For the past two years, South African households’ real net wealth has been declining. But for once the usual culprit, rising debt, is not to blame. South Africans are deleveraging. The real problem is that households are not doing enough to save and invest. This means that households may not be saving enough for retirement, or may not have sufficient savings on hand to ride out an emergency. But household wealth accumulation translates into the investment that drives the nation’s growth and job creation. According to the latest Momentum/Unisa household wealth report, households’ real net wealth (the difference between their combined assets and liabilities) has declined from a recent peak of R7.1-trillion in the second quarter of 2014 to R7.03-trillion in the third quarter of 2016. More than R70bn has been wiped off South Africans’ combined wealth in this period. Yet households are decreasing their debt levels. In real terms, aggregate household liabilities have been falling every qu...

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