Global retirement crisis looms
Updated: 2013-12-31 14:17
A global retirement crisis is bearing down on workers of all ages. It will play out for decades, and its consequences will be far-reaching.
Many people will be forced to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65. Living standards will fall and poverty rates will rise for the elderly in wealthy countries that built safety nets for seniors after World War II. In developing countries, people's rising expectations will be frustrated if governments can't afford retirement systems to replace the tradition of children caring for aging parents.
The problems are emerging as the generation born after World War II moves into retirement.
"The first wave of under-prepared workers is going to try to go into retirement and will find they can't afford to do so," says Norman Dreger, a retirement specialist with the consulting firm Mercer in Frankfurt, Germany.
The crisis is a convergence of three factors:
Countries are slashing retirement benefits and raising the age to start collecting them. These countries are awash in debt since the recession hit. And they face a demographics disaster as retirees live longer and falling birth rates mean there will be fewer workers to support them.
Companies have eliminated traditional pension plans that guaranteed employees a monthly check in retirement.
Individuals spent freely and failed to save before the recession and saw much of their wealth disappear once it hit.
Mikio Fukushima, who is 52 and lives in Tokyo, worries that he might need to move somewhere cheaper, maybe Malaysia, after age 70 to get by comfortably on income from his investments and a public pension of just $10,000 a year.
People like Fukushima stand in contrast to many who are already retired. Many workers were recipients of generous corporate pensions and government benefits that had yet to be cut.