Saving: a very useful tool to combat crises

The crisis has revealed, by its absence, the benefits of saving. And we are not only talking about a conditioner for future growth, but also a crucial element to combat supervening poverty and, with it, achieve well-being.

The arrival of an economic crisis of such outstanding dimensions as the one that is present in our economy today has awakened the ingenuity of the socioeconomic agents who, as they have been able, have been adapting to the new environment that was presented to us. With a higher savings rate that already appears in economic indicators, the population of the planet began, in recent months, to “tighten its belts” and, in this sense, to prepare for the situation that lay ahead. A preparation in which, however, the supply shock that these economies have faced, as well as other factors, have played a determining role.

As we said, the harsh supply shock that the economy was facing made those citizens who did not save, given what happened, began to do so. In this sense, it is what we observe when analyzing economies like the Spanish one, where the savings rate reaches historical highs, and all this, in a scenario in which corporate income and profits have plummeted notably. The fact is that what this notable increase in the savings rate means is not so much related to the fact that Spanish citizens have learned to save, but rather that, as a consequence of this severe shock, citizens have been obliged to save, having generated forced savings that, added to that pension savings, leave anomalies like the one shown by Spain; where saving shows its best data, since the historical series began in 1999.

Being more or less forced, what we can extract from this situation, and what we try to highlight in these first lines of the article is that, as in past crises, one of the techniques most used by citizens when facing the The effects of an economic crisis have been savings. Savings that will not only set the pace of recovery, given that greater demand capacity, but must also become one of the lessons that, given what happened, we can extract from this pandemic. Well, taking the same example of Spain, but in moments before the pandemic, 30% of the families in the country, despite the data that we know today, reached this crisis, according to the Observatory of Family Savings of Mutualidad de la Lawyers, with savings of less than a month’s average salary.

Saving: a pending issue

“While Germany is in the lead, along with other economies with great potential, the Spanish-speaking economies, among which Spain also stands out, are further behind in this field.”

It is often said that the future capacity a country has to grow is measured by the savings that economic agents have today. And, as we know, that is why it is often said that the basis of capitalism is saving, because from this saving these resources come out to, in the future, invest and increase spending on this type of item; thus promoting economic growth. However, despite the fact that we speak of a maxim in economics, it does not seem that this maxim has penetrated in the same way in all the countries that make up the planet. While Germany is at the forefront, along with other economies with great potential, the Spanish-speaking economies, among which Spain also stands out, lag further behind in this field.

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Latin America

With regard to the situation of the Latin American countries, let us see how the different countries that make up the region are doing in matters such as the treaty. For this, the data that we use in the analysis have been extracted from multilateral organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), as well as other organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Thus, what the Inter-American Development Bank tells us about Latin American economies, roughly speaking, is that they save very little, while what little they save, they save badly. A situation that, according to the indicators offered by the organization, places the region in terms of savings, only ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa. And, as far as objective data is concerned, the region only saves 18% of its GDP, according to the report. If we look at the main developed economies, what we observe is that these indicators rise to very close to 35% of their respective GDP level; which shows the existence of problems that prevent this necessary convergence.

As we can see, the figures shown by the Latin American economies in terms of gross savings as a percentage of GDP are notably lower than those shown by other economies. This situation, as the IDB describes, puts the future growth and development of these economies at risk. In addition, from these figures, it is extracted that 35% of the total saving in the region is represented by Latin American households, so 60% corresponds to companies in the different countries that make up this selection, as well as a scarce 5 % to governments. Figures that, although similar to those collected by other economies, show the poor distribution of these savings, as well as the risks that could arise from this situation becoming structural.

Spain

On the other hand, on the data that we know about the Spanish economy, these, in the same way, are below those shown by other similar economies around it. To do this, we make the same contrast, but with economies that present characteristics similar to those of Spain. In this case, with economies of the European Union.

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Thus, Spain, in the same way, is an economy that presents a saving rate that is very different from that shown by the reference economy in the European Union: the German economy. In this sense, with data from 2018, the savings rate as a percentage of GDP in the Spanish country stood at 22% of GDP. In this sense, even Mexico, being a country that must correct this situation and which is not taken as an example, presents a savings rate higher than that shown by the Spanish economy. But what has been said is not curious about an analysis that, focusing on public management, shows a lack of savings that has ended up limiting the country’s fiscal response to combat this crisis that affects us today.

And it is that, if we contrast with economies such as the economic locomotive of the European Union, it is situated close to 30% of its GDP. These data show us, as in the previous contrast, that Spain, as we can see, also has problems that show a need to increase this saving rate; and with it the potential growth of this economy, as well as the preparation for economic crisis scenarios. Well, despite the data collected today on the savings rate, those shown before that determining supply shock that we noted at the beginning are not so positive.

In short, we could analyze in more detail the data that is offered. However, these, in the superficial analysis of the gross saving rates in relation to their level of GDP, already show sufficient reasons to highlight this problem, as well as to encourage saving. Well, if we continue like this, we are not only talking about a greater limitation in terms of future growth, but, in the same way, we are talking about a greater vulnerability of citizens in scenarios similar to the one we live in today.

From ant spending to ant savings

“All these ant costs, saved and deposited in an account, are ant savings that could help us combat situations like the current one.”

If we stop to analyze our daily routines, we can see that, from the moment we get up, we take the transport to go to work, we have breakfast, we eat, we practice some leisure activity or we do sports, we have a beer with friends, we go shopping, or we do one of the many activities that can be done throughout the day. As we know, these actions are not free, so, at the end of the day, we will have incurred a series of expenses that, in most cases, we have not even considered and analyzed carefully. In other words, we assume expenses that we usually incur in hot, that we have in our day to day, and to which, as a general rule, we do not usually give importance.

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These expenses are what economists define as “ant expenses.”

However, in the same way that ant expenses exist, we have another series of situations, very similar in practice, in which being able to obtain savings, rushing and not stopping to think about the purchase we are making, as well as assessing decisions and alternatives, lead us, on occasions, not to opt for the appropriate strategy. In this way, leading us to a situation in which we have to face a higher cost for acquiring a good that we could have acquired in another place more economically. This, as well as other scenarios in which these same rush, for whatever reason, lead us not to stop in front of offers in which, spending 5 minutes of our time, we obtain a partial refund of the amount paid in the beginning.

These savings, although not defined as such, are those that I like to define as ant savings. All these ant costs, saved and deposited in an account, are ant savings that could help us combat situations like the current one, generating a cushion of savings in the long term, and without the need to incur in such unpleasant scenarios as the one cited by the Observatory of Family Savings. And, the lack of financial education in the country, despite the fact that 77% of parents, as the Bank of Spain says, considers it a necessity in the classroom, leads us not to promote a culture of savings, which It could lead to a considerable improvement in our lives, applying certain patterns such as saving on everything we do throughout our day to day.

So, I am not referring to seeking constant savings, at the cost of worse service and a worse quality of life. But, as I show, I speak of all those actions in which being able to obtain savings, the times and the need, as well as not stopping to think about what we do, leads us to have to disburse most of our earnings; not allowing us, on the other hand, to maximize our profit. A pause that, if applied, could generate those savings, as well as the necessary cushion to face unforeseen events. All this, while we do it with the certainty that, with the passage of time, fewer families due to the promotion of this strategy, will have to face the effects of this (dangerous) supervening poverty.

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