When you save, you park some unneeded money somewhere -- bank, bond, stock, mattress -- in hopes that when you want to turn that money into something needed, like food or rent, it will be there. If you put the money into a bank you are thought to be prudent. If you put the money into the stock market you are thought to be a genius when the market goes up, and an unfortunate victim when the market falls, as it inevitably but unpredictably does.
When you put your money into any financial institution, bank or corporation, wonder of wonders, they don't actually keep it for you. The institution either spends it frivolously or loans it to some moron who can dress well enough to impress a lending officer. If you go to get your money out, the dollars you get are likely the result of somebody else who gave the institution some money. It's not your money; it's just money the bank owes you.
The financial institution frequently makes some money in spite of itself, in consequence of having a good lobby going in Washington. Sometimes it distributes some of the profits to you, the investor -- always first assuring that its officers get big bonuses at year end.
You, of course, would frequently not approve of how your money gets spent by the institution. And you are betting that both the money and the institution you put it into will be there when you need it to be, despite observing one institution after another bite the big one over your lifetime.
It requires a great deal of blind, unreasoning faith to make this bet, and this faith used to be called patriotism.
Nowadays, we have a new economic system. It seems a mere handful of exploited foreigners can manufacture all the products that are actually needed, and a great deal more besides. So we've turned ourselves into developers and marketers of unneeded goods and services -- just kinda to keep our hand in. Alternatively, many of us, finding there is nothing that even pretends to be productive that we can do, turn to work for the very government that pretty much screwed the system up in the first place. But most of us cannot muster sufficient cynicism or self-deception required to work for government, so we try to get jobs in the private sector, that is, laboring in some manner which hopefully makes a profit for a few years until it eventually sinks under the burden of supporting the self same governments, state, federal, and local, which we were too ashamed to work for in the first place.
Many of us basically get paid for peddling something unnecessary or possibly harmful, but if it doesn't sell we don't eat, so we keep at it anyway.
Many more of us, not wishing to peddle garbage, have become what is called -- with a straight face, mind you -- knowledge workers. We collect data and reassemble bits and pieces of it into new and exciting configurations so as to support the making of predominately inconsequential decisions, which in turn mostly have to do with how to sell more shoddy goods and unneeded services. Finally, if we are good at peddling garbage or mining data, we get to supervise others in the same sad trades, whether or not we are good at supervising.
But each and every worthless trinket that gets bought and pitched into a landfill ( a whole 'nother issue ) contributes even if only slightly to keeping some poor desperate drone alive and secure in the knowledge that somehow he matters. That drone may be you or it may be me, so spend while you can and don't be stingy. It all counts.
Of course, when times get tough, lots of us lose our worthless jobs, so we can't spend. Generally, the cause of such tough times is direct, government policies. This is known as capitalistic injustice, and is blamed on large corporations and "fat cats."
In such times, government steps in and gives money to those who are no longer getting paid for doing the stupid stuff they used to get paid for. The theory is that those people will thereby be able to continue to spend and will, in due course, continue to support this financial merry go round. But since we don't actually have a government that is quite right bright, those exalted government managers are unable to understand that every dollar they give to somebody to stimulate spending, comes from taxing somebody who now no longer has that dollar to spend because government took it. So, in fact, the effect of "stimulating" the economy which depends on spending, is really merely shifting the same spending from one sector to another, with no real actual gain. In other words, if you earned money and paid taxes, the government plan is to take money you earned and wanted to spend on something, and to give it to somebody else who didn't work and pay taxes, so he can spend it on something. Because government cares about people enough to spend your money on them. On penalty of criminal prosecution.
So hang on as long as you can, because our government leaders think that they have to keep the action going. So they are energetically whirling around in circles, because that's what big wheels do. And the fact that the economic system is slowly spinning around in one spot makes it screw itself in deeper and deeper.
In other words, we are so screwed.