“IF you don’t care about your money, they won’t care for you either,” goes a popular saying in China. Although the country’s economy is surging to become the second-largest in the world, most Shanghai residents choose a conservative approach to their financial management, according to a survey of 370 local residents released late last week by Money Weekly magazine and Fudan University.
Bank saving has long been and remains the No. 1 choice for wealth management among the locals. More than 78 percent of the people in the survey chose it for at least part of their investment portfolio. More than four in 10 people invest in stocks and about one-third buy insurance investment products.
Li Muzi, 65, a retired middle-school teacher, still seeks big national banks to manage her money. She says she has purchased a wealth-investment product issued by China Merchants Bank.
“The expected earning rate is around 5 percent for three months, or more for half a year and one year,” Li says. “Although some of my friends recommended some other small private banks with higher rates, I think it is more secure to put my money in big banks with a good reputation. I am old now and I can’t afford any risks.”
Li’s words are echoed by Rebecca Wu, a 40-year-old financial consultant at a multinational company.
“I also prefer wealth-investment products issued by big banks,” she says. “To be frank, the golden time for investment is already gone. I bought three apartments several years ago and real estate property proved to be quite successful back then. But now there is hardly any price margin for property investment, and currently I don’t see any opportunity for good investment.
“I often joke with my friends that now my task is not to earn money but to ‘keep’ them in my account, because I lost money in stocks and now I dare not do other risky investment.”
Wu says she always makes her financial transactions on the Internet. “It is so easy and convenient,” she says.
But for many older people, online transactions are too daunting and, for some, too risky.
“I am not good at computers, and I prefer to go to a physical counter at the bank,” says Wu Mingxing, a 63-year-old professor. “Although my children told me that I can do all these on the Internet and they also taught me how to do it, I don’t trust the Internet very much. After all, I am not moving a piece of furniture but a large sum of money. It is better that I do it face-to-face at the banks.”
Indeed, the survey indicates that many middle-aged and elderly people simply do not trust the Internet as a way to handle their money.
“I bought the wealth-investment product in Zhifubao (Alipay) and the rate is nearly 6 percent, higher than those of many banks,” says Hu Wenwen, a 36-year-old white-collar worker. “But I just put a small amount of money in the account — several dozen thousand yuan. My husband warned me not to put much in it; he doesn’t thinks it’s safe. There are so many hackers on the Internet.”
Nearly half of the locals get investment information through relatives and friends, while 46 percent choose financial specialists at banks, the survey showed. Nearly one-quarter also acquire information through Wechat or other social media.
Investment an emerging trend
Most people choose a stable and full-time job to make money. But in an indication of Shanghai’s entrepreneurial bent, 45 percent have sought to start a private business, and about 43 percent invest in stocks, funds and real estate.
Simon Zhou, a marketing director with a decent salary, says he tried to go into business but finally gave up.
“Two years ago I was fed up with my job. So I quit and started a new business with my partner,” he recalls. “But the reality is always cruel. I didn’t expect that there would be so many difficulties to operate my own business. I had to take into consideration every detail within my budget. There was almost no time for myself and my mobile was on for 24 hours a day!
“After a year of crazy work, what I earned was even less than my former annual income at the company. Now I’m back on the route of a white-collar worker. My monthly salary is about 50,000 yuan (US$8,200), and I am quite satisfied with it,” he says.
But for many fresh graduates, a shortcut to high earnings is to have their own business. “I now opened a dessert shop with my classmates,” says Wang Qing, 25. “I applied for several jobs, with the payment around 4,000 yuan. I don’t like such a routine job. Now we can earn about 20,000 yuan monthly with this dessert shop while I can also arrange my own time.”
When asked about their investment returns over the past year, about 70 percent of the people surveyed said they did make money. One in 10 people reported returns above 10 percent and about a quarter of people had a return of between 5 and 10 percent. Most families could at least exceed the inflation rate or the bank saving rate, which is around 3 percent for a year.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 1.6 percent in September, the lowest rate in nearly five years.
About half of those taking part in the survey expressed optimism about China’s economic development in the coming year, with only 8.6 percent of the locals thinking the economy will worsen. But there was a big split in sentiment between the haves and have-nots. People with monthly salaries below 5,000 yuan are optimistic about China’s economy, but those with monthly salary above 20,000 yuan have no such confidence.
The continuous double-digit increases in the minimum wage the past few years may be persuading low-income families that things are getting better. High-income families, on the other hand, have more ability to obtain information and spot potential problems in China’s economy.
“I already bought a house in Sydney, and I am not optimistic about the future based on the current statistics,” says Bruce Zhou, a 50-year-old lawyer. “Because of my job, I am reading a lot on Chinese and overseas economy, so I am considering transferring part of my assets out of China to offset the high CPI and the potential risks. It’s true that I benefitted a lot from China’s economic development. But I don’t want to see them evaporate.”