June 20th, 2011
06:47 PM ET

Letters to the President: #882 'A penny saved'

Reporter's Note: President Obama, like every president, will never have to worry about money again for as long as he lives. But as I mention in today’s letter, that is not the way it is for many Americans.

Dear Mr. President,

Ah, here is another Monday upon us. I must say that I had a wonderful Father’s Day celebration with the gang at home, including a lovely long run yesterday, and I rather hated to come back to the fray. I noticed you and your daughters on TV enjoying some fun in Georgetown over the weekend. Good for you. After all, presidencies come and go, but families are forever.

Moving on: I saw something alarming today. About a quarter of Americans have no savings, and are living the proverbial “paycheck to paycheck” lives, according to a report by Bankrate.com. If they lose their jobs, they are instantly in a world of hurt. No money for food, rent, gasoline…nada por nada. I was vaguely aware of this, but did not realize the scope of the problem.

Call me Nervous Ned, but this is not good. I realize that the shaky economic recovery needs people spending money, but I think you should be encouraging people to save. From the time I was a child I was taught that saving money is a critical responsibility, as an individual, a family member, and a citizen. The only time I can recall not saving in reasonable measure was in my very early twenties when I just made so very little that I had only nickels left after the bills were paid. Yet even then, I held onto them.

You have talked a lot about helping people in desperate conditions - with health care, for example. I think urging people to save must also be part of the equation, because savings can keep people from descending so rapidly into emergency conditions. You should give a great big speech that will henceforth be called the “Piggy Bank Speech” - all about how everyone in the country should come up with a savings plan, no matter how small, and put it into action immediately. It makes sense. I mean, after 9/11 and Katrina we were all told that we should be ready to fend for ourselves in the days immediately after a major disaster. Why should this not be the same?

Every American household should have enough reserve cash to pay the rent for a couple of months and feed the family and to buy desperately needed time in which to find another job.

I know it is hard to save when you don’t make much, but it is easier than living on the street. And as much as we may want to assist our fellow citizens who are struggling, there is not enough money in the world to help if we allow too many people to live too long too close to the economic edge.


Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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