Teutonic Frugality

Why Germans Love to Save

saving piggy banks dpa
Germans love to save.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Despite “negative interest rates,” Germans will continue to save. But the urge to save money hasn’t always been typical of German society. In fact, it only became established after the Reformation and the Thirty Years War.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Saving in Germany has become part of a deep-rooted, collective mentality.
    • The Pietist theologian August Hermann Francke exorcized the last traces of joie de vivre from German Protestantism around 1700.
    • Finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, recently announced the first federal budget in 45 years that will avoid new debt.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Two years ago, when I first heard that banks might no longer pay interest on savings accounts, but in fact would collect a portion of the deposited money as “negative interest,” my first thought was: This will trigger a revolution.

It immediately made sense to me that the attempt to hide the erosion of money beneath the term “negative interest rate” isn’t such a bad idea. After all, policymakers have noticed in recent years that it brings calm to the collective consciousness when there is talk of “negative growth” in the economy, even though what this actually means is that the economy is shrinking; when our soldiers are not sent to fight in wars, but on “armed foreign missions”; or when public broadcasters do not collect compulsory license fees but “household contributions.” But I would not believe that, when it comes to their savings, my dear fellow Germans would be so naïve as to be fooled by reassuring PR talk.

I now believe that we will have “negative interest rates” – and that the Germans will not take to the streets. In fact, they will continue to squirrel away their money. They will keep saving, even if it’s no longer profitable to do so. The urge to save is more than an economic calculation. It is part of a deep-seated, collective mentality.

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