The stock of financial assets owned by private households at the end of 1993 was estimated at almost Sch 2,100 billion. For the individual household this amounts to financial assets worth about Sch 660,000 on average, while indebtedness was slightly higher than Sch 260,000. These amounts may seem high but the financial wealth of Austrian households is low in an international comparison. While in the U.S., Japan, and the United Kingdom financial assets are more than twice as high as nominal gross domestic product, financial wealth amounted to only 98.7 percent of GDP in Austria; this ratio puts Austria in ninth place among 11 OECD countries. In a ranking of per-capita GDP at purchasing power parities, Austria is, however, ranked as high as fourth. Even the household sector in Germany, despite the accession of the new Länder, has a markedly higher ratio of financial wealth to GDP. On a per-capita basis, financial wealth was the highest in Japan and the U.S., exceeding Sch 700,000. With Sch 331,000 Germany is ranked ahead of Austria (Sch 264,000). On the other hand, indebtedness of households is very low in Austria. In relation to gross domestic product, it is lower only in Italy. For the first time in Austria it was possible to go beyond the global data and to investigate the portfolio behavior of private investors on the basis of a survey of more than 1,000 households in Vienna. The main results of this study are that only a relatively small group of households take advantage of more sophisticated investment forms. Another major result was that the financial position of households varies markedly over the life cycle. With a share of 85.9 percent, by far the largest group within the household sector can be classified as traditional-conservative investors. 8.7 percent of all households hold only a minimal portfolio. Only 5.4 percent of households can be characterized as holding a more differentiated portfolio, i.e., taking advantage of a greater variety of investment instruments. The main feature of this small group of households is that 84.2 percent own securities. About 29 percent of these households hold shares in their portfolio. If household types are formed according to the life cycle, only households with two married family members under 39 years of age are in a position of net indebtedness. For this type of household, establishing a family, investing in housing, and having a low income and wealth level occur in the same phase, resulting in an excess of liabilities over assets. Two-person households whose primary income earner is more than 50 years old have the highest net financial wealth. Long-term wealth accumulation as well as the repayment of debts account for the favorable position of this type of household. The study reveals finally that households that have received bequests have a higher stock of financial assets. A significantly higher percentage of this group (23 percent versus 11 percent) owns securities. The rising number and volume of bequests thus turns out to be a crucial factor in fostering change in portfolio behavior.
Das Geldvermögen privater Haushalte in Österreich; Financial Assets of Private Households in Austria
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