Energy crisis: Sinking saving possibilities up to the middle class

A representative online survey conducted by Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft (German Economic Institute) and SINUS-Institut in September 2022 shows: While 70 percent of Germans were still able to save money regularly in 2020, this share is currently only 50 percent. The middle class in particular is coming under increasing pressure. Compared to the figures for 2020, significantly fewer people are currently able to put money aside, especially in the income groups of the lower middle class and just above the median income.

According to the respondents, the opportunities to save have deteriorated significantly in the last 12 months. Compared to the previous year, 61 percent of the respondents are currently able to put aside somewhat or significantly less money (39 percent of them "significantly less").

But it is not only the savings opportunities that are declining: already 61 percent have also reduced their expenses strongly or very strongly due to the increase in energy prices.

How these results affect the thinking and actions of different social milieus as well as social cohesion can be analysed with help of Sinus-Milieus model of German society. Particularly in the middle class, there's a considerable perceived affectedness also from a milieu perspective:

  • On the one hand, there is the modern Adaptive-Pragmatic Middle Class Milieu (12% of the population), which always adapts flexibly and willingly to compromise to changes in society. Due to life-stage-related medium- and long-term expenditures (e.g. real estate loans, educational investments), this milieu has higher fixed costs. In the absence of financial resources, they adjust everyday consumption and leisure spending. Accordingly, an above-average 72 percent of the respondents in this milieu have already reduced their spending strongly or very strongly.
  • On the other side of the middle is the Nostalgic Middle Class Milieu (11% of the population), the "backbone of society" in their self-image. Their life goal is a middle-class lifestyle with secured living standards. In the past decades, people trusted in and experienced a continuous promise of prosperity. A permanent deterioration of the financial situation is tantamount to a loss of face. This milieu also experiences strong distress with a share of 73 percent having had to cut back on their savings. The anger about politics is correspondingly high.

The upper-class milieus are also coming under financial pressure, albeit to a lesser extent.

  • This includes the Performer Milieu (10% of the population), where long-term financial restrictions would certainly be bitterly felt, however self-responsible solutions and behavioural changes ("flight forward") are preferred to state welfare. Although this milieu also had to reduce its savings rate compared to the previous year, their result was the lowest of all milieus: 69 percent of this progress-optimistic achiever elite still say they can build up reserves.
  • In addition, the Post-Materialist Milieu (12% of the population), as the "good conscience" of society, would like to come as close as possible to the ideal of a sustainable lifestyle oriented towards the common good. This committed educated elite is likely to see the current energy and price crisis as an opportunity for society as a whole to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, which they have been propagating for a long time. The proportion of savers here is an above-average 63 percent.

The authors:

Overview SINUS studies


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