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一、经济学人杂志双语文章摘要

在上世纪80年代的喜剧《颠倒乾坤》(Trading Places)中,杰米·李·柯蒂斯(Jamie Lee Curtis)饰演了一个一直在为自己的未来存钱的妓女,她有4.2万美元的“短期国债,可以生利息”。如果今天她用同一套理财策略,会对收益感到失望。按照美国一年期国债0.13%的收益率,她每年的利息收入只有55美元。如果把利息再投资,她的钱需要530多年才能翻倍。

二、经济学人杂志双语文章中英对照翻译

The saver’s dilemma 储蓄者的困境
2020.10
In a world of low interest rates, savers have few good options
在低利率时代,储蓄者没什么好的选择 

经济学人


Short-changed IN THE 1980S comedy, “Trading Places”, Jamie Lee Curtis plays a prostitute who has been saving for her future; she has $42,000 “in T-bills, earning interest”. If she followed the same strategy today, she would be disappointed with the return. The one-year Treasury bill yields 0.13%, so her annual interest income would be just $55. If she reinvested the income, it would take more than 530 years for her money to double.
在上世纪80年代的喜剧《颠倒乾坤》(Trading Places)中,杰米·李·柯蒂斯(Jamie Lee Curtis)饰演了一个一直在为自己的未来存钱的妓女,她有4.2万美元的“短期国债,可以生利息”。如果今天她用同一套理财策略,会对收益感到失望。按照美国一年期国债0.13%的收益率,她每年的利息收入只有55美元。如果把利息再投资,她的钱需要530多年才能翻倍。
Savers around the world face the same problem. Bank accounts, money-market mutual funds and other short-term instruments used to offer a decent return. Not any more (see chart). Rates are lower in nominal terms than they were 30 years ago because of a long-term decline in inflation, but they are also lower in real terms. The pandemic has made the dilemma acute. This year American, British and German nominal ten-year bond yields have all touched their lowest levels in history.
世界各地的储蓄者都面临同样的问题。过去,银行账户、货币市场共同基金和其他短期投资工具都有不错的收益。如今好景不再(见图表)。由于通货膨胀率长期下降,名义利率低于30年前的水平,但实际利率也一样。新冠疫情让这种困境雪上加霜。今年,美国、英国和德国的十年期债券的名义收益率全部下探历史新低。 
Savers are likely to respond to this situation in one of three ways. They can save less, and spend more of their incomes. Another approach is to set aside more money, to make up for lower returns. A third option would be to put more savings into risky assets, such as equities, which should deliver a higher return over the long run.
储蓄者的反应大概不出以下三种:他们可能会少存钱、多花钱。或者多省钱,填补低收益造成的缺口。第三种选择是把更多积蓄投入股票等可能在长期带来更高收益的风险资产。
So what will savers actually do? Unfortunately, history is not a particularly helpful guide. You might think that central banks had looked into the question, given their low policy rates are intended to boost consumption (and thus the economy) and reduce how much people stash under their mattresses. But the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England have done surprisingly little research into the subject.
那么储蓄者实际上会怎么做呢?遗憾的是,历史并没有提供特别有用的线索。既然各国央行设定低政策利率是为了刺激消费(进而刺激经济)并减少人们藏在床垫下的钱,你可能会认为它们已经研究过这个问题。但美联储和英国央行在这方面的研究少得令人吃惊。
More work has been done in Germany, where low interest rates are a hotter political issue. But this suggests that the impact of rates on savers’ behaviour is murky, at best. The Bundesbank has found that the level of returns has become less important over time as a determinant of savers’ behaviour. A study by Allianz, an insurer, also finds that other factors play a bigger role. The more money governments devote to social spending, for instance, the less people save, because they expect the state to help them in tough times. Demography also affects the saving rate: people tend to save more as they near retirement. But once retired, most live off their savings, so an increase in the number of retirees could cause the aggregate saving rate to fall. Research by Charles Yuji Horioka of Kobe University suggests that this has been the main cause of the long-term decline in Japan’s household-saving rate.
相比而言低利率在德国是更热门的政治议题,因此那里开展的研究更多。但结果表明,利率对储蓄者行为的影响顶多只能说是模糊不清。德国央行发现,随着时间的推移,收益率水平在决定储蓄者行为时的重要性已经降低。保险公司安联(Allianz)的研究也发现,其他因素的影响更大。例如,政府在社会支出上投入的资金越多,人们存的钱就越少,因为他们预期政府会在困难时期出手相助。人口结构也会影响储蓄率:人们在临近退休时往往会多存钱,而一旦退休,大多数人就靠积蓄生活,所以退休人数的增加可能导致总储蓄率下降。神户大学的查尔斯·堀冈雄二的研究表明,这是日本家庭储蓄率长期下降的主要原因。
To the extent one can tell, the historical relationship between rates and the level of savings seems to be weak. The Allianz study finds that, across Europe as a whole, for every one-percentage-point drop in interest rates, saving rates increased by 0.2 percentage points. Even then cause and effect is hard to disentangle. Central banks cut rates in response to bad economic news, and such news, rather than lower rates, may be the main reason that savers become more cautious. America’s saving rate fell from more than 10% before 1985 to less than 5% in the mid-2000s. That could have been related to the downward trend in rates. But shorter-term fluctuations seem to have been driven by recessions.
基于现有信息和观察,历史上利率和储蓄水平之间的关系似乎并不大。安联的研究发现,在整个欧洲,利率每下降1个百分点,储蓄率会上升0.2个百分点。即便这样也很难说明两者之间有明确的因果关系。各国央行会用降息来应对负面经济消息,但让储蓄者变得更加谨慎的主因可能不是低利率,而是这类消息。美国的储蓄率从1985年以前的超过10%下降到2005年前后的不足5%。这可能与利率的下降趋势有关。但更短期的波动看起来是由经济衰退驱动的。
If history is an unreliable guide to what savers will do now, what signals can be gleaned from their behaviour so far this year? Anxiety about the pandemic helped push the saving rate in America to a record high earlier in the year; in August it was still relatively elevated, at 14.1%. The Investment Company Institute (ICI), a lobby group for American fund managers, reports that $115bn flowed into money-market (ie, short-term deposit) funds in March this year. “Fear came into discussions with clients,” says Andy Sieg, president of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. “Their concern was safety of principal.” If you are worried about losing your job, then the return on your savings is a minor concern. The main thing is to have some.
如果历史在储蓄者眼下会怎么做的问题上没能提供什么可靠的线索,那么是否能从他们今年迄今为止的行为中获得什么信号?今年早些时候,对疫情的焦虑推动美国的储蓄率达到历史新高,到了8月份仍然处于14.1%的相对高位。美国基金管理公司的游说团体投资公司学会(Investment Company Institute)称,3月有1150亿美元流入货币市场(即短期存款)基金。“客户在商谈中表现出忧虑,”美林证券公司(Merrill Lynch Wealth Management)的总裁安迪·西格(Andy Sieg)表示,“他们担心的是本金的安全。”如果人们担心失业,那么储蓄能有多少收益就不是什么大事了,最重要的是得有一些储蓄。
Yet as the panic subsided some savers turned to another strategy, of piling on risk. The American stockmarket rallied, due in part to central-bank action. Many retail investors rushed in, buying shares through platforms such as Robinhood. With returns on bonds and cash so low, stocks seemed attractive, particularly as some offer a dividend yield that exceeds the return savers get in the bank. For investors who turned to shares in March, this wealth effect easily compensated them for the lower returns on other savings. This greater risk-taking is part of a longer-term trend. Mr Sieg says that, ten to 15 years ago, rich American retirees may have parked a lot of their savings in municipal bonds. Now they have a more diverse portfolio including equities and corporate debt.
不过,随着恐慌情绪的消退,一些储蓄者转向了另一种策略,持有更多风险资产。美国股市的反弹一定程度上是美联储行动的结果。许多散户投资者蜂拥而上,通过Robinhood等平台购买股票。债券和现金的回报率如此之低,让股票显得很有吸引力,尤其是一些股票的股息收益率超过了储户从银行获得的回报。对于在3月转向股票的投资者来说,这种财富效应轻松弥补了其他储蓄产品的低回报带来的损失。长期来看,这种更高风险的投资会成为一种趋势。西格表示,10到15年前,美国富有的退休人员可能把大量的储蓄用来购买市政债券。现在他们的投资组合更加多样化,包括了股票和公司债券等资产。
The approach of taking more risk to compensate for lower interest rates has not always paid off, though. America’s frothy stockmarket has been an outlier. Savers elsewhere have been less well compensated for risk. Britain’s FTSE 100 index is below its level in 1999. In Germany a boom in the 1990s did cause equities to rise from 20% to 30% of household assets. But when the bubble burst, retail investors’ enthusiasm waned. By 2015 shares were 19% of household assets. Japan’s stockmarket is still below its high in 1989. Around half of total household financial assets is still in cash and bank deposits, says Sayuri Shirai of Keio University.
不过,为弥补低利率带来的损失而承担更多风险的做法并不总能取得回报。美国充满泡沫的股市只是个特例。其他地方的储蓄者在风险资产上的回报就没有那么好了。英国富时100指数低于它在1999年的水平。在德国,90年代的股市繁荣的确让股票占家庭资产的比例从20%上升到了30%。但随着泡沫的破裂,散户投资者的热情也减退了。到2015年,股票占家庭资产的比例为19%。日本股市仍低于它在1989年创下的最高点。家庭全部金融资产中约有一半仍是现金和银行存款,庆应义塾大学的白井早由里表示。
Moreover, not all savers are the same. Even in America, stockmarket gains have mainly accrued to the rich. The wealthiest 1% owns 56% of the stockmarket, up from 46% in 1990; the top 10% own 88% of the market. One way of thinking about this is that most people set aside cash for emergencies. Poorer people may be unable to save any more than that; rich ones can afford to venture into equities.
此外,储蓄者之间也有差别。即便在美国,股市收益也主要流向了富人。最富有的前1%人群拥有的股市资产份额从1990年的46%上升到现在的56%;而最富有的前10%人群的份额为88%。对此,一种解释是,大多数人都会留出现金以备不时之需。穷人在这笔钱以外可能存不下更多了,而富人有更多闲钱投资股票。
Even if they don’t punt on stocks, ordinary workers in rich countries still have exposure to riskier assets through their pension schemes. But these tend to be quite small. The median balance in an American 401(k) plan for those aged 55 to 64 was only $61,738 in 2019. A pension of 4-5% of that pot amounts to just $2,500-3,100 a year. In Britain, where auto-enrolment has brought many low-income employees into the pension system, the median defined-contribution pot in 2019 was just £9,600 ($12,200). And the solvency of final-salary pension schemes has deteriorated as a result of the shifts in markets. When they calculate the cost of meeting their pension promises, funds have to discount the cost of their liabilities using bond yields; as yields have fallen sharply, these costs have risen. The average public-sector pension plan in America was 72.2% funded in 2019, down from 78.4% in 2009, according to the Centre for Retirement Research (CRR), despite the long bull market in shares.
富裕国家的普通劳动者即使不押注股票,仍会通过养老金计划接触到风险较高的资产,不过数额往往很小。2019年,美国55至64岁年龄段人群的401(k)计划的余额中位数仅为61,738美元。提取这笔钱的4%至5%用作养老金,相当于每年只有2500至3100美元。在英国,“自动登录”把很多低收入员工纳入了养老金体系,2019年固定缴款额的中位数只有9600英镑(12,200美元)。而且由于市场的变化,“最终薪金制”养老金计划(final-salary pension)的偿付能力已经恶化。当核算兑现其养老金承诺的成本时,养老基金必须使用债券收益率对计划的负债成本贴现。而由于收益率骤降,负债成本上升了。根据波士顿学院退休研究中心(Centre for Retirement Research)的数据,尽管美国股市处于长期牛市,但美国一般公共部门养老金计划的融资比率从2009年的78.4%下降到2019年的72.2%。
The danger is that individual savers faced with bewildering movements in markets and rickety pension schemes may choose to keep their savings in deposits. Many may lack access to financial advice, and are unaware of the scope for higher returns or indeed of the scale of savings they need to set aside to prepare for their old age. A worrying signal can be gleaned from Britain, where rules were changed in 2015 to allow people to withdraw money from their pension pots without using the proceeds to buy an annuity (which offers a guaranteed income). Annuity returns on bond yields were stingy, making them an unpopular choice.
危险的是,个人储蓄者在面对市场扑朔迷离的变化和摇摇欲坠的养老金计划时,可能会选择把积蓄存进银行。许多人得不到理财建议,不了解更高回报的空间,或者实际上也搞不清楚到底需要为养老准备多少钱。从英国可以看到令人担忧的信号。2015年英国修改了相关规定,允许人们从养老账户中取现而不必用账户中的钱购买年金保险(可提供收入保障)。年金依赖债券收益,回报率很低,因而不怎么受欢迎。
With their savings stuck in cash elderly people around the world risk running out of money before they die. This is already happening in Japan. “The decline in interest rates to virtually zero has sharply reduced the interest income that the retired were counting on, requiring them to draw down their savings more than they had been planning to,” says Mr Horioka. Governments have long urged people to make provision for retirement, but low rates have made that harder to achieve. With society yet to square the circle, and rates going nowhere anytime soon, savers’ lives are set to get even more difficult.
在世界各地,由于老人们的积蓄主要为现金,他们面临着“人活着,钱没了”的风险。这在日本已经成为现实。堀冈表示,“利率降到几乎为零的水平,大幅降低了退休人员赖以为生的利息收入,为此他们只能比原计划更多地动用积蓄。”长期以来,政府一直敦促人们为退休做好准备,但低利率让这更加难以实现。由于社会还无法解决这个难题,而利率在短期内也不会有变化,储蓄者的日子势必会变得更加艰难。