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The PJ Tatler

by
Helen Smith

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January 4, 2013 - 6:05 am

I often wonder if people tell the truth on polls that ask them for specific information related to finances or how they feel about their money. There are often discrepancies between what people say they will do and what they actually end up doing. For example, I was reading the poll done by the Harrison Group and American Express Publishing Corporation saying that affluent Americans would be increasing their spending for the 2012 holiday season. With tax increases in sight and little reason to celebrate, I found this hard to believe:

America as a whole is expected to spend less during this period in 2012, but the Top 10% – based on wealth – plan to spend over 20% more. “We’re predicting overall holiday gift spending to decline,” confirms Cara David, Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing & Integrated Media at American Express Publishing.

“But the top of the market will increase substantially. Luxury retailers can take comfort in the fact that 39% of the ‘Top 1%’ plan to splurge on gifts for their significant others to make the holiday season memorable. Women especially, are also looking to purchase gifts for themselves in categories like fashion, jewellery and accessories….”

The top 10% will account for nearly 29% of the total 2012 holiday spend, and will increase their gift giving spend 21.9% this year over 2011.

Today, I was reading over at Zero Hedge a post that seems to contradict this information:

Despite all the rancor about seasonally-adjusted ad hoc beats of holiday week retail sales (amid burgeoning discounts), the trend (post the Hurricane Sandy-driven surge) in GAFO (General Merchandise, Apparel and Accessories, Furniture and Other Sales) retail sales is most explicitly lower…

As Rich Yamarone concludes: it appears “You can’t spend what you don’t have.” It seems ‘tax-the-rich’ is also misfiring as those making over $90k per year report recent spending at its lowest for this time of year since 2008….

Although November marks the beginning of the holiday season — generally a time for spending and splurging — Americans did not spend any more than usual this November, and upper-income Americans appear to be spending less than usual.

It makes me wonder if affluent Americans try to say the right things at times such as “yes, I will be spending more to bolster the economy” or “yes, please tax me more!” to try to make themselves less of a target or to get kudos from their fellow man. People say a lot of things but they often don’t mean them. In this negative milieu against those with money, it kind of makes sense.

However, it could just be that certain pollsters look for support for their PC agendas– American Express Publishing and The Harrison Group also found that 67 percent of the top one percent of American earners support higher income taxes. Is this really true? Maybe as true as the affluent spending more this holiday season.

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.
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