INSTITUTIONS FOR SAVING AND INVESTMENT 1. The nature of saving. 2. Economic limit of saving. 13.
Commercial bank deposits of an investment nature. 4. Investment banking and bond houses. 5. Savings banks in the United States.
6. Security for thrift. 7. Postal savings plan. 8. Advantages and limitations of postal savings. I 9. Collection of savings and educa tion in thrift. f 10. Building and loan associations. 11. The main features. 12. The continuous plan. 13. The distribution of profits. 14. Possible developments of savings institutions.
§ 1. The nature of saving. The motives actuating differ ent classes of lenders may, for our present purpose, be re duced to two: to postpone the expenditure of income, and to obtain a net income from wealth (or investment). Saving always is relative to a particular period and is for more or less distant ends. The child saves its pennies to go to the circus next week, the working girl saves her dimes for a new hat next spring, the earnest high-school pupil saves to go to college next year, and the provident man saves for his fam ily's future needs and for his own old age. But always, to constitute saving, there must be for the time a net result: the excess of income over consumptive outgo in that period. This is easily distinguishable from various forms of pseudo saving of which many persons who are really spending all their incomes are very proud. Such forms are: planning to buy a particular thing and then deciding not to do so, but buying something else; finding the price less than was expected, and thereupon using this so-called saving for an other purpose; spending less than some one else for a par ticular purpose, such as food, but offsetting this by larger outlay for another purpose, such as clothing; spending all one's own income, but less than some one else with a larger income. We may define saving as the conversion, into expen diture for enjoyable use, of less than one's net income within a given income period.
Saving goes on in a natural economy both by accumulation of indirect agents and by elaboration so as to improve their It goes on to-day by the replacement of perish able by durative agents, as in replacing a wooden bridge by one of stone or concrete, and by producing wealth without consuming it, as in increasing the number of cattle on one's farm. But saving has come to be increasingly made in the form of money (or of monetary funds), and in this chapter we shall consider some of the ways in which this can now be done.
§ 2. Economic limit of saving. There is an economic limit to saving, as judged from the standpoint of each indi vidual? The ultimate purpose of every act of saving is the provision of future incomes, either as total sums to be used later, or as new (net) incomes to be received at successive periods. The economic limit of saving in each case is depend ent upon the person's present needs in relation to present in come and conditions, as compared with the prospect of his future needs in relation to his future income and conditions. Each free economic subject must form a judgment and make his choice as best he can and in the light of experience. There is no absolute and infallible standard of judgment that can be applied by outsiders to each case. Yet there is oc casion to deplore the improvidence that is fostered and that prevails, especially among those receiving their incomes in the form of wage or salary. Considered with reference to the possible maximum of welfare of the individuals them selves, the apportionment of their incomes in time is fre 1 See Vol. I, chs. 9 and 10.
2 See Vol. I, pp. 285-290, for the analysis of saving from the indi vidual standpoint; and pp. 482-499 for its relation to general economic conditions.
quently woful. It is uneconomic for families of small income to save through buying less food than is needed to keep them in health; but it is ;likewise uneconomic to spend the income, when work is plentiful and wages good, for expensive foods having little nutriment, and then, for lack of savings, to go badly underfed when work is slack and wages are small. There is for each class of circumstances a golden mean of saving. The saving habit may develop to irrational excess and become miserliness but this happens rarely compared with the many cases where men in the period of their largest earnings spend up to the limit on a gay life and make no pro vision for any of the mischances of life—business reverses, loss of employment, accidents, temporary sickness, perma nent invalidity, or unprovided old age. Despite the develop ment of late of new agencies and opportunities for saving, there is need of doing more toward popular education in thrifts It has been estimated that the net annual investment fund of the United States is on the average about fifteen per cent of net incomes. The annual savings in the years just pre ceding 1914 were probably three billion dollars, and in 1919, an especially prosperous year, about ten billion dollars. Of course, as the amounts are expressed in terms of dollars, changes in the totals must be interpreted in connection with the changing price levels.
§ 3. Commercial bank deposits of an investment nature. If a commercial bank pays no interest on demand deposits there is no motive for the depositor to keep a balance larger than he needs as current purchasing power. When his bank account increases beyond that point, it becomes available for a more or less lasting investment to yield financial in come. If the sum is small, or if the owner is at all uncertain as to his plans, or if he is not in a position to find another attractive form of investment, the offer by the bank of a small rate of interest on special time deposits (2 or 3 per cent is 3 See Vol. I, p. 484.
not an unusual rate in such cases) will suffice to cause him to leave such funds in the bank. Since about 1900 the practice has been greatly extended of paying interest even on "current balances" of regular checking accounts (demand deposits). If the 3 per cent. rule 4 as to reserves against time deposits). If the 3 per cent as to reserves against time a rate ranging from 2% to 3% per cent on time deposits, their amount will greatly increase. But still, in the future as in the past, those depositors having funds that can be in vested for considerable periods will seek a higher rate of in terest than can be obtained from commercial banks.
In their lending function the "commercial" banks (as the adjective indicates) serve mainly the special needs of the commercial elements of the community—business men bor rowing for short terms to carry out particular transactions. Loans made on short-time commercial paper (quick assets) are very suitable to the needs of a bank that has its liabilities largely in the form of demand deposits. Time deposits can be more safely lent on the security of real estate and for longer periods. Despite their limitations in this respect, the commercial banks must be recognized as of growing import ance in the work of encouraging and collecting small savings, which in many cases are better invested in other ways. In 1916, the centenary of the beginning of savings banks in this country, a nation-wide propaganda was undertaken by the American Bankers' Association for the encouragement of savings.
In 1920 the national banks alone had more than 9,000,000 deposit accounts (nearly one half of all their accounts) on which interest was allowed. Like information is not avail able regarding state banks (and trust companies) doing a com mercial business, but probably the number is as great, if not greater. If so, there is one interest-bearing banking ac count, outside of regular savings banks, on the average, for 4 See eh. 9, § 7.
every family in the United States. Evidently, in many families there are two or more such accounts.
look after the loans and to collect the interest is prohibitive to a small lender. To provide a place where small sums could be kept with safety and so as to yield a moderate rate of income, the first modern savings bank in the United States was instituted in New York in 1816 after a plan already developed in England.
In form these banks are mutual, having no capital stock on which dividends are to be paid. The boards of directors are self-perpetuating and the members receive only fees for attending meetings. In their legal aspects these banks have a philanthropic character. Their investments are limited by law to specified, conservative classes of securities and loans on real estate. The total increase from investments is, after paying the expenses of operation and setting aside a surplus, distributable to the depositors at regular periods. In the United States the number of such institutions reported in 1920 was 620, all but 24 of which are located in the North eastern and Eastern states. (The 24 are all in the four states of Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota). These banks are not increasing in number, though their depositors and resources are. They have nearly 10,000,000 depositors, deposits to the amount of more than $5,000,000,000, an aver age of $550 per depositor, or of nearly $200 per capita of the population of the geographical divisions in which they are located. Though but one third of all institutions with the name of "savings banks" are on the mutual plan, these are the most important, the typical "savings banks" in the United States, and hold about four fifths of all the deposits in "savings banks" (as distinct from the savings depart ments of commercial banks).
Savings banks seek to keep invested as large a part as pos sible of their assets, keeping in ready cash only enough to meet a possible temporary excess of withdrawals over de posits. The mutual savings banks average about $.006 of actual cash (and "checks and cash items") in their tills for every dollar of deposits, but in addition they have for every dollar of deposits $.04 due on demand from state and national (commercial) banks (in the aggregate a large sum, much of which bears a low rate of interest). About one half of their resources are invested in long-time loans, mostly to small borrowers and on the security of real estate, and most of the remainder is in bonds and other securities of the safer kinds. The average rate of interest they have paid to depositors since 1914 has been nearly 4 per cent ; the rate is not fixed in advance by contract, but is declared at regular periods (usually three months), as in the case of a dividend of a corporation.
The name "savings bank" is applied also to institutions known as "stock savings banks," organized for profit like other These are not in most cases sharply marked off from commercial banks with savings departments. The number reported in 1920 was 1087, their deposits being more than $1,300,000,000; almost one third are in Iowa, and al most two thirds in California, the remainder (only 3 per cent) being in nine other states. The capital stock of these banks is about 9 per cent of their deposits. Since the change in reserve requirement for time deposits under the Federal Reserve Act, the contrast between savings banks and com mercial banks has become less significant and that between time and demand deposits (and banking departments) more significant.
§ 6. Security for thrift. It is essential to sound policy that savings banks have the right to require depositors to give notice of intention to withdraw deposits. The period of such notice varies from a minimum of ten days (almost invariably now the minimum is thirty days) to a maximum of about sixty days. In ordinary circumstances it is not needful or usual for a bank to exercise this right, but it 7Stock and mutual savings banks are both found in only two states. New Jersey has 26 mutual and one stock, New Hampshire 45 mutual and 11 stock savings banks. The other stock savings banks are in the District of Columbia, one southern and seven western states.
is a needful' safeguard in times of commercial crises. This requirement of notice is greatly to the advantage of de positors collectively and thus of the community as a whole. It is not an undue limitation of the rights of the individual depositor. It is unfair for the individual, in a period of financial stress, to seek his own safety in a manner that is impossible for all, and thus to endanger the interests of all. The Federal Reserve Act, by making it possible for loans to be had at any time (through member banks) on good security, reduced the danger of runs on savings banks.
Savings banks are subject to the supervision and inspection of the banking departments in the several states, a fact that exerts a salutary effect, though not insuring absolutely against mistaken judgment or dishonesty on the part of the bank officials. The average losses to deposits in savings banks have been about one-fifth of 1 per cent of total deposits. It is highly desirable that a plan of insurance of deposits should be worked out which would make savings deposits absolutely safe. This measure is even more important than that repeatedly proposed by the Comptroller of the Cur rency to insure or guarantee all deposits of $5000 or less in national banks, the effect of which would be to bring from hiding-places many millions of dollars of hoarded money, largely prevent in the future runs on banks, and, more than anything else that could be done, unify and solidify the entire banking system. It would doubtless also greatly stimulate the saving habit among the people and increase the use made of the savings banks.
The depositors in savings banks have a direct legal claim on the bank as a corporation. The bank's only means of payment are its assets, consisting of claims upon the owners of such wealth as houses, factories, railroads, electric-light plants, good roads, and school buildings. Thus virtually the depositors have by their savings made possible the build ing and equipping of these actual forms of wealth, and have an equitable claim upon the usance of them, which claim is met by the payment of interest and dividends by the sav ings banks. Viewed in this way, the great social importance of the savings function appears, and the importance of de veloping the savings institutions.
§ 7. Postal savings plan. In many countries of the world the governments have not only authorized private, corporate, and trustee savings banks, but have provided public agencies where it is possible for the citizens to deposit small amounts. Thus municipal, and what are called communal, savings banks are operated by many European cities; but the most effective and widely used agencies for the purpose are the national post-offices. Postal savings banks, or postal savings systems as divisions of the postal service, are now found in all the larger countries of the world, and in many smaller ones. The United States of America was almost the last civilized country to establish such a system, which was author ized by act of Congress in 1910, and went into operation in a few designated cities in January, 1911. The number of offices at which it was in operation was rapidly increased. and deposits began to flow in at the average rate of more than a million dollars a month, and then more rapidly until the war period. The maximum balance to the credit of de positors was attained in March, 1919, when it was $177,000, 000, from which point the withdrawals have pretty reg ularly exceeded the new deposits each month. This may be explained by the rise of the general interest rate, the opportunities for good investments of small sums in Liberty Bonds, and heavy withdrawals by immigrants for remittance to Europe.
The funds of the postal savings system are deposited in banks belonging to the Federal Reserve system, which must deposit with the Treasurer of the United States designated kinds of bonds (national, state, and municipal) as security. and pay interest at the rate of per cent on the amount of the deposits. The per cent difference between this rate and that paid to individuals goes far toward paying the expense of operating the system.
Provision is made for the issue, in exchange for certificates of postal savings, of bonds bearing interest at the rate of per cent. Postal savings bonds are exempt from all kinds of taxes, federal and local.
§ 8. Advantages and limitations of postal savings. As compared with ordinary savings banks the postal savings system has certain advantages.
(a) It protects the small depositors from the danger of dishonest private bankers who have preyed upon immigrants in the larger cities. To foreigners, accustomed to the postal
savings plan in their home countries, it is especially useful.
(b) It gives to every depositor the greatest safety possible, as "the faith of the United States is solemnly pledged" for the repayment of depositors.
(c) It brings a savings institution to many a small town and rural place formerly entirely lacking in facilities for small depositors. The benefit of this has not immediately appeared to be great, but may in time prove to be.
(d) It pays interest from the first of the month following the date of deposit, whereas the usual practice of savings and commercial banks is to pay only from the beginning of the quarter year or half year.
(e) It provides for the exchange of deposits for bonds hearing a higher rate of interest—a unique feature greatly simplifying for the small saver the process of buying bonds for more lasting investment.
In some respects, however, the postal savings system offers less favorable conditions than do ordinary banks, and its usefulness was deliberately restricted by provisions in the law, as has been clearly pointed out and deplored by com petent critics. The post-office will not receive deposits of less than one dollar, whereas regular savings banks usually accept for deposit as small an amount as ten cents. It pays only 2 per cent interest (only half as much as the regular savings banks now pay) and only for a full year instead of quarterly. Only simple interest is paid, not interest com pounded automatically, as in the case of banks. These and other features of the law so greatly restrict the usefulness and appeal of the system that its failure to grow is not surprising. With wise and proper changes it should be pos sible to refund a large part of the national debt in securities issued in small denominations through the postal savings system.
§ 9. Collection of savings and education in thrift. Small savings have been encouraged in many places by penny provi dent funds, dime savings banks, and school savings funds, which have been conducted at public schools, social settle ments, and factories, by school officers and by charitable and educational societies acting through canvassers. These plans all call for much personal effort and cost, which must be pro vided by volunteer services and private gifts. These plans being undertaken mainly as a means of education in thrift and in the related moralities, their results are not to be meas ured merely by the magnitude of the sums collected. They are not rivals of the ordinary savings banks, but rather auxiliary methods of encouraging their use. The funds col lected by these agencies are usually deposited in local savings banks, and depositors are encouraged to open individual ac counts there, whenever they have considerable sums saved.
Before the Great War began, public schools in Germany were equipped with automatic machines vending savings stamps in as small denominations as ten pfennigs cents) when a coin was dropped into a slot. This method could be used effectively in connection either with the postal sav ings system or with a local savings bank. It ought to be made easy to deposit funds at every schoolhouse, at every post office, at every factory counter on pay-day, and wherever people pass in numbers. Allurements to foolish expenditures meet old and young at every turn ; to spend the nickel or the dime is made all too easy, whereas to save it and deposit it in a safe place too often calls for wasteful and discouraging efforts from the person of small means.
§ 10. Building and loan associations. Building and loan association is the name applied to a cooperative organization having as its purpose the collecting regularly from mem bers of small sums which are loaned to some members for the purpose of building or paying for The first associa tion of this type was organized in Frankford, Pennsylvania, in 1831. It and others of its kind have made Philadelphia notable among all the larger cities as "the city of homes." The number of such associations has almost steadily increased in the United states. Pennsylvania continues to rank first in respect to amount of total assets, with Ohio a close second, and New Jersey third (though ranking first in proportion to population). Associations of this type have been hardly second in importance in America to the savings banks as institutions for savings for persons of moderate means. The number of their members (in 1920) was 4,300,000, which is about one third of that of savings banks depositors, and the amount of their assets ($2,100,000,000) is nearly one third that of the reported savings banks. But they are growing more rapidly, and their relative influence in educating and en couraging to thrift is doubtless much greater than these figures indicate. There are nearly eight thousand of them, more than three times as many as savings banks ; their manage ment is much more democratic than is that of the banks ; and many of their members attend and participate in the meetings and understand how they are conducted. Moreover, the savings made through these associations are constantly passing on into houses that are fully paid for, and that continue to yield their usances and rents to their owners. Each year these associations collect from their members as dues and in repayment of loans (made to build houses) the sum of more than half a billion dollars, which is twice as 8 See Vol. I, pp. 290, 297-298, 484, and 486.
much as the annual increase in the deposits of the reported savings banks.
These associations are properly made subject to supervision and examination by state officials, in the manner of that exercised over banks. They have been favored by exempting the shares of members and the mortgages held by the associa tions from all state and municipal taxation. As the houses built or paid for are taxed, this is of course just, but it is an exception to the rule of the illogical general property The figures here given and the description of methods apply to the "local" building and loan associations. The success of this kind led to the organization of other associa tions which took the name "National" building and loan as sociations, to carry on a business in a larger field. The num ber of these has always been comparatively small, and their operation is less simple, democratic, and economical than the local associations. They have had more of the nature of or dinary profit-making enterprises. They should not be con fused with the local associations.
§ 11. The main features. A building and loan association is organized by a group of persons in a neighborhood, unit ing to form a corporation under the laws of the state, every member to subscribe for one or more shares. The officers elected all serve without pay, excepting the secretary-treas urer, who receives a small fee for his services. All official meetings are open to all members. The shares vary in de nomination from $25 to $200; the larger figure being common under the serial plan and $100 being usual under the con tinuous (or permanent) plan, described below. Whenever there is a sufficient sum it is lent to one of the members for the purpose of building a house. The borrower must sub scribe for shares to the par value of his loan. Usually the loans made are large enough to cover a large proportion of the cost of the house, but the land on which the house stands must be free from all encumbrance, and its value 9 See eh. 18, § 4.
gives a margin of safety to the association. Then by the method of payment of dues the debt is, from the first month, steadily reduced and the security for the loan therefore grows constantly better.
The receipts of the association are of several kinds.
(a) Interest is received from borrowing members, usually at the rate of 6 per cent, and from banks at a lower rate on the small working cash balances kept on deposit.
(b) Premiums may be charged, either in the form of a higher rate of interest bid by the applicant for a loan, or in the form of additional weekly dues. Dozens of premium plans are in effect or have been tried, but the practice of charging premiums has decreased so that the total premiums now constitute less than 1 per cent of all payments from members.
(c) Fines for delinquency also are less commonly imposed now and constitute a small fraction of 1 per cent of total payments.
(d) Deductions are made on account of withdrawal before the maturity of these shares; under these circumstances it is usual to pay a portion but not all of the accumulated profits, sometimes a proportion increasing as the shares approach maturity.
Different plans have been and still are followed in respect to the method of issuing the shares. Under the terminating plan all the shares begin and mature at the same time (for all members that continue to the end), whereupon the associa tion dissolves or starts anew. The chief difficulty in this plan is that the association has too few funds to lend at the begin ning of its career, and a surplus of unlendable funds as it nears the maturity of the series. It is therefore necessary to encourage or to compel the withdrawal of non-borrowing members on the payment of estimated profits to date.
The better to remedy this difficulty, the serial plan was de vised, by which new series of stock are issued at intervals— yearly, half-yearly, quarterly, and even oftener.
§ 12. The continuous plan. A further development is the continuous plan (usually called the permanent or the Dayton plan), by which much greater flexibility is attained in the organization. Shares of stock may be subscribed for at any time, each man's separate subscription of shares being treated as a separate series, and maturing each at its own time. There is thus, after an association has been for some time in operation, a continuous stream of new members (or new subscriptions) flowing into the association, and a con tinuous outflow of shareholders whose shares have matured. The maturing shares of borrowing members discharge their indebtedness to the association; the maturing shares of non borrowing members are paid in money, or may (if the as sociation has use for the funds) be left as an interest-bearing loan.
Additional funds are obtained when needed by issuing paid-up stock to non-borrowers. This is convenient at the beginning of an association and when the movement in build ing is more active than usual. But if an association has funds that cannot be loaned, outstanding paid-up stock may be called in. In practice a large part of the paid-up stock as well as of the running stock is subscribed for and held, not by large capitalists, but by persons of small means, especially "the more frugal element in the working classes." Non-borrowing members desiring to withdraw may do so at any time under certain conditions; but the laws usually require that thirty days' notice of intention to withdraw shall be given, that not more than one half of the funds received in any one month shall be paid on withdrawals, and that withdrawing shareholders shall be paid in the order of the notices of intention to withdraw. These safeguards make impossible anything like a "run" on a bank or a forced liquidation of the association.
The most intelligent and prudent workers were formerly deterred from subscribing by the fear that sickness, unemploy ment, or other mishap might make it impossible to keep up regular payments. Now, however, fines for late payment have been almost entirely done away with. On the other hand, extra payments may be made at any time by borrow ing members, to hasten the date when their shares mature and their debt will be discharged. These privileges are pos sible because of the method of distributing profits, which will now be described.
Probably the greatest developments in the near future will be through the savings departments of commercial banks (favored by the reserve rules of the Federal Reserve Act) rather than by the increase in the number of special banks for savings. The initial expense and risk of starting a sav ings bank is considerable, and outside of cities of some size this is prohibitive; whereas a savings department, with its funds and reserves separated, can be easily and cheaply oper ated in connection with a general bank. It is much to be de sired, however, that a larger measure of popular cooperation might be made possible to the depositors, both for its educa tional value and to reduce the real evil of the autocratic or the plutocratic centralization of the money power in the small communities. Savings banks usually limit the amount of an account to $3000. It is desirable that depositors should be able easily to convert their savings-bank deposits over cer tain amounts into good bonds, bearing a higher rate of in terest (after the method of the issue of postal savings bonds). There is need of a central market in each community where bonds can be bought and sold at any time; and banks ought, as they increasingly do, to buy and sell for their customers in this way in the larger bond market. This would be of benefit also to the states and municipalities that issue bonds for such purposes as schools, roads, and public utilities, by creating a more open and regular market to small in vestors than now is provided for such securities. This might somewhat reduce the rate of interest, and there would be 10 On these economies, see Vol. I, p. 298.
a gain divided between taxpayers and lenders. The large amounts of Liberty bonds now are especially suitable for the small investor.
The general plan and principles of local building and loan associations was extended in 1916 to groups of rural co operators in the joint-stock land banks, enabling them to make loans to their members" ; and it might well be extended to groups of small investors, permitting them to hold real estate mortgages and bonds and stocks of corporations, free from taxation other than that paid on the wealth itself. Members of such organizations could get a higher income on their investments than a savings bank could pay, and with greater security than if each attempted to save and invest by himself.
Savings institutions are necessarily also lending institu tions. In this chapter they have been looked at mainly from the saver's (the lender's) standpoint, though their service to the borrower is of coordinate importance. In the case of building and loan associations this feature is most apparent. Later, the problem of the agricultural borrower will receive further consideration.
11 See ch. 27, below. REVERENCES.
Chamberlain, Laurence, Principles of bond investment. 4th ed., N. Y. Holt. 1911.
The work of the bond house. 1913.
Devine. H. C., Peoples cooperative bank for workers in towns, and small holders, allotment cultivators, and others in country dis tricts. N. Y. Cassell. 1908.
Dexter, Seymour, A treatise on cooperative savings and loan associa tions. N. Y. Appleton. 1894. • Hamilton, J. H., Savings and savings institutions. N. Y. Mac millan. 1902.
Kemmerer, E. W., Postal savings. P. 176. Princeton. Princeton University Press. 1917. (A historical and critical study of the postal savings system of the U. S.) Kniffin, W. H., The savings bank and its practical work. N. Y. Bankers Pub. 1912.
Phillips, C. A.. Readings in money and banking. N. Y. Macmillan. 1916. Ch. XVI.
Wolf, H. W., A cooperative bank handbook. Lond. King. 1909. Cooperative banking. Lond. King. 1907.