysis, yet not really news. We Americans are a consumer society. We make no apologies for buying the latest gadgets the day they become available (iPhone, anyone?) and for spending more than we earn (thank God for credit cards!).
Happily, I contributed to the American national savings rate by not paying for my copy of the Financial Times. The Tube arrived at my stop, and as a responsible traveler, I left the paper right where I had found it.