I think readers should read this article. I kinda like what Mr. Kumar is writing - it makes so much sense by asking two questions (save or spend - both have pro/cons) - almost related to what I've said in one of my articles about the paradox of 'so many sellers but not so many buyers'...both have pro/cons such as the purchasing power. Good work Mr. Pankaj...you made both Kurnia and Malaysia proud!!
Some suggestions on everyone's dilemma - To save or to spend?
By (Mr.) Pankaj Kumar (Chief Investment Officer - Kurnia)
OUR parents do it, our grandparents and forefathers did it, our siblings do it, as do some of our friends and colleagues. All for the rainy days, so we were told. Yes, savings.
We have to save for our future to ensure that we have something to meet unexpected expenses that may occur in our lives or to make the down-payment for the dream home or car or to pay for our once-in-a-lifetime event, where we become king and queen for a day.
When we are in a family with children, we also save for their future education needs as well as preparing ourselves for retirement.
Some say we do too much of it while others say there’s no such thing as enough. Our parents told us that we have to start young and we should build it up over the years so that by the time we retire we have enough to enjoy and live until we are called by Him.
Some say we have to save 10% of our monthly income as a benchmark while others try for more if they can afford it while some find it tough just to make ends meet, simply because of the higher cost of living.
One thing without doubt is that we have this inherent habit of saving for the future and, to the extent, we save so much that we do not know what to do with it.
My argument is simple as if we look at the current banking system in the country and capturing data related to savings, fixed deposits and demand deposits, individual savings amount to about RM388bil against the total of RM695bil as at June 30, 2009, representing about 56% of the banking system.
If we were to measure the above data in terms of per capita deposit and based on our total population of 28.3 million, per capita individual deposits in the banking system is about RM13,700.
In any society, savings is the pillar of economic expansion as the savings mobilised can be utilised to fund investments. This is indeed very different in Western society, particularly the US where it was only recently that the US found reasons to save due to the on-going economic fallout.
For years the rest of the world has been funding US consumption as the US has been running current account deficits for years and now ranks as the worst country in the world with the highest amount of current account deficit of US$862.3bil.
Malaysia proudly ranks number 17 with a current account surplus of US$17.86bil.
What is the irony of the Americans and us in Asia? It seems that much of Asia’s savings are channelled towards America’s consumption.
We save and the US spends, but it is Asia’s economy that is said to be weak while Uncle Sam is who the world looks up to as without the US spending power, the rest of the world could collapse, starting with significant decline in trade between the rest of the world and the US.
Based on a recent article by Dr Jagdish Bhagwati, a famous Indian-born economist in the US, the US had taken over US$5 trillion from the world and, today, to keep the US spending habits, the rest of the world has to invest US$2bil per day.
Today, almost US$1.3 trillion of US treasuries are held by the Chinese and Japanese. With more US papers flooding the market and to ensure that the dollar doesn’t collapse, the rest of the world has no choice but to buy these papers.
It is indeed a vicious cycle that we are in now as the world is too dependent on US consumption for its own growth.
Bhagwati further commented in his recent article that a nation cannot grow unless the people spend, not save. Not just spend, but borrow and spend. Saving is sin and spending is virtue.
I must say that the above argument has its merits in the American context but we Asians believe in our own values.
Hence, savings will remain a virtue and we will continue to embrace this belief in us and our children as it is our savings habit that has brought us to where we are today while our spending habits are slowly but surely rising.
It may not come as a surprise that one day, we in Asia too will increase our desire for goods and services to the extent it undermines our ability to save and, at the same time, our ability to be a source of funds for the nation’s economic growth.