National Savings Month will boost awareness

July is National Savings Month - an initiative of the South African Savings Institute (Sasi) to invigorate a lacklustre culture of saving in the country.

July is National Savings Month - an initiative of the South African Savings Institute (Sasi) to invigorate a lacklustre culture of saving in the country.

Despite Sasi's formation in 2001 as an independent non- profit organisation dedicated to developing a robust culture of saving in South Africa, the evidence shows a dramatic decline in savings by South African households.

According to Sasi, the household savings rate has decreased from 8percent to 2percent over the past 40 years with South African households currently saving 20 cents out of every R100.

According to Sanlam, savings in South Africa turned negative for the first time last year, with the worsening trend expected to continue.

"If this trend is seen in conjunction with the rapid increase in the ratio of household debt to disposable income, it paints a picture of a spendthrift population," said Sanlam group economist Jac Laubscher.

The financial services group believes that if the savings rate is to improve, the country will have to be more orientated towards a future culture of saving.

Government policy, Laubscher says, should be geared to helping households gain confidence in saving for the future.

He says Sanlam totally supports the savings month campaign because urgent action was necessary to halt the trend.

According to Laubscher, an improvement in household savings will require a complete culture change, with people placing much more emphasis on personal responsibility and financial independence.

"The low savings rate implies an assumption that others will bail me out if I run into financial difficulties for which I did not take precautions."

With this year's theme, "Savers ride the rainbow", Sasi says it wants to drive its message home through the workplace.

"It is the crucible for the much needed change in savings behaviour," says Sasi chief executive Bridget Lamont.

"It's the place where employees can be most immediately influenced to 'save as you earn' by employers, unions, the government and their peers."

The institute calls on these forces to play a defining role in this matter through education, facilitation and example.

"Together," she says, "we can breathe new life into the savings behaviour of our nation. Let's encourage all South Africans to start their rainbow ride."

Elias Masilela, Sasi's chairman, says a robust savings culture is required for both macro and micro economic reasons.

"We need a savings rate above the 20percent a year mark if we are to achieve the country's ambitious growth targets."

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