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Nearly a quarter of Britons save nothing

Research from Nationwide suggests 23% of people are currently saving nothing at all compared to 19% last April, when the building society first began collecting the data.

Furthermore, the proportion of people who think saving is important has been falling gradually since last summer. Over half (57%) of consumers think saving generally is important compared to two thirds (66%) in July 2008.

Andy McQueen, savings director at Nationwide, says: "We're very concerned that since we started monitoring the savings habits of the UK last year, the importance consumers put on saving has been falling. We have seen savings become gradually less important to consumers, whilst the proportion thinking they'll be saving more in six months time has ticked up, suggesting savings has been de-prioritised as a short-term need.

"Interest rates have decreased but there are still a number of good products available paying a healthy return that people should be taking advantage of. As job security across the UK worsens, consumers do need to have a nest egg built up that will cushion them through any unexpected financial crisis. Even though returns are smaller at the moment, it's still just as important for people to regularly put money aside.

Vince Cable, of the Liberal Democrats, said: "It is very clear that there is no incentive for people to save."