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Swedes strongest savers in Nordic region: study

Vivian Tse · 14 Feb 2011, 08:37

Published: 14 Feb 2011 08:37 GMT+01:00

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Fourteen percent of Swedes consider having nine months' salary in the bank ideal, compared to 4 to 5 percent among residents of other Nordic countries, according to Nordea, which interviewed 4,000 respondents in the region.

"I think that we need to reflect a bit more about what is an appropriate buffer. A buffer takes time to save up for and we must be conscious of what it should cover," Nordea's private economist Ingela Gabrielsson wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

"The more financial commitments we have, the greater the buffer that is needed," she added.

Nearly half of the residents in Nordic countries believe that having two to three months' salary in the bank is enough, but only a quarter of respondents actually manage to achieve this goal, according to Nordea.

Attitudes towards buffer savings vary significantly among the Nordic countries. Ten percent of Danes do not think buffer savings are necessary at all, compared to low single-digit percentages in the other countries and only one percent of Swedes who share the same view.

The survey also found a gap between how much respondents had actually saved up and what they hoped to put away financially. According to Nordea, 14 percent of Nordic residents had no buffer at all.

In Sweden, the figure was 16 percent, while at the same time, another 16 percent had a buffer equivalent to nine months' salary or more.

Among Swedes, the figure hovers around 7 percent who think that a month's wages are a sufficient buffer, compared to 20 percent in Denmark. Seventy-seven percent of Swedes have a buffer of one month's salary or more, on a par with its Nordic neighbors, where Finns topped the list at 83 percent.

"I think this is a rather good figure. At the same time, slightly over 20 percent of Swedes have very little in buffer savings, and there I think one should think about whether it is actually sufficient. Start by listing which expenses might pop up," said Gabrielsson.

Ten percent of Swedish youth aged 16 to 25 think that nine months' salary or more is a good buffer. In the other countries, only a couple of percent believe such a high buffer is necessary. Twenty-three percent of Nordic youth have no buffer at all, with the figure as high as 30 percent in Denmark.

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"Among young people, youth unemployment and increasingly prolonged studies result in obstacles in building upp financial security," wrote Gabrielsson.

One in five young Finns and Norwegians do not know how large their buffer is. Among young Swedes, the figure is 10 percent.

"My advice to everyone is to look over your buffer, whether small, large or nonexistent," said Gabrielsson.

Vivian Tse (vivian.tse@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

09:56 February 14, 2011 by Rishonim
One reason for this is simple; Swedes are the cheapest set of people I have ever met. We should change the old term going Dutch to going "Swede". Going out with a group is a nightmare when is time to pay the bill. They will calculate it to the last penny and only pay exactly what they have consumed. The notion of splitting the bill 6 equal was does not apply with my fellow Swedes.
10:17 February 14, 2011 by apelsin000
Of course the bankers like it! :D
10:30 February 14, 2011 by philster61
Swedes feel the need to inventory every morsel in menu thats why. "the bills on me" doesn't figure in the Swedish language. probably due to the fact that in Sweden, your money is never ever really your own. As always the government will be keeping their greedy beady eyes on how much you earn. So if the Swedes say their the strongest savers. they would say more like its an achievement rather than thrift. They managed to outwit the government.
10:34 February 14, 2011 by krattan

Probably true. But this is a cultural trait which have given Sweden companies like H&M and IKEA, which is known to have budget control and cut costs where possible. :)

And this trait can probably be explained by the climate. You have to be cheap to cope with 7 months of winter. 150 years ago not having control of your expenses would probably result in your death. And this has been the reality for Swedes for hundreds of years.
11:42 February 14, 2011 by Kevin Harris
Krattan has something there.

Sweden is not blessed with long summers and easily gathered resources. Before industrialisation, most Swedes eked out a living working on farms and in forestry. They had to be tough, hard-working, independant and frugal, just to survive at a minimum level. Some of the typical modern Swedish values (toughness, hard-working, independance, frugality) developed from the culture of those hard times. IKEA was founded by a man who actually lived on a farm in those times. As Krattan wrote, Swedes lived like this for hundreds of years, it is deep in their culture and they will take a few generations to adapt to these happier times. Until then, they will continue to work hard, and look after their money. Good for them.
11:47 February 14, 2011 by Keith #5083

ah, don't take it personally. I say this although your experience has never, never been mine. I find most Swedes warm hearted and generous. Often I have to 'fight' to contribute to the bill at all.

Here we go again with the 'anti-gov' rhetoric (Philster61) like it's just as though gov takes it and you never, ever see anything back for it? One of the best countries to live in in the world (I am NOT a Swede but live here), an economic recovery that's an example par excellence, brilliant social services, no oil reserves but the petrol is still cheaper than neighbouring Norway....


your 2nd para does not explain the willingness to help others in dire need - or maybe it does, huh?
11:54 February 14, 2011 by newswede
How does this article explain the mob of people out shopping and lining up at ATM machines only on pay day each month?
12:09 February 14, 2011 by krattan
@Keith #5083

I would say so. Equally important in harsh conditions is to help each other out when you can.
12:23 February 14, 2011 by Nemesis
Having only one months salary as a buffer in case of problems is not saving. That is short sighted stupidity.

Swedes do not save at all. Very few Swedes would be able to keep more than 20,000 krona in there savings account without it burning a hole in their pocket.

Credit card debt alone is usually well over anything that is in a savings account. Loans usualy exceed savings accounts by an order of magnitude. In reality they are leveraged against their personal debt, which we have all seen before.

Every single Swede seeks to have the maximum limit on their credit card and quite a few are not bothered when Kronofogden comes knocking. They start asking their friends to buy things for them online.

They have no sense when it comes to finance.

As I have said before, The Local is literally printing articles that could be lifted from Irish newspapers 4 to 8 years ago. Articles about Irish being better savers than there neighbours were common them as well.
14:26 February 14, 2011 by Rishonim
@Keith #5083, you need to introduce me to your crowd. Seems I am rolling with the cheapos ;-))))
19:06 February 14, 2011 by Keith #5083

Ah, maybe it's just an accidental technique I naively stumbled upon as a teen. Because I could never handle alcohol well (still can't) I always got the first round in...I have learnt that this kinda shamed everyone else, so now they rush to do it before I do, hehehehehe.

When you do this it's also a very very cheap way to find out who are 'friends' and who are 'freeloaders'.
19:58 February 14, 2011 by thecraicer
Its only the old folk here that save and they will be gone soon and their progeny will spend every penny, öre.
20:33 February 14, 2011 by Streja
Nem, where do you get your figures from?

You say every Swede, well here's one who doesn't have credit card bills and has a buffer.

Frugality made it happen.
10:35 February 15, 2011 by hogar2010
@Keith #5083 - I have had the same experience Rishonim describes dozens of times in the half-decade I've lived here. By comparison to the other places I've lived, Swedes are _by far_ less inclined to just split the bill evenly. (The only other comparable instance I've ever seen was a flatmate I had during university who was so parsimonious that, when we ordered Chinese take-away for dinner, he would start dividing up the bill according to the number of dumplings each of us had eaten. It was absolutely nauseating.)

Your comment about the willingness to help others in need is interesting, too, in that I have had exactly the opposite experience somewhat frequently. As but one example: I was out for a training ride on my road bicycle last summer, and got a flat tire on a cycling path somewhere north of town. In the US (where I lived most recently before coming here), virtually every single cyclist encountering this situation would at least ask "do you have what you need?" as they rolled by -- this is common practice just about anywhere. And yet, as I sat on the side of the path struggling with my tire levers to change the tube, I counted two dozen people or groups that went by without saying a word. Willingness to help others? More like "ensam är stark," taken to ridiculous extremes.

@Streja et al. - Frugality? Really? Before I moved here, I did a fair bit of reading about Swedish culture and what I should expect. One of the things I encountered over and over again was that eating out at restaurants was generally regarded as an extravagance typically reserved for special occasions. And yet, despite the economic downturn of the past few years and the fact that Sweden is one of the most expensive countries in Europe, I walk around Stockholm and every restaurant and every pub is absolutely chock full. My family visited here a few years ago and, without my saying anything about it, observed exactly the same thing.

Then again, maybe it's just a Stockholm phenomenon -- I've travelled widely around Sweden, but I've only ever lived here.
15:21 February 15, 2011 by Keith #5083

I think in fairness I would simply observe that capital cities, from my experience during my travels/living, are not reasonably representative of a nation.

I'm english and used to hate going to London, it was so insular, so impersonal and so damned expensive.

I've lived in Oslo and there is a vast difference between Oslo and, say, Bergen. An even bigger diff when you go further north.

7 years ago we had a fire - one neighbour came with two tractor loads of trees - so that we would have firewood for the next winter. He wouldn't accept a penny - not even for his diesel. We even got cards from folks in the nearby town (18 kms) expressing their sadness at our fire loss and offering help if we needed.Another neighbour, whose old mother lives nearby, came this winter with salt and sand to our little forest road - which is way past his mother's house..

Slide into a ditch in the winter? At least 3 neighbours will come and pull you out with their tractors! Won't take an ore for their trouble.

In our little hamlet there live less than 10 people on a permanent basis.

We experience a similar, general, level of helpfulness in our nearby small town.

If the need is real and genuine - and if you are willing to ask - it has been my experience that most Swedes are very,very willing to help. It's like if you don't ask they assume you can deal with it yourself and don't infringe upon your sense of independence.

It also works the other way round as well, caring is a two-way street isn't it?

But, hey, I'm biased - I really do LOVE Sweden!
17:46 February 16, 2011 by ngecenk
2.5 years and i have to agree on this article. swedes are 'pretty damn good in saving money'. doesnt necessarily means cheap or anything in a bad way. its just hard to find swedes spend lots of cash.
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