More people are saving in stokvels but amounts saved are down

Stokvel money
Stokvel money
Image: Supplied

Despite trying economic times, savings clubs and stokvels continue to be popular with more people making use of them to set aside money for future expenses than four years ago.

The tough times are, however, evident in the reduction in amounts contributed by to stokvels by some higher-income households.

This is according to the latest Old Mutual Savings and Investment Monitor which was released this week showing that 61% of black households in South Africa are using these informal savings schemes, compared with 45% in 2014.

There is increasing membership across all income groups and ages, but the increase in stokvel membership is particularly marked among higher income households.

The vast majority of stokvel members (74%) describe their stokvel as a traditional rotating stokvel in which each member gets a turn to receive a lump sum from the contributions made at least once in the lifetime of the stokvel which is typically six months or a year, according to the monitor.

Only one in three stokvel members belong to an investment club, the survey found. Contributions to investment clubs usually take place monthly and the capital raised is used to fund an investment held over a longer period and which potentially earns members inflation-beating returns.

The average monthly (or equivalent) amount contributed to a stokvel or savings club is R711. However, the amounts contributed climb sharply as the household income increases. Households earning less than R6 000 a month contribute on average R372 each month while households earning R40 000 or more a month contribute on average R1 128 each month.

An analysis of contributions to stokvels shows households with income below R6 000 increased their contribution to their stokvel by 12% from R339 per month to R372 per month but households earning R14 000 and upwards decreased their monthly contributions. The biggest decrease in the contributions (31%) was noted among households with an income of R40 000 plus a month – they dropped their contributions from R1 636 per month in 2017 to R1 128 per month this past year.

Old Mutual research manager Lynette Nicholson, says although the reasons for the decrease in contributions to stokvels among higher income earners was not part of the research, anecdotal information gathered showed that people are redirecting their money mainly towards the education of children either within the nuclear family or the wider family group.

Traditional stokvels typically deposit members’ money in bank savings accounts or the money is held in cash - one third of those surveyed said their stokvel kept their contributions in cash.

Contributions to stokvels aimed at helping their members save for groceries and possibly help them cope with rising food prices - have been on the rise since 2014. In that year, the average contribution was R226 a month. This year the average monthly contribution was R337 – an increase of almost 50% on the 2014 contribution amount.

The survey also found that that burial society membership dropped from 32% of the households surveyed to 25% over the past year, possibly as more people took out funeral parlour cover which showed an increase in use among households from 31% to 39% over the same period.

The survey also shows that the amounts contributed to burial societies are much lower than previous years and there has been a decrease in average contribution rates from R235 a month in 2016 to R183 a month this year.

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