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The Hague, The Netherlands - The first AEGON Retirement Readiness Survey of 9000 respondents in France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., and the U.S. returned with bleak results. Current workers are expecting to be worse-off in retirement than current retirees and the awareness of retirement responsibility is not translating into action. There is broad support for government pension reform but nearly half reject increasing the retirement age, despite the rising life expectancy. Individuals are also phasing into retirement rather than dropping off the “retirement cliff” – going straight from work to retirement.
Despite the fundamentally positive aspects of living longer, longevity increases have brought greater costs and potential reductions in retirement systems, including government and private pensions. The global economic crisis of recent years and ongoing economic uncertainty and austerity measures have put even greater pressure on these retirement systems and shifted more of the responsibility to individuals to save for their own retirement.
An international survey initiated by AEGON, one of the world’s leading providers of retirement security, indicates that there is widespread pessimism about the future state of retirement. Seventy-one percent of respondents still working believe that future generations will be worse-off in retirement than current retirees – reversing the long-established notion that each generation helps pave the way for subsequent generations to enjoy a higher standard of living.
More than two-thirds of the 9000 people surveyed in eight European countries and the United States accept that they bear principal responsibility for their retirement security. However, only 15% are confident that they are on course to achieve the retirement income they need. This is also reflected in the AEGON Retirement Readiness Index that has been developed to measure how prepared people feel about their own retirement in the various countries represented in the report.
Most respondents support increased taxes, reduced benefits (or both) to ensure the viability of government sponsored pension systems. At the same time, nearly half of the respondents do not support raising the age of retirement, even as people are living longer, healthier lives. However, a clear majority of respondents expect to continue working in some form past traditional retirement age.
AEGON CEO Alex Wynaendts said, “people in general are enjoying longer, healthier lives, and yet their readiness for a longer retirement is considerably less than that of previous generations of retirees. A concerted effort is needed to reconsider traditional retirement models and provide greater flexibility for phased retirement. If current pension systems are not adapted to the new realities of longer life spans and declining government and employer funding, the burdens placed on society will be a source of even greater economic and societal turmoil in the future. The good news is that people in general accept their responsibility in creating the conditions that will provide for a secure and satisfying retirement.”
The AEGON survey also showed that the traditional “retirement cliff” is disappearing, referring to people going straight from working life into full retirement. Consequently, phased retirement is set to become the norm as more people expect to continue some kind of work activity past traditional retirement age. Fifty-four percent of the current generation of retirees went straight from work into full retirement, but only 30% of the current working generation expects a similar path. The findings further indicate that “silver entrepreneurs” could become more common as many in this current generation plan to combine activities such as starting their own businesses with leisure pursuits in their advanced years.
Alex Wynaendts stated, “advances in longevity and health, combined with a modern approach to retirement, can make this life stage a period of productivity and personal fulfillment. It is in the interests of public policy makers, employers and the financial services industry – working together – to provide the incentives and opportunity for people to achieve the level of financial security that will be required for a longer period than at any time in history.”
The AEGON survey, developed in collaboration with the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies(R)- a non-profit, private foundation in the United States dedicated to conducting research and educating the public on retirement security trends – and Cicero Consulting, a leading public policy and communications consulting firm providing independent market research to the financial services sector, was conducted with the aim of understanding prevailing attitudes about retirement in the future and to determine the levels of financial readiness that currently exist among today’s working generation.