While saving for retirement remains a universally popular goal, recent statistics have suggested that it’s proving to be elusive. Banking giant HSBC recently unveiled the results of an international research project, which revealed that many U.S. citizens face a significant fall in their standard of living during the final seven years of retirement.
The report, which surveyed over 15,000 consumers across 15 global markets, suggests that the average American will exhaust their state and occupational pension funds 14 years into retirement, leaving them vulnerable to the threat of longer-term care costs. This also reflects a global trend, as while the international average retirement length is now 18 years, the corresponding amount of savings is expected to last for just a decade.
Which Countries Are Failing to Save and Why?
With this in mind, it is clear that U.S. citizens are not alone in their struggles to accrue adequate pension savings. Why the failure to save has become such a global epidemic is a debatable point, however, with a number of social, economic and behavioral factors all potentially culpable. Consider the following nations and the problems that prevent their subjects from saving enough to successfully fund their retirement.
The United Kingdom
According to HSBC, the statistics for the U.K. are marginally worse than the international average. The typical length of retirement in Britain is 19 years, which contrasts sharply with the fact that the average person’s savings will last for just seven years. This discrepancy is alarming, especially when taking into account the impact of rising life expectancy and the omnipresent threat of an unprecedented triple-dip recession in the U.K.
In fact, the statistics suggest that the failure of U.K. citizens to save is also influenced by behavioral factors. As a result, the coalition government has taken steps to address the problem, firstly by taking the decision to incorporate financial education into the National Curriculum for secondary school children. In addition to this, an upcoming Pension Review scheduled for 2017 is expected to recommend the introduction of compulsory saving, with a view to reducing soaring pension bills and encouraging financial independence among adults of all ages.
Greece and the Eurozone
While some economists predicted that the eurozone would emerge from recession during the first financial quarter of 2013, a recent decline in private sector activity and the manufacturing industry has triggered a significant setback. Such events only serve to dampen enthusiasm within the region, while also triggering greater austerity in the worst affected nations. Greece is currently bearing the brunt of the eurozone crisis, and this is having a considerable impact on the ability of citizens to save for their retirement.
Now entering into its sixth year of recession, the national rate of unemployment in Greece recently reached a staggering 27%. According to The Statistics Agency, soon to be implemented austerity measures will leave nearly a third of the country’s population in poverty by the end of 2013. With the rate of unemployment continuing to accelerate, a growing number of Greek citizens have been left with little option but to abandon plans for their financial future and instead focus on surviving the hardship of the continual recession.
Sub-Saharan Africa and Developing Countries
Aside from allowing individuals to enjoy a comfortable retirement, a commitment to saving money can also promote wider GDP growth. This is especially true within developing nations, where the establishment of government backed pension plans are integral to long-term and universal prosperity. Despite this, however, it is estimated that three out of four adults in developing nations do not have access to bank accounts or formal saving resources, with Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Caribbean among the worst afflicted regions.
Without access to bank accounts and reputable pension plans, individuals in developing regions have been forced to adopt informal saving mechanisms to help them achieve their goals. According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a study of 1,500 poor people in Uganda revealed that 99% of respondents fail to reach their savings targets using these methods, with theft and a lack of financial discipline among the most pressing issues. For these regions and their citizens to achieve growth, political leaders would do well to observe the role of Singapore’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) in the nation’s economic expansion since 1955.
The Bottom Line
While citizens of the U.K., Greece and numerous developing nations are all struggling to save toward their retirement, the main issues vary depending on each individual region. With this in mind, it is important that each independent government evaluates their own country’s circumstances, addressing the behavioral, economic and social problems that their subjects face. Otherwise, the cycle of global economic uncertainty and depression is likely to be continued indefinitely.