A leading expert on behavioral finance has a message for Americans: If you want to stabilize the housing market and strengthen the economy, take your money out of your bank accounts and start spending and investing.
Dr. Dan Geller, developer of the Money Anxiety Index and a prominent commentator on economic issues, stated that the U.S. economy only be able to brush away the residue of the 2008 crash once bank accounts held by consumers goes below 50 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Dr. Geller noted that the amount of money consumers held in bank accounts was consistently in the 39 percent to 47 percent range of GDP for two decades before the beginning of the last recession, when it climbed up to 57 percent, which represents about $2 trillion in additional savings since the recession began.
Dr. Geller stressed that the new exodus of money out of bank accounts will help to reanimate the residential real estate markets.
“It will definitely have a positive and substantial impact on housing,” he stated. “This high tide will lift all boats – it will enable people to put money into down payments and remodeling and everything related to housing.”
The problem, Dr. Geller acknowledged, is easing consumer apprehension regarding the state of the economy. He stated that Washington, D.C. can only go so far in soothing consumer anxiety on this issue.
“As far as government goes, it should offer more assurances that the economy is on the right track,” he said. “But the government cannot spend us out of this situation–its impact on the GDP is minimal. Only consumers can give us that jolt and get us out of this sluggish economy. And when this level of money anxiety declines further, then it will encourage everyone who wants to buy a house to participate.”
Dr. Geller added that prior to the last recession, the Money Anxiety Index stood at 58.6, compared to 71.6 today. The Money Anxiety Index measures consumers' level of financial worry and stress, and has fluctuated from a high of 135.3 during the recession of the early 1980s, to a low of 38.7 in the mid 1960s.