Consumer spending — or more precisely, the lack of it — continues to hamper the U.S. economy as Americans reconsider what it takes to make them happy.

This thrift paradox has become increasingly apparent as Americans, after their earlier decades of spending and indebtedness, have gotten into the habit of saving their money to the detriment of national growth, according to a recent report from Harris Private Bank.

At the same time, the "economics of happiness" suggests that the relationship of income and wealth to well-being is more complex than economic policymakers have traditionally assumed it to be, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke noted Monday in a speech before the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth in Cambridge, Mass.

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