A penny saved is a penny earned: Do Saudis believe in that?

A penny saved is a penny earned: Do Saudis believe in that?
1 / 3
Lack of money and the increasing cost of everyday items are cited as reasons for not saving But in order to save people need to own a bank account. (Shutterstock photos)
A penny saved is a penny earned: Do Saudis believe in that?
2 / 3
A penny saved is a penny earned: Do Saudis believe in that?
3 / 3
Updated 08 May 2019
Follow

A penny saved is a penny earned: Do Saudis believe in that?

A penny saved is a penny earned: Do Saudis believe in that?
  • Questions have been raised about ways of saving, and whether Saudi citizens can adopt good management of their finances

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s savings rate is one of the lowest in the world, according to a survey by the King Khalid Foundation in 2018. 
Only 44 percent of Saudi adults — most of them men — reported saving, the majority of them men, which is why Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) started a campaign to encourage Saudis to save by creating a saving strategy that ensures a decent future for citizens.
One of the reasons people are not saving is lack of money — things are expensive. According to Talat Hafiz, financial columnist for Arab News, “Saudi Arabia has seen a marked rise in the price of everything over the past few years; this is mainly due to what we call ‘imported inflation.’ The price of goods all over the world is increasing.”
“The Kingdom is a major importer of most of the goods you see in the market, especially basic everyday items such as rice, tea, and more. The economic and financial reforms that the Kingdom is going through also play a role in the rise of prices, as the change in the price of commodities such as energy or electricity has required an adjustment. The introduction of value-added tax (VAT) has already played a part in this,” he added.
But in order to save, citizens need to own bank accounts. According to the latest survey by the King Khalid Foundation, more than 28 percent of Saudis do not have an account. Therefore, the Financial Sector Development Programs is seeking to raise the percentage of bank account ownership among Saudi citizens — in line with the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision to raise awareness about savings.
Talat believes that the banking sector has seen an increase in the number of customers across different age groups this year. “The Financial Sector Development Programs, one of the 12 executive Vision 2030 Programs, has made efforts toward financial inclusion, which gives every person in Saudi Arabia the right to have a relationship with the banking and financial sector, which includes the right to open a bank account,” he said. 
“One of the project’s main initiatives is to raise the proportion of Saudis that own bank accounts to 80 percent, which means that local banks are now allowing citizens to open bank accounts even without a minimum balance, facilitating the process. 
“The benefits of opening an account are developing a good relationship with the bank and keeping your money in the safest place possible to prevent theft or loss. You can also benefit from the different services a bank can provide, such as offering a credit card, enabling transfers or being approved for loans.”
Many Saudi banks offer great saving plans for their customers, whereby the longer you save, the greater the returns. Other saving programs can secure monthly dividends and allow you to withdraw funds at any time during the investment period. Yet these programs are not advertised properly so that many Saudis do not know about them, which leads them to waste their monthly salaries on superficial things, according to Shahad Al-Harbi, a Saudi student at Dominican University in Chicago.
Al-Harbi talked about her struggle to save money: “Some of the reasons that might lead to a waste of salary is that I do not plan for a monthly budget, therefore I spend without setting a target goal of savings, or even be aware of the amount I spend.” 
Another issue is “not distinguishing between essentials and luxury spending. A failure to prioritize spending may waste a large part of your salary on unnecessary luxuries,” she added. 
Abdulfattah Khalil, a financial director at a government entity, explained how excessive debt is the main contributor to lack of savings; he said: “Some people resort to debt to solve their financial problems or achieve certain goals. The problem is that they look on borrowing as an additional source of income to spend on consumer items, and the premiums increase because of the large debt until their financial situation gets out of control.  
“Sometimes life throws you a curveball and large sums are required to help you to continue steadily through difficulties, such as unemployment, or an accident which requires savings,” he added.
Muhammed A., a Saudi banker in a prominent bank, believes that Saudi citizens throughout history had a way of saving that was not as an international market behavior or organized saving behavior.
He said: “All of them were different behaviors, such as through real estate, equity or participating with relatives in a business, it wasn’t clear. Now, the market is changing especially through banks, but it does not appeal to the customer. We see that saving in Saudi accounts is not attractive, raising less than 2 percent, a net loss with zakat added. And it evolves with the SIBOR fluctuations.”
He said that there was a big initiative from the government for saving, offering a partial return that is higher.
“We don’t have traditional savings like abroad, we don’t have a business plan in our country, I believe that with the changes in the country things are becoming stabilized but it will take time,” he said.
He added: “Four to five years ago, certain insurance companies offered saving programs, savings for marriages and different initiatives but they didn’t do well. These programs were not attractive, not in the customer’s favor. You started to get your return after the sixth year which is a long period.” 
The banker also argues that it is still a close community, with younger people depending on parents to start their lives.
“However, I can see changes happening with the mentality of youth, perhaps in a few years from now.”
Nowadays some private companies offer great saving plans for their employees.
Nasser Al-Shalhoub, an employee at a semi-government Saudi company, said that his firm offers two programs, a saving program and a saving /investing program.
“The saving program just deducts the amount of your choice from your basic salary, it could be five percent or 10 percent, where you can collect it later 5 or 10 years from now,” said Nasser. “The saving /investing program deducts the amount of your choice from your basic salary and invests in it. Each month you will have a 10 percent profit from the amount that is deducted, which will result in you profiting double the amount you saved. So if you saved SR100,000 within 10 years you will have an extra SR100,000 from investments which means within 10 years you will earn 200,000,” he said.
Finally, determination and commitment are important elements for starting to save. If your first attempt is not successful, there is no harm in continuing trying to achieve your goal.
Learning the culture of saving has many benefits in the long term because the amount saved now will ensure a decent life in the future.