In Italy household net wealth remains stable at its 2012 level, whereas gross saving rate keeps declining below the euro area average.
Discrepancies between Italy and the Eurozone persist also in the composition of financial assets, especially with respect to the holdings of insurance and pension products, and in the level of indebtedness, with Italian households exhibiting more favourable figures. Over 2011-2017, Italy has caught up with the average of the euro area as for the access to some banking products and services, while still lagging behind with respect to the acquaintance with digital means of payment.
The 2018 CONSOB Observatory ‘The approach to finance and investment of Italian households‘ collects data from 1,601 households, representative of the population of Italian retail financial decision makers, with a focus on individual psychological traits and inclinations.
As extensively acknowledged by researchers and practitioners, financial behaviours are deeply grounded into individual psychological traits and inclinations. According to indicators computed on the basis of respondents’ self-evaluation, the majority of the sample prefers numerical information, shows the need for cognition, is inclined to financial anxiety. Moreover, the perception of self-efficacy and self-control as well as optimism and trust are common. Finally, in line with the behavioural investors’ type (BIT) literature, respondents are asked to report about some personality traits that may affect financial choices. A preliminary inspection based on pairwise correlations among socio-demographic characteristics and personal traits shows that preference for numerical information is more frequent among men and highly educated individuals, who also show a higher need for cognition. Financial anxiety is more common among women and the lowest educated, whilst being negatively correlated with the attitudes potentially underpinning personal engagement in challenging tasks, self-confidence and optimism. The economic situation (as proxied by income, financial wealth, house property and employment status) is positively correlated with all the selected traits, except financial anxiety.
Families in the Euro-zone: Wealth and Savings
In the last few years, the net wealth of the families in the Euro-zone has increased by 3,2% in 2015. Nevertheless, in Italy this level has remained almost unchanged with a +0,4%, while the increase of financial activities by 5,2% has been counterbalanced by the reduction of real activities by -3%. In the Euro-zone, the reaffirmation of the economic stability of families, witnessed from 2013 and due to the increase of employment and income, has accompanied the constant improvement of operators’ attitude and the gradual return of the saving rate to pre-crisis levels (13%). The Italian counterpart, although it shows a similar flow, shows that the saving rate is still below the long-term values, underlining the gap with the European average at respectively 10% and 13%.
Due to the higher perception of risk and lower interest for financial investments, families still prefer to opt for liquid products, such as deposits and cash, insurance products and pension funds, contrasting the lower values of bonds and stocks. Italy follows a similar behaviour, even though common funds have shown a net recovery. Regarding financial liabilities, the approach of the Euro-zone families has remained solid, as the light decrease of the debt weight on financial activities and GDP (respectively, 32% and 61% in 2015) from 2013 have demonstrated. The Italian data are still below the European average with the numbers of 23% and 43% in 2015, although the differential has decreased in the last years.
Bank credits to families, after the significant contraction of the previous years, are now showing gradual hints of recovery from the end of 2014, due to the positive contribution of the demand-supply balance, and the constant decrease of interest rates of loans.