Thought of the Week - Retail therapy against PTSD

I know that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the United States are almost 20 years in the past, so there are many younger readers of my thoughts who were too young to remember that day. But of those who were old enough, it was like the day Kennedy was shot for my parent’s generation. Everybody knows where they were and what they did when they heard the news. And being married to a New Yorker who has policemen in her family I know people who were directly affected by the events of that day.

Joachim Thought Of The Week

One of the remarkable things in the days after the attacks were the calls by the US government and other public figures to go out and shop. The events were so shocking that many feared that we would just stop shopping and increase the damage of the recession that was already underway that year.

By now, we have, unfortunately, much more experience with terror attacks and it turns out that in reaction to a terrorist attack, many people resort to retail therapy as a natural reaction to the shock of a terror attack. A new study looked at credit card usage in the aftermath of a terror attack and showed that people affected by a terror attack tend to increase their spending in the three to six weeks after. I guess first-hand experience with a terror attack really brings home the message that “you only live once”. People who live closer to a terror site tend to increase their spending more and consumption is focused mostly on discretionary items like clothing, holidays, restaurants, etc.

This may all sound pretty downbeat, but it has some relevance today since we are just leaving a long-lasting traumatic event behind us. Many people have lost loved ones during the pandemic or suffered from Covid themselves. And I bet, these people now are acutely aware of the fact that “you only live once”.

Meanwhile, I hear people asking whether we will ever go back to our old habits. Whether we will go back to the theatre, visit concerts or have a meal at a pub. If this research is any guidance then I think we are not just going back to our old consumption habits but will consume even more than before, which is great news for the businesses that have suffered so much during the pandemic.


Thought of the Week features investment-related and economics-related musings that don’t necessarily have anything to do with current markets. They are designed to take a step back and think about the world a little bit differently. Feel free to share these thoughts with your colleagues whenever you find them interesting. If you have colleagues who would like to receive this publication please ask them to send an email to This publication is free for everyone.

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