Jun 28, 2021 - Economy

U.S. consumers may have saved $2.4 trillion more than usual since pandemic began

Data: Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans with limited options to spend during the pandemic saved more than usual. And while it’s unclear how this money will be spent, everyone agrees this is awesome for the economy.

Why it matters: Wells Fargo estimates $2.4 trillion in excess savings has been accumulated by consumers since the beginning of the pandemic. And consumer spending accounts for about 68% of GDP.

What they’re saying: "The savings are enormous," Wells Fargo’s Tim Quinlan tells Axios.

  • "This is equivalent to 15-20% of typical annual consumption and is an ample amount of dry powder consumers are able to tap as the economy re-opens," he adds.
  • How these savings will be deployed is "unpredictable," but they'll likely have a big impact on consumer spending "over the next couple years," Pantheon Macro’s Shepherdson said in a research note.

Yes, but: Quinlan notes that excess savings estimates don’t account for how much was used for things like paying off student loans, paying down a mortgage, or financing a brokerage account.

  • Commonwealth Financial Network’s Anu Gaggar tells Axios, "Lower income households could quickly run down their savings once additional stimulus payments are halted and rent and mortgage payment moratoriums are lifted."
  • "On the other hand, savings of higher income households could be stickier as they have lower marginal propensities to consume," she said.

But, but, but: "They still put households on better financial footing and therefore can support spending growth," Quinlan added.

  • Similarly, Shepherdson estimates that if households spent just 15% of these savings over the next two years, it would provide a 0.8% boost to GDP per year.

The big picture: The economy faces all sorts of shortages as growth heats up, which is boosting inflation. But the fact that consumers are still piling up savings speaks to how much demand continues to eclipse supply.

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