The savings of the French, a highly coveted “hoard”


Savings protect against everything, even cholera – after all, this “epidemic has hardly attacked people who have savings accounts at the Caisse d’Epargne”, explained bluntly, in 1832, Benjamin Delessert, co-founder of the institution. Comments reported by Carole Christen, professor of history, who tells, in The French and money. Between fantasies and realities (Rennes university press, 2011), the epic of the savings banks, “moralizing symbol of (this) dispassionate money »became “source of regeneration” for the society.

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Two centuries later and thanks to a new epidemic, one would think that the French take the words of Mr. Delessert at face value, when, at the beginning of 2020, from the start of the health crisis, they save massively. More than usual again. Not to protect yourself from Covid-19, of course, but because of difficulty in consuming, confinement requires, and to protect yourself against an uncertain future.

The Banque de France estimates the cumulative surplus of household financial savings at 157 billion euros since the start of 2020, including 101 billion in the first year. And if the savings rate no longer exceeds 20% of their income, as at the height of the crisis caused by Covid-19, it remains high: 17.8% in the last quarter of 2022, according to INSEE, against 15.5% in the fourth quarter of 2019. For the first two quarters of 2023, the institute predicts levels still higher than those before Covid-19 (17%, then 16.3%).

“A booklet C, like coronavirus”

“This oversaving corresponds to a strong and lasting needanalyzes Alain Tourdjman, director of economic studies of the BPCE group (central body common to the Banque Populaire and the French Savings Bank). Since 2020, the succession of crises has given households the feeling that it is necessary not only to have precautionary savings, for hard times, but also savings in anticipation, in the face of degraded prospects. (employment, purchasing power, standard of living in retirement, etc.). »

“One might think that inflation siphons off savings, it’s the opposite. The fear that life will cost more tomorrow and the desire to maintain the real value of their heritage encourage the French and many Europeans to put more aside. The Americans have almost exhausted their Covid kitty. We haven’t touched it here.”adds Philippe Crevel, founder of the think tank Le Cercle de l’épargne.

“Nest savings”, “cagnotte”, “hoard”, “treasure”… these savings arouse covetousness, and directing them towards investments that meet the interests of the country has become a leitmotif. Something to remind us that, in the past, the word “spargne”, in Old French, referred to the “Royal Treasury, where the King’s money is kept” (Dictionary of the French Academy, 2e edition, 1718).

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