With its gleaming shopping malls and omnipresent luxury brands, Hong Kong is an easy place to turn spendthrift.
And if a survey last month of 1,000 Hong Kong residents is any indicator, it's a hard place to hold onto cash. Fully two-thirds of primary income earners reported having less than a month's income saved in the bank.
Those numbers come as a surprise, given that Hong Kong is 'quite a wealthy zone,' says Peter Barrett, global managing director of lifestyle protection for insurance company Genworth, which commissioned the survey. They're also alarming, he says. 'If they suffer a fall in income, for example a job loss, there'll be a [financial] gap,' says Mr. Barrett.
The survey, carried out by research company TNS, also found that among the primary income earners without a month's income saved, 62% use credit cards -- and of those, nearly a quarter don't pay off the balance every month.
While Hong Kong's household savings rate as a percentage of gross domestic product can't quite match mainland China's 50%, it remains a relatively high 27%. (The U.S. rate, by contrast, is 13%.) That figure, though, could be skewed by the outsized savings of city's class of the very wealthy, says Betty Ng of Fidelity Worldwide Investment. Hong Kong’s wealth gap has been stretching ever wider for years, and currently outstrips those of cities from Singapore to New York, and even that of mainland China as a whole.
In addition to the growth of the wealth gap, the number of people living in working poor households has also been on the rise, and recently reached record levels, Oxfam reported last week. Fully one in six people in Hong Kong live below the poverty line.
Rising real-estate prices -- up more than 90% just since 2008 -- raise the specter of a bubble like the one that burst in 1997 during the Asian financial crisis, leaving many families under water. Property, a popular investment choice in Hong Kong, is hard to sell off quickly in times of duress, says Ms. Ng.
'If you don't have very liquid assets,' says Ms. Ng, 'that's quite a bit of risk. That's why a lot of people ended up declaring bankruptcy when the property market plunged before.' People are typically advised to keep a cash cushion of between three to six months of monthly income, she says.
European Pressphoto Agency图为2012年9月16日，香港一座摩天楼的一侧被一张高档眼镜的巨幅广告覆盖。
以占GDP百分比计算的香港家庭储蓄率为27%，虽无法与中国内地的50%相比，但仍然相对较高。（美国的家庭储蓄率为13%。）但富达国际投资(Fidelity Worldwide Investment)的吴玉慈(Betty Ng)说，香港超级富豪阶层的庞大积蓄可能扭曲了储蓄率数字。多年来香港贫富差距一直在不断扩大，目前已经超过新加坡和纽约等城市，甚至超过中国内地的总体水平。