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Record amounts saved in 2021, despite rock-bottom interest rates
Belgians maintained their reputation as a nation of savers in 2021, putting away record amounts of cash in savings accounts earning virtually no interest.
The latest statistics from the Belgian National Bank show Belgian residents had €298 billion stored in savings at the end of October last year, an increase of about €5 billion on the previous year.
BNP Paribas Fortis reported a 5% increase in the balance of savings accounts in 2021, Belfius 6.5% and KBC 7.5%. The majority of the savings were in regular easy-access accounts.
Belgians also appear to be keeping more cash than normal in their regular current accounts, up by about €50 billion in a year.
The increase is not a recent trend. Every year, Belgian savings account holders put away more money than the previous year - and the coronavirus crisis has done nothing to reverse this trend.
However, most savings accounts are paying the legal minimum of 0.11%, which coupled with rising inflation - estimated to reach 5% in 2022 - means the value of people's savings is eroding over time.
"Money saved for 10 years, taking into account inflation, loses about 25% of its value," said Nicolas Claeys, investment expert at Test-Achats.
He recommends keeping between three and six months of salary in easy-access savings to deal with unforeseen expenses, such as a problem in the home or broken down car.
Beyond this reserve, "the most profitable solution in the long term is investing in the stock market", Claeys added.