Thrifty Germans



currency speculate domesticated
thrift asset (2) misfortune
coin safety net to this day
soul prosperity savings account
illness situation “rainy day”
access passbook fragmentation
root (2) set aside tumultuous
option deliberate encourage
devalue eat away opposition
reform dedicate monument
nest egg essential sustainability
savings black (2) consumption













It’s Germany’s favorite domesticated animal: the piggy bank. There’s even a monument dedicated to it.

And thrift is at the root of German prosperity, as Michael Otto knows.

Michael Otto, coin dealer: “That’s what my parents taught me: the only way to make a larger purchase is to save up the money first.”

Saving money is deeply rooted in the German soul.

Klaus Nagel, chocolate maker: “A savings account doesn’t earn much these days. But it’s one of the safest investments; that’s what people do.”

Saving for a rainy day is a German tradition. Germans have been known for their thrifty ways for centuries.

Economic historian, Werner Abelshauser says that mentality has its roots in Germany’s tumultuous history, going all the way back to political fragmentation that followed the Thirty Years’ War.

Werner: “People had to be prepared for misfortune. For example in the event of illness … or the death of an important family member … or to support their children’s education, and send them somewhere to learn something.

In situations like that, people needed to have quick access to their financial assets.”

Passbook savings accounts arose 200 years ago as a government-backed form of savings.

Even the poorest families were encouraged to set something aside for a rainy day, especially because there was no public safety net.

Passbook savings accounts were a safe option.

Werner: “German economic culture was defined by economists in the German Empire in opposition to the British example.

So it was deliberately directed away from the stock market and speculation and towards cooperation and sustainability.”

Time and again, devaluation ate away at these savings whether due to the Great Depression, hyperinflation or currency reforms.

But the German people’s savings mentality remained unbroken.

Werner: “The ideology of savings got a huge boost in the 1950s, after the Second World War. Everything had to be bought all over again. Maybe not everything, but a lot of things. And purchasing or consumption on credit, was not very popular.”

To this day, even youngsters are encouraged to save up. Money belongs in a savings account where it’s safe, even when interest rates are low and savings melt away.

Still, a nest egg is essential.

Klaus Nagel: “You shouldn’t spend what you don’t have. We learn that along with our multiplication tables. And as long as you follow that rule, you’ll stay in the black.

And when Germans do break into their savings, it can only be for something truly important.

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1. One of the keys features of Germany’s economy is saving money. Is this correct or wrong?

2. Germans get into the habit of saving by reading self-help books. True or false? Is saving a German tradition? Is it part of their culture?

3. Does Germany’s history of saving involve disasters and hard times? How did tragedies influence the habit of saving?

4. Is there a difference between Britain and Germany in terms of finance and investment? Compare the British and German approach. In what ways do the British and German ways differ?

5. Saved money is always “safe” or “saved”. Do you agree?

6. What is the German attitude towards purchasing on credit?

7. Do people only save, save, save?
A. Is saving money good, bad, neither, in the middle, or both? Is it better to save or spend? Should people save more or spend more?

B. If people saved less and spent more, . . . .

C. What would happen if people saved a lot or as much as possible?

D. What would happen if people spent more than they earn and buy on credit?

E. Is saving good for businesses and the economy? Why is it good or bad?

F. What might happen in the future?

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