The booklet A is the investment par excellence of the good father. Its rate of return, its guarantee on the paid-in capital and the availability of the sums invested make it a quasi-interest-bearing current account. At 2% return after tax, it at least crushes the performance of guaranteed capital life insurance with the added flexibility.
No wonder savers flocked to it. In the first half of the year, the collection of Livret A savings accounts reached €16.5 billion, i.e. 42% more than over the same period in 2019. However, the French are completely unaware that the solidity of this savings is by no means certain.
In early September, the Court of Auditors sounded the alarm. Due to changes in the structure of the Caisse des dépôts, it fears that the Livret A savings will be dispersed over risky activities which would ultimately expose savers to the risk of the evaporation of their savings which are supposed to be protected.
The Livret A outstandings have traditionally been earmarked for public utility projects, they are used to be able to grant loans at a better rate to social landlords and local authorities to make their investments.
The balances in place made it possible to honor the payment of coupons and the reimbursement of sums withdrawn without any problem. In periods of rising rates, the lever works in the other direction: the outstanding amounts of the Livret A passbook force the Caisse des dépôts to pay ever higher remuneration to savers.
With inflation expected to be well over 6% at the end of the year, the calculation formula suggests a further increase in the yield on the Livret to 3% in 2023. Beneficial for savers, this is a real vicious circle for the manager: high rates encourage collection, which in turn reinforces the need for cash flow. It is the entire financing structure of the Livret A which is thus called into question.
If the Court of Auditors calls for vigilance, it is because the Caisse des dépôts has gradually transformed its mission, bringing together almost industrial activities. The rapporteurs fear that the fund manager will use hundreds of billions of euros from savers to finance whatever he sees fit.
Monitoring the use of Livret A funds is essential to prevent them from disappearing in risky investment transactions, as the Caisse des dépôts knows how to do so well.
If the Livret A funds were lost through poor strategic choices by its manager, the citizen-taxpayers would never recover the stolen sums. The warning of the Court of Auditors must be taken with the utmost seriousness.
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