Gray matters: Penny-pinching seniors hurting the economy?

Most investors know the basic math behind the substantial pullback in consumer spending: High unemployment plus stagnant median incomes means fewer working citizens with enough disposable income for purchases.

Perhaps you're also aware that in addition to cyclical factors, there are structural and technological factors that appear to be changing the shape of the U.S. economy. Historically, consumer spending comprised 60 to 65 percent of U.S. GDP, but it's said we could be entering a "frugal consumer" era in which the percentage is quite a bit lower than that. You may have noticed people at work who routinely went out for lunch but who now regularly brown bag it. That's the kind of structural change, when multiplied by many millions of un-ordered Subway sandwiches and maki rolls, can have a profound effect on GDP.


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