How America's Retirement Readiness Compares to the Rest of the World

June 11, 2014
Laura Joszt

Retirement may be a constant source of concern for most Americans, but a new survey discovered that Americans and Canadians have the most positive outlook on retirement in a global study.

Retirement may be a constant source of concern for most Americans, but a new survey discovered that Americans and Canadians have the most positive outlook on retirement in a global study.

The Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey, conducted by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS), included 15 countries: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Although just over half of the overall respondents expect future generations of retirees to be worse off than those currently in retirement, 80% of Germans, 78% of Hungarians, and 77% of French expect to be worse off.

“Although economies are improving, continued pressures on retirement systems around the world are driving the need for individuals and families, employers, and policymakers to change the way they view retirement,” Catherine Collinson, president of TCRS said in a statement. “We live in a time in which it is vitally important to find ways to help people achieve a financially secure retirement.”

According to the survey results, 41% of respondents associate retirement with freedom, most commonly in China (51%), while 46% associate retirement with leisure, just 29% associate it with enjoyment, and 22% see retirement as a time of insecurity. Hungary (53%), Japan (44%), and Poland (37%) have the greatest sense of insecurity.

Overall, the Chinese are the most confident they will have a comfortable retirement (41% extremely or very confident) while 28% in the US feel the same making America the fourth most confident country. Europe, according to the study, lags far behind. In Poland just 4% are confident in their retirement and in France just 6% feel they will have a comfortable retirement.

The reason why people aren’t comfortable in their retirement is because they don’t have enough money to save properly, according to Collinson.

“It’s not surprising that many say a pay raise would help them save more,” she said. “What is surprising, our research found, is that simplifying the decision-making around the process of saving can also help increase savings rates.”

Currently, just 12% of employees have a written retirement strategy and nearly half have some sort of strategy that isn’t written down. The rest either have no strategy or don’t even know if they have one.

Half of Americans considered themselves habitual savers, which explains why they are among the countries where people are most confident in their retirement. Meanwhile, Poland has just 24% of habitual savers.

People in Spain, (19%), the US (18%), and India (18%) are the most likely to have a written retirement plan, which indicates a comprehensive and considered approach to their retirement, according to the study.

“Proper planning is critical for achieving retirement readiness,” said Collinson. “It is nearly impossible to reach a destination without a roadmap and navigational tools. Workers can improve their retirement outlook by doing their homework, formulating savings goals, seeking expertise when needed, and creating a solid plan.”