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KAI RYSSDAL: Pat yourselves on the back. The Commerce Department reports this week the personal savings rate rose in October. Could it be Americans are finally becoming fiscally prudent? No not really. Here's Marketplace's Stacey Vanek-Smith:
STACEY VANEK-SMITH: Our personal savings rate is a measure of how much money we put aside, after we pay rent, buy groceries and gas up the car.
Turns out Americans would rather blow it on a flat-screen TV than put it in the bank. For the last 19 months, that savings has been in the negative numbers.
In October, our personal savings rate was -0.6 percent. That's actually an improvement over September's -0.7 percent.
Still, that debt is causing big problems. It pushes down on the value of the dollar and up on the deficit.
But we haven't always been this way. Back in 1984 Americans were putting aside 10 percent of their disposable incomes.
So what happened?
Personal finance expert Jordan Goodman says part of the problem has been the housing market. He says people felt like they didn't need to save money, because their homes were so valuable.
JORDAN GOODMAN: When housing prices were rising so dramatically over the last few years, it made people feel wealthier, and in fact they tapped that equity through home equity loans in the hundreds of billions of dollars. That has reversed completely in 2006.
Goodman says now that housing values are down, Americans are feeling less wealthy and they might feel more inspired to save for a rainy day.
In New York, I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace Money.