We live in a society that’s become ever more focussed on living in the moment.
Whether it’s a FOMO or a YOLO that drives you, the focus is on now, rather than what happens tomorrow. From social media shortening our attention spans, to the instant gratification of a bit of retail therapy, we see this playing out across modern life. Even within our own industries, sales and marketing have become increasingly focused on making short term gains, often at the expense of the long-term view.
It would be easy to think that it’s always been this way, yet not so long ago, Britain took more of a long-term view, especially when it came to money. Popularised by the thrift societies of the 19th century, saving became something of a national past time. To scrimp and save was a badge of honour, a means of safeguarding personal finances from unforeseen events, but now that culture has changed and the habit is dead. People still talk about saving, but it’s more often framed around the idea of saving for something rather than saving because it’s good practice.
The erosion of this tradition has left Britain with a savings crisis. The government’s Money and Pensions Service (MAPS) recently found that more than 11 million people have less than £100 in their savings accounts. People are saving a decreasing proportion of total income, while spending more on their day-to-day living. Over the last decade, the average portion of household incomes saved each year has slipped from 11.1% in 2010 to 5% in 2018, the lowest it’s been since 1963. This leaves a sizeable portion of the population ill-prepared to deal with even the smallest financial shock; an MOT failure or a boiler break down could be enough to push them into serious financial trouble.
Nationwide was founded by ordinary people coming together to accomplish something they couldn’t alone. In the early days, this meant helping people afford a home, which it continues to do to this day. But it also harnesses the collective power of its membership to change society for the better. Concerned by the decline of savings behaviour, Nationwide tasked VCCP with the job of helping re-establish the habit. We quickly recognised that if we were to address the problem, we would need to take an unusual tact for advertisers and go against the prevailing culture of living for the moment rather than with it.
Most people weren’t closed to the idea of saving; generally speaking, people know it’s a good idea. The problem was that they didn’t believe they could do it. Even those planning to save, or those on high incomes found that they had nothing left by the end of the month because they’d spent it all.
Yet research from MAPS found that saving is possible for people from nearly all income brackets, with 1-in-4 of those with household incomes less than £13,500 holding at least £1,000 in savings. We also found that 40% of the country were able to save something each month. So if it wasn’t a question of ability and people thought it was a good idea, why weren’t people saving?