Do men really save more than women?

25 January 2012

Statistics and surveys always need to be taken with a pinch of sodium chloride; while they are useful indicators of people’s habits they can only ever give an approximate picture. After all even if 100% of survey respondents on Britons’ drinking habits, claimed to love coffee, if the survey only asked 10 people - who were sitting in a café called ‘I heart Coffee’ at the time, it would be fair to assume that the rest of the UK wouldn’t feel the same.

Of course surveys tend to question considerably more than 10 people and they most certainly are useful to give an idea of human behaviour but sometimes I’d just like a bit more reading between the lines. Take Natwest’s latest statistical offering: the headline reads ‘Higher number of female savers, but it's men who save 40% cash.’ The inference here is that while women fret and worry about saving when it comes to it men manage to successfully accrue a much higher amount.

Natwest also reports that men are more concerned with saving for important things like  housing deposits, rainy day savings and their retirement. Women meanwhile embody gender stereotypes, saving more towards weddings and ‘something special’. What Natwest doesn’t tell us is that ‘something special’ refers to life insurance, SIPPS and the alternative investment market (AIM). I’m kidding but the point is Natwest wants to highlight (and perhaps play up) the difference in gender savings habits. But a breakdown of male versus female savings habits shows the difference is as marginal as – well a very small, hard-to-separate-margin.

Men’s most popular savings goal is on the intriguing but ultimately arbitrary category ‘other’, with 25% saving towards this (24% of women also had a thing for ‘other’). Women’s most popular savings target meanwhile is holidays, with 26% saving towards this (21% of men are saving towards jaunts abroad). Other biggies are house deposits where yes more men (18%) are saving towards a house deposit than women – but only by 2%. And as for Natwest highlighting the fact that women are more worried about saving for weddings than men, while this is true, it’s certainly not a huge discovery to learn that 5% of surveyed women are saving for their wedding compared to 4% of men.

Perhaps what is more interesting is that women on average aim to save £5,600 while oh-so-confident-men plan to save £10,000. Is this because the men surveyed (note I’m not appending the same stereotype to man collective) have grand plans of saving – without the means or sums to save that much?   

I think rather than worrying about who saves more, the real question consumers would like to ask is not about each other’s savings habbits but direct to the banks: ‘what are you doing to help me save more effectively?’ Less pointless surveys and decent interest rates would be a (admittedly wishful) start.