What is the National Savings Rate?

Mary McMahon

The national savings rate is a reflection of how much money members of the population have leftover after covering their expenses, including taxes. It could be considered an expression of how much money people could potentially be saving, if they chose to do so. It is important to be aware that unlike the personal savings rate, the national savings rate includes government savings. Therefore, it may not provide a completely accurate picture of how much money individual citizens are saving.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

National savings rates tend to fluctuate over time. People respond to economic crises by adjusting spending patterns, and clear correlations can be seen between recessions, depressions, economic booms, and the national savings rate. In booms, personal consumption tends to go up, driving the savings rate down. Likewise, the government may not be investing heavily in savings. Conversely, when the economy enters a recession, expenditures drop, potentially increasing the savings rate as long as wages stay consistent.

This economic indicator is released every quarter, along with a number of other statistics about money, the economy, and the population in general. This, along with other indicators, can be used to discuss consumer confidence, the direction of the economy, and other matters of interest to economists as well as government officials. Because of the confusion between personal and national savings rates, it is advisable to read economic discussions about savings rates carefully to understand which rate is under discussion.

Charts examining historic trends in the national savings rate show that over the course of the 20th century, savings rates tended downwards. There are a number of theories to explain this, and some researchers are interested in breaking down savings rates by demographics to explore this data more fully. Researchers note, for example, that people who lived through the Great Depression tended to save more money and be more careful about consumption, reflecting experiences of privation during the 1930s.

Some nations are very concerned about their national savings rate. As people live longer, there are concerns that government pensions and other benefits will not be sufficient to cover the costs of retirement, leading potentially to widespread poverty in the elderly. There are also concerns that many younger people do not have established retirement and savings accounts, and they could potentially be at risk as they grow older or in the event of a personal crisis. Some countries have promotional campaigns urging their citizens to make deposits into savings regularly to ensure the availability of funds when they are needed.

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