Savings Safety Nets Grow Larger


The numbers are rolling in at a dizzying pace – and they’re showing that Americans are increasingly paying their bills on time – and are stashing more money in bank savings accounts. Here’s a roundup – and what it means to consumer and the economy.

In July, the U.S. government reported that the average American’s savings rate shot up 2.9% in the last quarter of 2008. The prior quarter showed a 1.2% spike in the national savings rate.

People are paying their bills at a speedier pace, too. A new report from Equifax (Stock Quote: EFX) studying 7.5 million credit reports shows that “major” consumer loan payments (on things like car loans and mortgages) are increasingly being paid on time. The number of loans paid after up to 60 days late fell by 1.1 million (to 13.99 million) through the end of June.

In many cases, the increased penchant for savings over spending is borne out of necessity. Consider the 2009 MetLife (Stock Quote: MET) Study of the American Dream, released in March. It reports that 50% of Americans say they “are only one month — or only two paychecks — or less away from not being able to meet their financial obligations if they were to lose their job, and more than half of these, a startling 28% of the total respondents, couldn’t survive financially for more than two weeks.”

The Met Life study says even the well-off are anxious about their finances. “Even the 'mass affluent' — those making $100,000+ in income per year — aren’t immune with more than one-quarter (29%) saying that they couldn’t meet their financial obligations for more than one month following a job loss,” the report states.

Consequently, Americans are opting to stash more money away in bank deposit accounts, if only to create a safety net in case things really go south in a hurry. According to the Met Life study, eight out of ten people surveyed – across all demographic stages – say that having a personal safety net will be more important in 2009 than it was in 2008. The bad news? About three quarters (74%) of Americans admit to not having an adequate safety net.

That’s a big reason why Americans are plowing more money into savings – and banks are more than happy to encourage that behavior. When people save more, bank assets rise. In addition, more savings means less money in the stock market (too much risk) and more cash in “safe haven” bank deposit accounts like certificates of deposit and money market accounts.

While there’s no doubt that businesses would rather see people spend more, the trend toward toward higher savings won’t go away soon. With a “new normal” taking center stage in American economic culture, increasingly more of the financial planks propping up that culture are deposits made in banks.

You won’t hear the banking industry complaining

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