Written by Sally Perkins
Globally, most governments provide for some form of social security and retirement income. But as human lifespans are increasing by approximately three years every generation, there is a global trend of governments pushing back the age at which retirees can claim social security benefits. With government retirement schemes struggling to accommodate a growing population of retirees who are living longer than ever, the burden of saving for a comfortable and fulfilling retirement is increasingly being passed on to the individual.
The rule of thumb for financial planning is to assume you’ll need about 70 percent of your pre-retirement earnings to maintain your standard of living into retirement. In the United States, Social Security benefits will cover about 40 percent of your income, but unless you can count on some kind of windfall before your mid sixties, that leaves a 30 percent gap that either needs to be funded by a retirement savings account or a drastic lifestyle change.
As you think about your own retirement plans, you might take inspiration from how other workers around the globe prepare themselves for their retirement, financially and otherwise.
The Netherlands regularly ranks among the best pension systems in the world with benefits from the 3-pillar pension system amounting to about 70 percent of pre-retirement income. There’s many factors that explain why this system is so healthy, but a key piece is that pension funds are compulsory, much like paying into Social Security in the US, only in the Netherlands it generally provides enough to live on comfortably during retirement. But for younger workers who make a good income and want to invest their money more aggressively, this system can make them feel handcuffed as their earnings have to go into the same investment pool with the earnings of older workers for whom risky investments wouldn’t be prudent. And as the lifespan of its population is growing, starting in 2022 the age of retirement will be linked to life expectancy and Dutch workers may need to wait even longer to access their pensions.
An Aging Southeast Asia
Compulsory retirement at a certain age for private sector employees has generally been deemed discriminatory in most nations, but is still in effect in Singapore where, under the Retirement Age Act, employers can mandate retirement starting at age 62, the minimum retirement age nationally. Thailand has a population that is aging faster relative to other Southeast Asian nations, and in spite of statutory severance pay for workers age 60 and over, most Thais have no post-retirement income plan. In Malaysia, workers must fund an Employee’s Provident Fund (EPF), but as with US Social Security, it’s rarely enough to provide a livable income post-retirement and workers are encouraged to find strategies to save for retirement.
UK Workers Push Past Retirement Age
More than 1.4 million over-65s in the UK continue to work at least part time, either because they need to make ends meet or simply because they want to. There’s a certain stigma around retirement, that it’s the end of something rather than the start of an exciting new chapter, which has contributed to many working past retirement age for fear that they will feel useless or lose their edge without work. There’s also less incentive to retire in the UK since workers can continue to work beyond the State Pension age and still receive their State Pension. But according to the Office for National Statistics, health and wellbeing often increase while depression and anxiety fall once workers are no longer burning the candle at both ends. The tradeoff may be well worth it.
Swedish Death Cleaning
One of today’s trending retirement routines comes from Sweden where the act of “death cleaning” helps people prepare for the last act of their life. Honestly less morbid than it sounds, Swedish Death Cleaning is about enjoying the process of going through and paring down your possessions to be able to focus on the really important things. It’s also an act of respect for your loved ones who ultimately end up responsible for your things when you eventually pass away. People in Sweden – and worldwide – have found that downsizing earlier in retirement not only simplifies one’s day to day life, it lifts a psychic weight that makes retirement more carefree. Downsizing – a Global Trend?
Minimalism isn’t unique to Scandinavia, though they seem to have perfected it. Worldwide retirees are finding that by shedding worldly possessions or attachment to a place, they are prepared to travel in retirement or settle in another country where their retirement savings can stretch much further.
While the specifics of retirement schemes may vary from one country to the next, it’s fairly universal that people all over the world must plan ahead to be able to have financial freedom in retirement. Whether that’s saving money on top of pensions or preparing to live a more streamlined and affordable life, foresight is the key.