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Pamela Yip: Struggle to save for retirement not limited to US

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

February 2, 2015


Weíre not alone.

This isnít a declaration that Iíve discovered extraterrestrial life on another planet. Iím talking about a more down-to-earth revelation:

Americans arenít the only ones struggling to save for retirement.

Globally, 69 percent of working-age people are worried about running out of money in retirement, and two-thirds worry about having enough money to live on day-to-day, according to a study by HSBC Holdings PLC.

"The study reflects that the U.S. is actually a little bit better, though I would not say that collectively anybodyís in good shape, but the U.S. is a little bit more focused on saving for retirement vs. the global average," said Andrew Ireland, head of U.S. Wealth Management at HSBC Bank USA, N.A.

Thatís not saying much.

The global study found that retirement isnít the main savings priority for 85 percent of working-age people.

In the U.S., saving for retirement isnít the top priority for 81 percent of working-age Americans, HSBC said.

That comes even as 76 percent have seen retirement savings affected at some point by a significant life event such as buying a home, becoming unemployed, divorce or illness, underscoring the power of planning adequately and at an early age for life after work.

"Employers are not funding retirement the way they did for generations before the current working generation," Ireland said. "People look at how they retire, how their parents have retired, and theyíre modeling their behavior after what their parents have done."

But "I think they will be surprised when they donít receive pensions and/or donít receive the medical benefits of their current employer the way their parents had, and therefore need to save differently than their parents did," Ireland said.

The report, "The Future of Retirement: A Balancing Act," explores saving habits and barriers to saving for retirement. It found that paying off a mortgage or other debts is the biggest barrier preventing working-age people from saving adequately for life after work.

When you consider how quickly the world is aging, the lack of retirement savings is very scary.

There are 868 million people over age 60 ó nearly 12 percent of the global population, according to the 2014 Global AgeWatch Index, which looks at the quality of life experienced by older people in 96 countries.

"By 2050, itís predicted to rise to 21 percent, nearly as many people aged 60 or over as those under 15 ó 2.02 billion, compared with 2.03 billion," the index said.

Ireland raises a key question: "People arenít saving enough for retirement, the aging population is growing, people are living longer in retirement than before. How are we going to address the needs of this population that is not self-sufficient?"

For now, the onus falls on each of us.

"Thereís no Ďone-size-fits-allí approach to retirement, but there are ways that everyone can plan for a better one," Ireland said. "This includes starting as early as possible, figuring out how much youíll need to fund the lifestyle you want and making sure youíre properly covered for unexpected life events."

RETIREMENT SURVEY

"The Future of Retirement: A Balancing Act," a study by HSBC Holdings, consisted of an online survey of more than 16,000 people in 15 countries and territories.

The findings are based on a nationally representative survey of people of working age 25 and older, as well as retirees, in each country. The U.S. findings are based on a nationally representative survey of 1,000 people.

The research was conducted online last August and September, with additional face-to-face interviews in Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.

To read the global and U.S. reports, go to: hsbc.com/retirement.