German households are keeping up their reputation as eager savers, placing a record amount of money in the bank despite historically low interest rates.
With some banks even charging customers to park their money, savings accounts are not necessarily the best place to store your extra cash.
Germans, however, deposited more money than ever in a record month last year.
Consumers placed some €23.2 billion ($26.9 billion) in additional money into daily accounts in November, data from the German central bank, Bundesbank, showed earlier this week.
It was the highest monthly savings amount ever, Peter Barkow, managing director of Barkow Consulting, told Handelsblatt.
“The state-backed education to save has become deeply engrained in the German soul.”
“November is traditionally the month with the highest inflows, probably because people are preparing for their Christmas shopping,” Mr. Barkow said.
Germany’s saving zeal and rising stock prices brought total assets again over the €5 trillion mark, the Bundesbank data showed. The level was reached for the first in 2013. Assets exclude property and art.
A fifth of the holdings were stored on daily savings account, which only brought in an average interest rate of 0.26 percent, the data showed.
“It has to be secure,” said Werner Abelshauser, a professor in economic history at the University of Bielefeld.
“Some are saying people are losing money but with an inflation rate of almost zero and an interest of close to zero, the real value of the money is conserved,” Mr. Abelshauser told Handelsblatt Global Edition.
Germany’s annual inflation rate was 0.2 percent in December compared with the same period a year earlier. In some euro zone countries it has dropped below zero, a consequence of sluggish economic growth rates in the single currency area as well as falling oil prices.
Germany’s economy has been among the strongest in the euro zone, and its exports and subsequent current account surplus have contributed to a high savings rate, Mr. Abelshauser said.
The most important reason, however, are Germans’ historic aversion of risk and the many state-sponsored incentives to save, the professor said.
“Since around 1880, the German state had a social safety net, taking care of its citizens in case of injury, sickness or old age. That is why Germans don’t have to save money with the aim of making high returns,” Mr. Abelshauser said.
In the 19th century, Germany lacked a culture of private investors who put their money at risk in stocks or companies, he said.
In addition, states and numerous municipalities supported the creation of regional banks and the development of savings banks and cooperative banks. The idea was not just to enable German firms to get credit, but also to educate households to save for hard times, Mr. Abelshauser said.
“The state-backed education to save has become deeply engrained in the German soul. I remember from the 1950s the almost weekly ritual of going to the savings bank,” he said.
The aversion to risk has also led to a relatively low holding of stocks by Germans: about 6 percent of their assets are invested in shares.
Gilbert Kreijger is an editor with Handelsblatt Global Edition in Berlin, covering companies and markets. Anke Rezmer, an editor with Handelsblatt, contributed to this article. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org