An interesting question was raised last week about Australia's return to form as a nation of savers.

From a peak of over 20% in the early 1970's Australia's household savings ratio had rolled down a very steep hill to negative territory in the early 2000's. From there it barely kept its head in positive territory until the big shock of the GFC. The savings rate swiftly jumped above 10% and remains there today, but there's now a question - are those savings something that households can draw upon?

Credit Suisse released research suggesting our high household saving rate was illusory because it includes superannuation and didn't properly account for principle payments on mortgages. Adjusting for superannuation, Credit Suisse found that the current 10% saving level fell to 2%. The scary thing here is that this adjustment means Australia had a negative household savings rate from 1997 to 2008.

Superannuation is a form of saving, but our capacity to draw from it is limited until retirement. Then there are principle mortgage payments, when these are removed the savings rate drops from 2% to -3.6% meaning we've been negative savers since 1997!

Some people argue paying off the mortgage is saving, but the reality is you'll always need somewhere to live, so your house is more a consumption item than investment. And if you take money out of your house, it can only exit as debt.

So what do you do if you're one of those in negative territory or just want to save? Firstly, stop using credit cards, and then start the 'pay yourself first' method. Set up an online savings account and have the money you want to save directly debited from your transaction account.

Without that money you'll be forced to lower your spending and most online accounts are card-less so impulse won't be a problem. U Bank's (NAB) Usaver account is card-less offering 4.31% if you deposit $200 a month; while RAM St (Westpac) RAMS Saver is card-less offering 4.31% if you deposit $200 per month and make no withdrawals.

As always, if you would like some assistance in putting together a saving plan, don't hesitate to contact Dominique Schuh on 07 5480 4877 or