Retirement woes go global

Nov 16 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Across the industrialized world, hundreds of millions of Baby Boomers who are approaching retirement or have already left the workforce are growing increasingly concerned about their financial security and, in many instances, don't know where to turn for help.

Far from filling their "golden years" with leisure activities, travel or charitable acts, many middle-aged and older adults across the United States, Europe and Asia face a real struggle to make ends meet when they retire.

The Hartford Financial Services Group's second annual international retirement survey has found that people aged 45 and older in the U.K., U.S., Germany, Japan and South Korea share the same concerns about having sufficient financial resources to live comfortably and securely in retirement.

"Around the world, adults who've worked their entire lives have differing visions of what they want their retirement to look like, yet unfortunately they struggle to make that vision a reality" said Liz Zlatkus, Hartford Life co-CEO.

"People just aren't confident in their investing ability, and they need to be educated," she added.

Overwhelmingly, respondents say they have at least some concerns about having enough money in retirement, with those in Japan emerging as the most worried about their future.

Nearly nine out of 10 Japanese people have at least some concerns and half are "extremely" or "very" concerned.

Americans are almost as apprehensive as the Japanese, with nearly eight out of 10 concerned at what retirement might bring.

In Britain, where two-thirds of older people are worried about their retirement, consultancy firm Aon Consulting said earlier this week that the "inadequacy" of the state pension system was "beyond question"

Figures from Aon showed that the UK state pension is the worst in Europe, providing workers with an income equivalent to just 17 per cent of average earnings Ė way below the EU average of 57 per cent.

Yet despite these concerns, few people have taken action to improve their financial position for retirement. That is true for seven out of 10 people in both Japan and South Korea. Many people in Germany (62 per cent), the UK (51 per cent) and the U.S. (42 per cent) confirmed they were treading water financially as well.

One key reason why so many people are worried about their future prospects - but are doing little about it - is a crisis of confidence. Few people feel they have a firm grip on planning their financial future, many don't know where to turn for help, and still more describe themselves as risk averse:

This risk aversion is particularly marked in Asia, with eight out of 10 South Koreans and seven out of 10 Japanese describing themselves as risk averse when it comes to investing.

Six out of 10 Britons and four out of 10 Americans are also risk averse, but to a lesser degree.

However while the survey showed that people approaching retirement in the industrialized nations think similarly on many financial issues, it also uncovered some important differences:

For example, having enough money to enjoy one's life is cited as a key concern in the UK and the US, but much less so in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

And affording health care is a major concern in South Korea, Germany the U.S. and Japan, but much less so in the United Kingdom where most people have access to publicly-financed health care.

"How a person moves into and lives in retirement is an intensely personal issue, and people across the globe have their own aspirations and goals for their later years in life," Liz Zlatkus said.

"No matter where you live, though, you need to prepare financially for this different and important phase of life."