Friday, March 13, 2015

More results from the Global Retirement Survey

Key Findings and Recommendations

The growing financial pressures on retirement systems around the world are forcing individuals and families, employers, and policymakers to change the way they think about and plan for  retirement. Retirement as a concept is being rapidly redefined. As individuals accept more personal responsibility for retirement planning, we can expect to see them saving more through pensions and other long-term savings products. We can also expect to see people work beyond current retirement ages as the notion of retirement becomes more flexible, blending leisure with periods of employment. While the onus is on the individual to plan ahead, there remains a vital and essential role for governments and employers. Not only will they continue to provide significant financial support, through government retirement benefits and workplace pensions, but they will also come to provide a wide array of services to people who need to build the important life skills required to save for, and transition into, retirement. Working together, individuals, employers and governments can do a lot to “make retirement easier.” Our 2014 survey findings show that we still have more progress to make. 

The economic outlook revives, but concerns about future retirement remain The survey findings illustrate a number of changes in employee sentiment as the outlook for the global economy continues to grow more positive. For instance, one-third of respondents (31%) now expect their personal finances to improve in 2014. 

In last year’s survey, 25% held this view. As in 2013, people continue to hold positive aspirations for retirement, with many associating retirement with leisure (46%) and a sense of freedom (41%). Nevertheless, this is combined with a continuing widespread lack of confidence that retirement will actually deliver these benefits. One-third (34%) of employees are pessimistic about having enough money to live on in retirement, and just 19% are “very” or “extremely” confident that they will be able to fully retire with a lifestyle they consider comfortable. This confidence is especially low in Europe, with the figure in France just 6% and in Poland 4%. Furthermore, one-third are pessimistic about their ability to choose the time at which they retire, while only half (51%) are optimistic that they will be able to maintain good health in retirement.

Only one in six (18%) expect to be better off in retirement when compared to current retirees, revealing a widespread sense – particularly strong in Europe and North America – that the sort 
of retirement currently being enjoyed by their grandparents or parents won’t be available to future generations. In the future, retirement will come to be defined very differently. In particular, 
it will require a larger role for paid employment as the notion of retirement becomes more flexible. 

There is a strong need to undertake financial planning Financial planning will be central in addressing concerns about income shortfalls and the pessimism about how and when people enter retirement. However, few people are currently preparing adequately for their retirement. Just one in six (18%) achieved a high Aegon Retirement Readiness Index score in 2014 (a score of more than 8 out of 10 based on six questions in the survey gauging retirement attitudes and planning). In contrast, over half (55%) of employees recorded a low retirement readiness score (a score of 6 or less out of 10).

Underlying these low scores is a widespread lack of retirement saving and planning. While 34% of “habitual savers” achieved a high Index score (twice the global average), 82% of “non-savers” found themselves with a low Index score. The priority must be to encourage more people to start long-term saving, and to save regularly as part of a comprehensive retirement strategy. 

While nearly half (44%) of employees have a strategy, only one in eight (12%) has a written retirement strategy. Worryingly, 40% say they have no strategy at all. Another 4% replied “do not know.”

A major step-change in retirement planning, and indeed life-long financial planning, is required to help people in the event their circumstances change. Currently 61% have no back-up plan to provide them with an income in the event that they become unemployed or are unable to work for a prolonged period before their planned retirement. Given that 45% of retired respondents tell us they had to retire sooner than planned as a result of events like ill-health (34%) or losing their jobs (25%), this is a very real risk facing people, many of whom are not preparing for it. 

The solution lies in making retirement planning easier Financial constraints on households continue to explain why some people are not saving enough for retirement. Only 28% of employees have enough money to invest for their retirement, while 48% said that receiving a pay raise would encourage them to save more. Faced with these financial realities, governments, employers and pension providers have a shared responsibility to help people plan for their own retirement by making the process as easy as possible and creating the right incentives to save. 

One of the clearest signals governments can send to employees about the benefits of saving is through the tax system. Most countries offer some kind of tax relief to encourage long-term savings, but such support has come under pressure as governments look to balance public sector budgets. 

Nonetheless such tax benefits remain important, with 32% of respondents agreeing that more generous tax breaks would encourage them to save more. 

Employers have a dual role to play in providing both financial support in the form of workplace pensions and other workplace savings products, as well as services such as online retirement 
planning tools or workplace financial advice. Overall, 63% of employees say that they find the prospect of being automatically enrolled into a workplace pension appealing. On average, employees envision contributing 6% of their salary, and think it reasonable for their employers to contribute 8% into an auto-enrolled retirement plan. 

The financial services industry can also play a role, given that 21% of respondents say that they would save more if investment products were simpler and easier to understand. 

Twenty-four percent would also like products that make it easier to track and manage their savings. Despite the demand for greater simplicity, there is still a role for the industry in offering guidance, information tools and professional financial advice. Twenty percent of respondents say that more frequent access to information about their retirement savings would encourage them to save more, while 17% would like access to professional financial advice that includes personalized recommendations. Flexibility will become the new model of retirement 

Many current employees expect to have some kind of phased  transition into retirement, with 29% saying they will first move to part-time work before giving up work altogether and 
17% planning to move to part-time work and continue that throughout retirement. Only 32% of future retirees expect to stop work completely  at retirement age. This view continues to be more common in certain European countries including Spain and France where the notion of a “cliff-edge retirement” is still supported by a small majority of employees. 

Among current retirees, only 9% worked beyond their planned  retirement age. But those who did, did so mostly for positive reasons as people looked to keep themselves mentally and 
physically active. It is clear from the findings that employers will need to do more to support flexible retirement. Currently, only 23% allow their employees to go first into phased, part-time 
retirement and only 12% offer retraining. Furthermore, 52% of employees say their employers currently do not provide enough information or support to help employees transition into retirement. 

Underpinning this shift in behavior at retirement is the level of support among employees (52%) for some sort of increase in the official retirement age. However, there is a degree of reluctance to change among a large minority, with 41% of respondents saying their working lives are already long enough. Governments will have an important role to play in shifting people’s expectations by modifying official retirement ages or, in some cases, abolishing mandatory retirement ages altogether.

For the full report go here (pdf file)

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