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Failed retirements a global worry

You might think Americans have the corner on retirement worries. But you'd be wrong.

By MSN Money Partner May 17, 2013 4:50PM
This post comes from Philip Moeller at U.S. News & World Report.

MSN Money Partner SiteIf misery really does love company, then America's aging baby boomers are due for a global group hug. Citizens in a 12-nation survey overwhelmingly reported they are not ready for retirement and expect retirement outcomes to be worse for future retirees than for those who have already retired. The survey was conducted earlier this year and polled about 12,000 people. It was sponsored by Aegon, a large global financial services firm, and the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

Group of older people seated © Image Source, Getty Images"The situation has become more dire than just a year ago," Aegon said in its 2013 Retirement Readiness Survey. "People in general feel less prepared for retirement and do not adequately understand the steps they need to take."

The survey presented a retirement readiness index and said none of the dozen countries fared well.

German citizens are in the best shape for retirement, but Germany's national score was only in the upper range of the lowest-ranking category. And readiness was worse in 2013 for all countries compared with last year, due primarily to rising levels of uncertainty about the economy and investment performance.

On a scale of zero to 10, the average index rating for all 12 nations was 4.89 in 2013, down from 5.19 in 2012. Here are the individual index readings for each country:

  • Canada: 5.24 (not ranked in 2012)
  • China: 5.41 (not ranked in 2012)
  • France: 4.75 vs. 5.08
  • Germany: 5.48 vs. 5.88
  • Hungary: 4.73 vs. 4.80
  • Japan: 4.30 vs. 4.63
  • Netherlands: 4.88 vs. 5.54
  • Poland: 4.63 vs. 4.96
  • Spain: 4.40 vs. 5.02
  • Sweden: 4.83 vs. 5.10
  • United Kingdom: 4.86 vs. 5.28
  • United States: 5.19 vs. 5.57

"The 12 countries covered by the survey account for almost 85% of global pension assets (not including Social Security funds)," the Aegon report said. "By the end of 2011, the United States alone had amassed $17.5 trillion in pension assets, accounting for 56% of the global total. This is followed by the United Kingdom with $3 trillion, or 10%, of global pension assets."

The report laid out five key findings and recommendations:

1. Finding: Lack of retirement readiness is an emerging global crisis for governments, employers and individuals.

Recommendation: Government benefits require reforms to remain sustainable. Employers are evolving from pension providers to enablers. Personal responsibility is now paramount.

2. Finding: Most people expect future generations to be worse off in retirement than current retirees.

Recommendation: Governments and employers have "de-risked" their pension offerings and transferred those risks to individuals, which has led to a greater financial reliance and squeeze on families. As governments and employers implement such changes, their plans should include resources to help individuals take personal responsibility so they can dial down risk in their own retirement.

3. Finding: Delaying retirement offers an obvious solution, but many people are forced into retirement by health problems. Also, few employers offer effective programs to help employees who wish to phase into retirement rather than leave work entirely.

Recommendation: Policymakers and employers can help employees by enabling longer working careers, providing options for a phased retirement and offering benefits (e.g., life insurance, disability, long-term care) which can financially protect them if they are unable to work. Employees should have a backup plan if forced into retirement sooner than expected.

4. Finding: Widespread retirement illiteracy among consumers worsens their retirement readiness.

Recommendation: Equipping individuals with the right tool kit and confidence to ask good questions and make informed decisions is critical for success. Retirement readiness is more than just saving and investing. It involves setting goals concerning lifestyle, income needs and family support, as well as charting a clear path for achieving those goals. Employers can play a greater role in offering retirement-preparation services to their employees.

5. Finding: Investors are wary about retirement-related risks and need help understanding and selecting appropriate retirement investments.

Recommendation: Providing financial and protection products can help individuals decrease risk in retirement with certain guarantees, and help them avoid investment losses, long-term care expenses or erosion due to inflation.

More from U.S. News & World Report:

May 17, 2013 9:14PM
Good for you Re- TOG.

  I'm planning on retiring next year at 56. Been saving/paying cash/living well below my means for 34 years in a salary, low level, non-management job. Peers typically bought nicer cars, toys and took expensive vacations but they didn't really seem any happier. Put money into my kids college funds so they will have no debt starting out - done, paid for. 

 Most prefer to think I was lucky, but they could have done the same. It wasn't magic - it was creating a plan in my early 20s then executing it with discipline. It was the advice given to my generation by the previous one - I just listened to it and followed through. Seems a waste that many my age didn't do the same, but everyone makes their own choices.

We lived simple lives but still had a great time. Family vacations were often by car. Some camping, hiking, swimming, snorkeling, biking, family visits, cookouts at state parks, etc. Things we loved, and still do even now though we can afford to do anything. These days money is not a problem and we literally can do anything we want the next 30 years. And we plan to start enjoying it and doing the things we want, without a clock to worry about. 

 These habits will serve well for future generations as well. Make a plan, live below your means and save for your kids future and your retirement and odds are you will be successful. Good luck !
May 17, 2013 8:25PM

20-25 years ago we were fretting about retirement, and thinking Soc.Sec, wouldn't be there for us.?

Been retired about 14 years, it's there, we are here..

We planned and saved for retirement, if others didn't; Much of it, is their own fault.


I'm tired of standing behind people paying with SNAP, when I pay by cash or check..MINE.

And they are buying better stuff.. 

May 17, 2013 8:40PM
Stopped by Papa Murphy's pizza tonight after work to pick up a treat for the kids.   Surprise, an grossly overweight person in front of me paid for it by electronic balance transfer (EBT).  She got 10 family size pizzas.  Is this America's future?  Glad I saved to be able to buy 1 pizza.
May 17, 2013 9:24PM
I am afraid the Obismal degeneration will say "Its not fair that you saved for your retirement, I want some of it!"
May 17, 2013 8:35PM
The past three decades we have seen a war waged by America's corporate class. Unleashing an army of lobbyists and billions of dollars in political contributions has given big business the victory they sought against America's middle class. Out sourcing to low wage communist country's. destroying most unions membership, freezing the minimum wage, doing away with pensions or matching 401ks and any other thing one could imagine to enhance corporate profits has taken place. Most Americans have just watched this happen and though hey I will be OK I have a college degree or I will be OK I have my own business they found out otherwise. Some still think I will be OK I will make sure I get a degree in the right field, they too will find out that when it comes to corporate greed the line is only drawn at the executive boardroom it is open season on anything and anyone else. Pooling the risk from millions of Americans like our Social Security fund does creates a very good retirement fund, it is unfortunate that some do not make it to 62 years old but it fuels the pool of assets. In todays beaten down economy of part time non union non retirement account jobs. And incomes and employment conditions so beaten down, making saving anything substantial impossible, only answer to America's problem of Corporate domination is to raise the wage cap on Social security and increase the benefits, then guard the system against crazy billionaires like Pete Peterson. I know there will be some brainwashed fools who don't agree with my assessment and all you can do is pray for them as they do not realize the extent of their ignorance.
May 17, 2013 9:12PM
Well if they would cut back on welfare funds and make the lazy good for nothings get a job!  Then we would not have to worry about retirement, I have a 401k and Mr. Obama and the government better leave it alone!  I'll spread my own wealth such as it is! Thank you very much!
May 17, 2013 8:15PM
Retirement?  Ha Ha Ha.  Only if someone pays for my health insurance which would eat up about 80% of my monthly social security payment.
May 17, 2013 10:29PM
Quit worrying so much about it and just do it. You will be surprised how easy it is to just get up in the morning with nothing really planned and have a wonderful day. We both retired in late 50's didn't have a million bucks and still live well. If thinks crash, so what we will all be in the same food line. This is the social security folks wanting you to work yourselves to death before you can take any benefits. 
May 18, 2013 1:12PM

Some of us do get lucky and some prepare for Retirement..? But, still number one is your Health..

Without good health, retirement isn't much fun...So I always encourage most people to retire as early as they can..With good health...And it is true many keep on working so they can maintain their health..

Body and Mind...I have known a few, and it wasn't about the money, usually.


Very unfortunate for many soon-to-be retirees, was the downturn in 2007-2009.

That was somewhat both sad and cruel...And had very bad timing for so many at the wrong time, many which were the GUT of the Boomer Generation...We had worked very hard like many, raised and some cases educated our kids and sent them on their way...With what was supposed to be OUR happy days and finish out our lives, hopefully being somewhat comfortable..?

We had been retired around 10 years or so, but having WS investments; We also took a major hit, but stuck it out and were pretty much recovered by latter 2009...It was tough on the Psyche.

So not all is despair, you have to buckle down plan ahead for the future; Even with the "bumps in the road."....

Go as soon as you can, you don't need a Million dollars, you need your Health and Sanity..

If you want to work part time or keep your faculties sharp...So be it.

I do that on here and also as self directed investor...Plus a lot of other "puttering."

May 18, 2013 10:54AM
It's not Evil to splurge on yourself from time to time. We work Hard and really aren't rewarded. All this retirement talk is only good to a point. Most folks can plan all day long, not enjoying LIFE. Then when it comes time for Retirement, they die. So much for your retirement plan and you missed out on living LIFE. You can't get that back.
May 19, 2013 10:26AM
I'm waiting for Obama & Co to tell us it's not "fair" that some of us can retire on money we actually saved ourselves.   He's going to try and take some of it before you retire.
May 17, 2013 7:54PM
First, I think it's far too early to label the future as "failed" while the current is "volatile". No one can deny that the current pod of retirees enjoy a unique oasis in time where C- barely high school graduates were able to live well, acquire assets and liquidate into retirement at peak prices. Only fools doubt that this "luckiness" is a bubble about to pop and beyond that lies an existence for all of us that no one can predict. Billions of us will be left destitute from this reign of financial tyranny and corruption. The young cannot hope to support the world, so an alternative retirement scenario is more likely. Consultants may be the key- not the shoddy Florida Swampland hucksters, but older folks in the know, too creaky to be always on the go. Local farming, rehab, all kinds of stuff, while youth are restructured to prevent this same history from repeating itself. As for Financial Planning now... you are only kidding yourself. With nearly all monies unsubstantiated beyond belief, better to have a goof living strategy and build yourself a momentum plan, than to hoard anything financial. It cannot possibly survive the collapse and adjustment that surely lies ahead for all of us.
May 20, 2013 10:50AM

The only real retirement "crisis" is the crisis of trust and faith that current workers, worldwide, have in their governments and the representatives to those governments that they have elected.  These representatives of the people have no common ground with the people. In the US they do not share the same health care system with the people, their retirement system is spiked with enhancements that supplement their social security retirement benefits; --- they live in a world aloof from the electorate.  Most recently all such legislators, in almost all countries, have been ineffectual in solving the problems that are plaguing their constituents, yet they have been very adept at dividing the voters and deflecting the issues by providing minor benefits to the masses.  This is not a new technique, the Roman Caesars built gladiatorums to keep the people's minds off of their troubles and keep a revolt in check-- they even distributed free bread to the crowds to show what good guys they were.  Sound familiar??  Cheap money from the Fed?-- a new road, school, bridge ( maybe to no where?) to keep the folks "back home" happy with their performance?  Sounds to me that things really haven't changed much in 2000 years!!


Not until the elective officials share in the same malaise and same fear of the future that current worker feels; and then actually do something for the greater good of all, will all such crisises vanish.  These patchwork of Band-Aids that they are currently employing to "solve" these problems we face, do nothing but divide the workers-- making them fearful of co-operating and believing in one path of endeavor, only to have that promise broken and changed to another direction of "fix" that places them worse off than before-- Obamacare, for example, just might become a poster child of such a division!.  WE need better of our elected representatives.  Our founding fathers saw the risk in "professional legislators" and structured the governing process to be a "part time" job, with the legislator going back to his "day job" after his slate of terms-- most of our legislators today have no other "day job"; in fact many have NEVER had any other job, ever-- look at the career of Ted Kennedy, for example, or the length of stay by Strom Thurman, which eclipsed the working career of most people in their day jobs!.  But to hear the legislators, their experience is invaluable to the governmental process.  Well, if what we are getting currently from these experienced legislators is the best of what they can give, then it seems to me we could certainly use some "new blood" and a different point of view in their legislative seat.  If you ask most people, they will agree with me on that assessment; but----- when that new park, or new library, comes to their town, via the pork barrel legislation of their representative, then their passion for change dims and the God of Mammon takes over their hearts; and nothing changes for anybody, as they selfishly reelect their current legislator, and our "crisises" perpetuate

May 18, 2013 12:47PM

As far as entitlements...Food stamps, EBT and SNAP, housing and heating assistance...

Maybe just maybe we might be a little too harsh on some individuals...Some we just don't know the full story of their demise.

It's the ABUSES that grind my axe, such has been mentioned...Along with what I see.

Stop&Robs..Convenience Stores, sell just about anything in their stores on a Card, many are Mid Easterners...And will just ring up the purchase falsely.

Other people buying stuff that I really can't afford often, or we are better shoppers..

Some places I know or have heard about, give small amounts of cash back???

FS/EBT/SNAP...Used to have several restrictions on what could be purchased ???

Has that all went by the wayside ??

And now these EBT cards, look like a VISA card to take away the embarassment factor...BS !!


While out hunting mushrooms this a.m....Came across trash that had been dumped along road..

A receipt from a WalMart was part of the junk...

A 4pk (?) of RedBull and a 40 cent deposit, was paid by an EBT/SNAP card..About $8...

Now you wonder why I may label them with a bad name and consider them Crackers, SOME of them are PIGS.

May 17, 2013 10:20PM
If a high school basketball player says he's 80% prepared to play in a title game and an NBA player said he's 50% prepared to play in a title game, does that mean the high school player is a better player than the NBA player?  Of course not!

By the same logic, comparing the survey from country to country is beyond ridiculous - or else it's a clever and despicable move by the American health industry to make us think our Seniors are as well cared for as in other advanced nations.  When your Seniors are as beaten down in expectations as Americans are, thinking you're "ready" for retirement is much easier satisfied than in most of the countries listed - where health care is generally 100% covered by the government.

The article throughs another curve with " "By the end of 2011, the United States alone had amassed $17.5 trillion in pension assets, accounting for 56% of the global total."

Note that sentence CAREFULLY does not include Social Security and Health benefits and lists the ONLY thing where America has an edge!

May 20, 2013 9:02AM
Managing a society is tricky business.  You must provide minimal support for those that cannot, or will not, work to keep crime at a manageable level.  It often costs less to fund such programs directly, rather than incarcerate these individuals when they turn to crime.  Similarly, a successful society must also provide for the old, or there will be old people living in the streets, and no one wants that.  Over the last several years, the wealthy in America have managed to segregate themselves from the rest of society far more than in the past.  The danger here is that they no longer fear the poor, or the old, because they never see them, much less interact with them.  As this segregation increases, the wealthy will continue to take every last crumb, until society collapses.  They will pay for the message of 'individual responsibility', and most people will go along with it, until it is too late.  Compassion is good for the soul, and good for society.
May 20, 2013 8:26AM
 "People in general feel less prepared for retirement and do not adequately understand the steps they need to take."

Um, could you fund retirement on a min wage job? Yeah, cause that's the majority of jobs out there... what steps should I take? not eat so I can pay medical bills later on?

May 19, 2013 10:52PM
What the article failed to mention is, what does it mean to be "not ready to retire". What are the networth's ?? What are the costs of retirement?? Is it just a perception after the recession that one cannot afford to retire?? What happened to the nest eggs?? I retired in 2010 at age 50 and am not having any trouble.....Maybe I am just lucky....or......
May 18, 2013 12:32AM
saved and worked most of my life; put together a nice portfolio.  Took early retirement and have been retired 8 years now and it is becoming apparant I can't do all the things I would like to because of health.  The portfolio was severly damaged by the great recession and the Feds policies to try and restart the economy.  I figure I'll still have enough to live a modest life for the rest of my years.  For those in their 50s, a million $$ investment portfolio will barely be enough.
May 20, 2013 11:34AM
been retired for about 3 years, you don't spend as much as when working. make sure you have a good car and house paid for. watch your credit cards, start early. discontinue all support for children, they can make it on their own. choose the state and city you retire in, carefully
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