Babies not booming as major UK savings study reveals 'Gen Z' lags behind older crowd

  • Major survey from Nationwide reveals stark contrasts in how different generations save
  • One in ten 18-34-year-olds don’t know difference between a current account and savings
  • Nationwide data shows those aged 66-75 twice as likely to have £1k savings than 18-25s
  • But younger savers more likely, and willing, to discuss finances with friends and family
  • As Black Friday arrives, Nationwide is encouraging people to start saving regularly

Today Nationwide Building Society launches a major survey into Britain’s savings in a bid to highlight the challenges faced by many people in putting money away. The insight confirms the fact that millennials and Generation Z are failing to save enough or in many cases save at all compared to older generations.

The inaugural Savings Index1 analyses the nation’s savings habits across different demographics. Based on customer data and a survey of more than 10,000 people, it tracks not only sentiment and confidence around savings but also looks at where people are putting their pennies and pounds.

The Index will be released every six months as part of Nationwide’s work in understanding the mindset of savers and forms part of the Society’s PayDay SaveDay campaign. This aims to encourage people to save the day they get paid to build a financial buffer because in the UK there are 11.5 million people with less than £100 in savings2.

Nationwide’s report, which is attached, highlights a significant savings gap, with more than one in five (23%) adults – equivalent to 12.1 million people6 – without a savings product. Additionally, 48 per cent of people with a savings product save £100 or less each month, with 24 per cent saving nothing.

The Society’s own member savings data3 highlights that it is younger people – across all UK regions – who are far more likely to have less in savings than older people. When comparing those aged 26 to 35 with those in the 66 to 75 bracket, the older generation are more than twice as likely to have more than £1,000 in savings. This can be seen in the table below:

  19-25 years old  26-35 years old  56-65 years old  66-75 years old 
East Midlands   62%  71%   44%   29% 
Greater London  61%  64%  49%  34%
North East  62%  69%  46%  34%
North West  63%  73%  48%  33%
Northern Ireland  58%  66%  43%  31%
Scotland  58%  69%  44%  30%
South East  62%  70%  45%  32%
South West  61%   70%  45%  31% 
Wales  62%  72%  48%  34%
West Midlands  63%  72%  46%  32%

Young not saving savvy
Perhaps unsurprising, it is younger generations who appear to be further behind in the savings stakes, with more than a quarter (26%) of those aged 18 to 34 not having any savings compared to just under two in ten (18%) of those aged 55-plus. The research reveals that older people are, on average, far more likely to have dedicated savings products. Indeed, one in ten (11%) people aged 18-34 don’t know the difference between a current account and savings account, while a third (35%) have either never heard of an ISA (9%) or had heard of an ISA but didn’t understand what it was (26%). Less than a quarter (24%) of Generation Z and millennials have a cash ISA, compared with 45 per cent of Baby Boomers – those aged 55-plus.

According to Nationwide savings member data4, older people are more likely to utilise their annual ISA allowance. In fact, seven per cent of those aged 55-plus have used their full ISA subscription compared to only one per cent of those aged between 18 and 34. However, the data also shows that the average savings in cash ISAs (excluding Junior and Fixed Rate ISAs) is just under £13,500. Greater London has the highest average balance at just over £14,000, whereas in the North East it is around £11,900.

Even when it comes to simple saving, only a third (33%) of younger people aged 18 to 34, according to the Savings Index, have an easy-access savings account, where money can be withdrawn regularly and without any penalties. This compares with more than half (53%) of Baby Boomers.

Across all demographics, only 43 per cent have an easy access savings account. Just 35 per cent of people have a cash ISA, while 32 per cent have a regular savings account.

But not all doom and gloom
On the positive side, younger people are much more likely to be open about their finances; more than half (52%) of those aged 18-34 talk about their personal challenges of saving money with friends. This compares with only a fifth (20%) of those aged 55 and above. And in a nod to a brighter future, Generation Z and millennials are also more confident about their ability to save in future, with 39 per cent believing they will be able to save more this year than they did last year, compared with 24 per cent nationally and only 15 per cent of those aged 55-plus.

According to Nationwide’s internal savings data5, average savings balance increases by age no matter what type of savings account. For example, those aged between 19 and 25 have an average of £1,960 in a Nationwide instant access account compared to more than £11,000 for those aged between 66 and 75.

Average savings balance of Nationwide members by age and product type

  19-25 years old  26-35 years old  36-45 years old  46-55 years old  56-65 years old  66-75 years old 
Instant access   £1,960 £2,129   £2,533 £4,474  £8,479  £11,610
Limited access  £3,276  £3,385 £4,798   £9,760  £13,561  £12,924
Cash ISA (excluding FRISA and JISA)  £4,150  £5,114  £5,968  £10,006  £16,597  £20,744
Fixed Rates (including FRISA)  £9,149  £7,155  £11,267  £19,610  £24,464  £26,397

The increased confidence of Generation Z and millennials to save may be due to the large proportion of people in this generation who pay for things they no longer use, as 46 per cent of those aged 18-34 spend money each month on unused subscriptions, such as magazines, gym memberships, streaming services, compared with just 23 per cent of people in the Boomer generation.

More than half (52%) of millennials and Generation Z said they would feel more encouraged to save more if they could learn how other people like them had achieved their savings goals. This compares to just 16 per cent of people aged 55 and over who felt they would be encouraged to save more by learning from others.

Reasons to save
According to the Index, more than six in ten (62%) people believe the most important reason to save is to build a nest-egg of money that is easily available should it be needed. Only 27 per cent of people said making a good return on their money was the most important reason to save, as fewer than one in five (19%) of people could correctly identify the current Bank of England Base Rate.

Gemma Pauley, Head of Nationwide’s Payday Saveday campaign, said: “Going against the traditional narrative, it’s interesting to see that younger generations believe they will save more this year than they did last year. This positive attitude is also demonstrated in their willingness to talk about their finances and to save more by learning from others in similar situations. However, as our Savings Index shows, there is more to be done given there are a concerning number of people who don’t use any savings products at all or who have less than £100 in their savings account.

“With PayDay SaveDay, we want to give people who feel they can’t save anything the confidence that, with the right approach, they might be able to save a little something every month. No matter your age or income, if you can get into the habit of saving, it can help you to pay for unexpected expenses or just save up for that nice holiday or treat. As we hit Black Friday, alongside payday, a PayDay SaveDay strategy can ensure you’ve got the funds you need to treat yourself.”

Nationwide’s full Savings Index report outlines savings habits and trends in much greater detail is attached.

  1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 10,554 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th - 24th April 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  2. Source: Money & Pensions Service
  3. Nationwide’s internal member saving data up to end of September 2019
  4. Nationwide internal ISA data for tax year 2018-19
  5. Nationwide internal savings balance data up to end of September 2019
  6. 23% of adult population of 52,719,920

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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