Friday, December 19, 2008

Why Chinese People Save?

Apparently it's cuz they're scared and don't have reliable alternatives (NYT Economix). I think it explains only part of it - as the Economist points out that this isn't consistent with data after Chinese people emigrate to the West, but it helps to think in first principle terms - that is, all finance is directly related - insurance, savings, lending, investing.

It's a singular continuum - having a wide breadth of finance products available means that you manage risk appropriate to you and your situation. Beyond the things that we plan for, we all have to deal with unanticipated events - if you don't have insurance, you use cash and if not that, loans and credit cards and if you don't have that, well, you're just out of luck. From what I've seen, usually the availability of these products happens with the increased sophistication of a given country's financial services sector: savings/lending, insurance then investments.

While Hung Huang at Economix attributes savings for dealing with unanticipated events to a "dilapidated social welfare system" and therefore a need for self reliance, I suspect that the lack of regulatory stability has something to do with it otherwise there would be more and better private sector options (though given the continuum, time may also have something to do with it as well). This being said, if you look at China's history particularly over the last say 50 years, with massive political unrest, economic uncertainties, is it little wonder that Chinese people often horde gold and are so focused on education (which is not as depreciable and cannot be taken away)?

Of course the question as to why some Chinese people (not just managers) turn into degenerate gamblers is a different one altogether. As for managers, after a massive oversight on myself that's led to a fairly significant fraud (possibly more on this later), I am thinking it's at least in small part a lack of sophistication/experience and not understanding the risks/returns.

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