Money matters: Across the world, people of different generations are worried about their financial wellbeing in retirement. The majority believes they will have to cut back in their living standards after retirement, while confidence in public pension schemes is low according to Security-Trust-Solidarity, a recent survey by Allianz International Pensions for the third Berlin Demography Forum. This is also the motto of the international conference, which takes place from April 9 until April 11.
The study Security-Trust-Solidarity examines the views on aging and retirement of both a younger (aged 30–45) and an older (60–75) age group in seven countries at different stages of demographic development: Germany, France, Italy and the UK from ‘old’ Europe; plus the ‘oldest’ country in the world, Japan; and two ‘younger’ countries, Turkey and Malaysia. The study focused on the question how people prepare for retirement and which factors influence the individual sense of security.
Generations have similar views
In a time of declining birth rates and rising life expectancies, social security systems are coming under increasing pressure. The more elderly people there are to support, the greater the responsibility that rests on the shoulders of the younger generation. But what effects does this have on everyday lives and inter-generational relationships?
Although aging is an overarching topic in all countries, there are substantial differences in both the speed and extent of changing demographics. “What we found was that regional and cultural differences have a much higher impact on the results than generational aspects within a country,” says Brigitte Miksa, Head of Allianz International Pensions. “This was surprising to me, as it shows that the generational contract is intact.”
The most obvious difference between countries is in their view on the future. In Japan and France, both age groups are pessimistic. When thinking about their expectations for the next ten years, only 4 percent of 30–45-year-olds in Japan responding positively. This is in strong contrast with Malaysia, where roughly 60 percent of both generations feel confident about the future.
Family and money provide security
When asked about which circumstances in life provide security, ‘having money or savings’ ranked highest across both cohorts in Japan (over 65 percent of responses) and Malaysia (over 74 percent), while in other countries like Turkey and Italy family is more important. In this context, it is noteworthy that the majority of young participants in every country except Germany believe they do not have enough money to make precautions for retirement. 59 percent of the young Japanese think so, but only 40 percent of young Germans. This opinion can have a significant impact as the widespread belief is that both state and employer pension plans will not provide them with sufficient funds to live a good life in retirement.
On a more positive note, however, these same people know what to do: start saving early. This is particularly recognized in Malaysia, with a pension system built mainly on a funded arrangement, but also in Japan, Turkey and Germany. “Younger people in France and Italy see saving as less important. They don’t seem to have a realistic view on their future retirement income realities,” Miksa says.
Longer, happier lives?
Once in retirement, many want to remain active, expressing an interest in volunteering and travelling. As we live longer, we extend our healthy life expectancy. “The midst of life is getting later: in many countries, life expectancy for a 60-year-old today is the same as it was for a 50-year-old in the middle of the last century. You could say 60 is the new 50,” the expert comments.
The aging of societies has already resulted in a number of pension reforms to reduce the burden on social security systems. “With this in mind, the lack of confidence in public pension systems is understandable,” Miksa says. “What is alarming is that people are skeptical about their ability to fill their gap. Governments have to systematically work on the efficiency of additional provisioning schemes and optimize the retirement income mix.”