First, a definition from the iTulip Glossary. "monthly payment consumer : n. a new kind of consumer last seen in the late 1920s when installment credit was invented to allow the middle class to afford new products which resulted from the wave of government financed WWI military technology working its way into consumer products, such as radio and refrigeration.
Sustained low interest rates starting in the mid 1990s, and accelerating in the early 2000s created the Monthly Payment Consumer. This consumer's behavior accounts for the cost of purchases not in terms of the total price but as a monthly payment in portion of monthly income. After several years of “No Money Down!” and “Zero Interest for Six Months!” financing, not to mention interest-only and negative amortization mortgages, consumers changed their behavior, stopped saving, and became used to the idea that credit is almost free and in nearly infinite supply.
The monthly cost of a home that went for $1 million in 2005 purchased with a $3.3% ARM carried the same monthly cost as a $500,000 home in 1995 purchased with a 6.6% fixed rate mortgage. The two homes are equally affordable, but the two prices apply to the same house with the 100% increase in price separated by only five to ten years' time and representing no equivalent 100% increase in value (utility). The price inflation was the result of low interest rates provided by central banks. Capital gains income earned by speculators who made money flipping houses during the period of rapid price inflation contributed significantly to consumption during the period.
The Monthly Payment Consumer, through his and her grim determination to eek the last ounce of material enjoyment from the last dollar he or she may so easily earn or borrow as he or she can today, famously accounts for 70% of US GDP. Jane Burns (the article's author) is no help, though, as she explains at the outset. The Burnsian consumer gets more joy and gratification from not buying each and every dispensable product she doesn't purchase than the folkloric consumer of economists' models gets from, in the words of George Carlin, "spending money he doesn't have on crap he doesn't need." The question is how many consumers will go Burnsian on us next year.
How prevalent is the monthly payment mentality here in British Columbia? How many people do you know who are:
1) the Monthly Payment Consumer?
2) The Burnsian Consumer - one who gets more pleasure from not purchasing?