Leo Almazora

July 19: BEST FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE

July 19, 2021

Could our passion for savings defuse the expected end-of-COVID spending boom?

In an interesting and perhaps “contrarian” article, Leo Almazora of Wealth Professional asks if Canada’s return to being a nation of savers could actually have a downside.

“For many pundits and analysts, the light at the end of the tunnel that is the COVID-19 crisis has been the prospect of a surge in spending as vaccinations allow the unleashing of pent-up demand. But based on certain interpretations of savings data, that may not be the scenario that plays out,” he writes.

He notes that during COVID – with so many spending options removed from play – savings rates jumped to almost 20 per cent in many industrialized countries, including Canada.

It was expected, Almazora notes, that once economies began reopening, the urge to spend would overcome the tendency to save. But research cited from Barron’s magazine in the article shows that “even as economies have reopened, savings rates have stayed unusually high.”

Almazora’s article contends that there were two types of COVID savers – a “forced savers” group that, while keeping their employment, had very few options to spend their money on, and “precautionary savers,” who – worried by the pandemic – save for the “next downturn or economic calamity.”

There’s a third group, he writes, who have sort of got out of the habit of spending on hotels and restaurants, and won’t be spending as much on those things going forward.

This is a very insightful piece. Three groups are described, those who can’t spend their money, those who worry about a fourth wave or some other nasty financial surprise, and those who have been converted to a new obsession – frugality.

One would assume that the “can’t spend” group will be among the first to book vacation flights and resume travel. Those who Almazora describes as “preppers” for a possible further wave of problems presumably won’t join in the fun, nor will those who have decided cooking at home and cutting back on expenses was not only fun, but has led to a piling up of cash in their savings accounts.

It will be very interesting to see how this all plays out; it may take as long to return to a “fully normal” economy as it took COVID to derail “normal” and move us to a stay-at-home/no spend reality.

This writer recalls doing research on pension plan funding – where people sock away money for retirement via workplace plans – and hearing economists suggest the act of saving money was, in effect, negative for the economy in the now. Money saved today cannot be spent today, the argument went.

While this is factually correct, that viewpoint – savings can be bad – ignores the fact that the saved money is invested, often in job-creating Canadian companies and services, and then withdrawn and spent years later by the retirees. It’s deferred spending, in a way.

As a soon-to-be double grandparent, this aging scribe has reached the opinion that any savings is always a good thing. Emergency savings when the roof leaks or the fence falls down; long-term savings for retirement income and to help the grandbabies.

If you have a workplace pension plan, be sure to not only join it, but to contribute to it to the fullest extent possible. If you don’t have a plan – or if you are a small business thinking of offering one to your team – check out the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. This scaleable retirement product works as well for one person as it does for a larger group – and they’ve been delivering retirement security for 35 years.

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.