Confused by math?
Confused by math? - 
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David Brancaccio: Let me start by acknowledging, I'm only a guest here, filling in for Tess Vigeland. Just passing through. And as a guest maybe it's impolite to point this out. But perhaps, since I hosted Marketplace for 10 years, maybe I'm the one who can say it: Does this program have a fetish?

Montage of voices:Of course we should all be aiming to have at least three months in the bank for emergencies. And then 20 percent goes for paying down debt and savings. A rainy day fund, it should be at least six months. Start socking away 10 percent of each take home, each paycheck toward that emergency fund. Everybody just has to save more.

You listen for more than five minutes and as night follows day there's going to be somebody on Marketplace Money telling us to save. The prudent course, savings. Build up a nest egg, an emergency fund, build those assets. Hoard your wealth, don't sprinkle it around by spending.

And, apparently, you're listening. Because there's word this week that late payments on credit cards are at their lowest levels in 17 years. Americans being prudent, not spending beyond their means.

And if you keep at this savings "binge," and you persuade your friends and neighbors, to do the same? Congratulations, you may just kill the economy. We say save, but the messages to do the other thing, spend, come at your from so many other sides. Advertising manufacturing desire and that persistent pitch that the economy needs your dollars to keep the double-dip away. Or is it save to help the economy. Which is it?

When the economic crisis hit after the mortgage and credit markets seized up, President Obama weighed in with this:

Barack Obama: We've got to spend some money now to pull us out of this recession. But as soon as we're out of this recession, we gotta get serious about starting to live within our means.

Confused? With this new wave of economic uncertainty gripping this late summer under what circumstances should we spend? Or borrow? Or save? We talked to some people on the streets of New York and in Grand Central Station about their sense of's what they had to say:

Man 1: I think to a certain extent, consumers need to spend more to help the economy. We all recognize it's a difficult time. On the other hand, everyone has their own means, so you're gonna need to do your own assessment of what your own personal finances allow.

Man 2: Nothing else seems to be working. Maybe a boost from the Fed will give us a little more stimulus that we need, put some people back to work, infrastructure projects. Roosevelt all over.

Woman 1: I think the practical thing though is that a lot of people don't understand how their own personal consumer spending would stimulate the economy. And perhaps if there was more information out there, then they would realize that every little bit of spending does help, then people would be spending more.

Man 3: Yes, I do think that we should spend money to help the economy, because when you put money into something, it then kind of starts up the business of it. Regardless of the amount of profit or the amount of revenue, it still will be able to create some business, instead of no money, which doesn't create business at all.

Man 4: Everyone's talking about how the stimulus package did not work, but I think it didn't work in the first place, because there wasn't enough stimulus to begin with. And I think that if the Congress can do something about it we should spend more money on it.

Man 5: We should absolutely be spending more money to help the economy. It's absolutely crazy that you wouldn't. People always use the example of, well, we should be like a business and we need to make sure that we're not spending more than we have. But let's say you have a shipping business, you've got a bunch of boats, they've all got holes in them. So your employees are out of work, you're losing money. What are you gonna do? You're going to take out a loan, you're gonna spend the money to fix your ships, get your employees back to work and start earning money again, so you can start making money.