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How does the United States Savings Rate Compare to Other Countries?

Updated on March 21, 2009
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Here in the United States we here a lot about the national savings rate. For a few years it was actually negative, meaning that people were spending more than they earned and saving nothing. Once the recession hit in 2008, Americans finally began saving again and by the end of 2008, the news was reporting a national savings rate of over 3%. This is wonderful news, but it really made me curious how Americans compare to other countries. So I did some research, which turned out to be easier said than done, due to conflicting information. I will share with you what I found.

I was surprised to find out that the US was not the only country with a negative savings rate. Norway, Finland and Denmark were all spending more than they earned. Just how much more is debatable though. I searched many sources for all the information I am sharing here, however so much of it was conflicting regarding the exact rate, but everywhere I looked stated a negative savings rate in recent years. So Americans aren't the only ones that do not live within their means.

Most of the other countries I found information on had higher personal savings rates than the United States. Some countries saved much more of their incomes than we do. China seems to save the largest percentage of their take home pay; with most sites I found stating that the Chinese save almost 50% of their pay. I found that shocking and after searching more I found a couple of other sites that said a more realistic number was 24%. No matter which one is correct, the US is far behind those statistics.

France, Germany and Spain seem to be doing things exactly right, saving the recommended 10% of your income. Sweden's personal savings rate was around 8%. I found conflicting reports for Japan as well, some sites stating the Japanese save only 2.6% of their income, while others stating they save 20%. Confusing to say the least. I imagine it is somewhere in the middle, which is still better than the US. Italy seems to save around 6% of their pay, double the US. Canada, Australia and Korea all came in around 2%.

I found this information very interesting. I wonder why the Chinese can save so much more than the Americans. I also wonder how cost of living compares in these different countries. Of course I also wonder how other countries do it, because while we do save each month, we don't come close to the 10% mark. I hope that in the United States people continue to save money, hopefully getting closer to the 10% mark. I know that if more people had been saving money all these years, then the recession and resulting higher unemployment rates would have a smaller effect on us.


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      Gill 6 years ago

      The main reason why Chinese are saving so much is because they have relatively poor welfare. Health care is pretty much on their own. Also, the Chinese culture seems to suggest that one should not living beyond his means, and some people still find borrowing disturbing.

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      johnsonv2k10` 7 years ago

      Hiii Another explanation is that even with the nascent social security system (only in place over the past couple of decades), elderly care and education expenses Chinese are mostly on their own. They also have traditionally count.


      Savings Rates

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      Zeya 7 years ago

      I am an Indian and our country's saving ratio is approximately 35%.

      As explained to me by one of my teachers, countries that offer many social benefits such as unemployment allowances and pension payments tend to have lower savings rate at individual level as compared to countries that do not offer such benefits.

      The Indian govt for example does not offers pension payments only to those employed in the public sector enterprises.

      The vast majority of our people who are either employed in the private sector or self employed do not get pension. Thus, they need to save a lot of money for their retirement plans.

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      Stephen 7 years ago

      As a Chinese American, here are my two cents about China's reported high savings rate. It is a confluence of many factors at play

      There is clearly a long-standing culture of frugality. Even those Chinese long immigrated to the States and enjoy relative affluence tend to share this trait. I have many Chinese friends in engineering or banking fields with very high income who loathe to dine out, drive only used cars and clip coupons.

      One possible root cause for the historical frugality is that China for millenia has been an agricultural economy, where peasants literally have to save for the rainy days, especially in a land riddled with natural disasters.

      Another explanation is that even with the nascent social security system (only in place over the past couple of decades), for large-ticket healthcare, elderly care and education expenses Chinese are mostly on their own. They also have traditionally counted on members of extended family (or clan) to look after each other.

    • sophieqd profile image

      sophieqd 8 years ago

      How does the United States Savings Rate Compare to Other Countries

      Great information. I'll have to put some of your suggestions into practice.

    • DarleneMarie profile image

      DarleneMarie 8 years ago from USA

      Great Hub!  Very interesting stats of where we were, and where we are now!  It may be worth noting that Denmark, Finland and Norway are 'Socialized' entirely, or in some form or another.  Maybe that is why they spend more, because they 'know' they will be cared for no matter what.


    • ccdursina profile image

      Carolina Dursina 8 years ago from Spring Green WI

      Yes, indeed, we are not as good as saving or investing, but then - that's why is a "Wal-Mart" (you know people will get a job after retirement!)


    • Quilligrapher profile image

      Quilligrapher 8 years ago from New York

      Nice work, Jennifer, focusing on a crutial topic that affects us all during these tough economic times. The conflicting reports only underscore how difficult it must be to isolate and calculate this data. Since no economist has ever asked me how much I saved from my income, I'm not really sure that my savings are actually included in the figures you presented here. But in the end, working with slightly inaccurite data is better then working with no data at all. A great hub.

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      ensurepune 8 years ago

      nice info will you please add the info about the indian's spending percentages

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks

      Jennifer, this is very useful and interesting information. I think that when somebody has income coming in from a job, then 10% savings is not enough. You have to take into account that you might be laid off. If 50% were possible, then you could in theory take a year off for every year you work. This would make people a lot less dependent on their employers. This would be helpful not just in times of economic turmoil, but also when bargaining over working conditions and other intangibles that come with a job. When people feel they can't live without the income, they sometimes feel compelled to compromise their principles.

      How do the Chinese do it? When they save 50% of their income, does this take into account that they may live in government housing or housing provided by the employer?