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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

A Universal Concern

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When it comes to worrying about retirement, pre-retirees and retirees around the world are in sync, though some, like the Japanese, are more anxious than others. That’s what a recent international retirement survey conducted by The Hartford revealed. Released in October, the survey examined the retirement attitudes of men and women aged 45 and older in Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and found that “individuals are responsible for their retirement, they’re going to need more money than they thought, and they need to start planning even earlier and saving more is true everywhere–and it’s most true for Japan,” says Liz Zlatkus, president of international wealth management at The Hartford.

The Web survey, conducted in August with a total of 2,553 respondents, found that seven out of 10 Americans and British are somewhat concerned about having enough money in retirement, while in Japan, nine out of 10 consumers are worried about their retirement, with 58% of those surveyed in the Land of the Rising Sun saying they are extremely or very concerned about retirement. In addition, 40% of Japanese say they are going to have to work longer versus 36% of workers in U.S. and 34% in the U.K. A higher proportion of Japanese–44%–also don’t expect that they’re going to live as well as their parents, Zlatkus notes, compared to 27% in the U.S. and 25% in the U.K.

For the past five years, the insurer has been selling retirement products, particularly its variable annuities, in Japan, and two years ago started doing the same in the U.K. Japan is the second largest retirement market in the world after the U.S., with the U.K. and Europe ranking third. The inaugural retirement survey was designed to help The Hartford “compare, contrast, and tailor our products and approach to each [of the three] markets,” Zlatkus says.

The Japanese Worries

The survey found that the Japanese are the most worried about retirement for a number of reasons. First, they have the longest life spans in the world at 82 years versus 77 years in the U.S., notes Zlatkus, and Japan also has a lower worker-to-retiree ratio–which is also declining. “Over time Japan is going to have one person working for every retiree” she says, “and this puts a significant strain on both the social system, the government, and employers to provide for all retirees.” While Japan “is 20 to 30 years ahead of the U.S.” in terms of its worker-to-retiree ratio’s rapid decline, this situation is potentially going to occur in the U.S., she says, which helps to solidify U.S. workers’ concerns about taking responsibility for their own retirement and relying less on pensions and Social Security.

While the savings rate in Japan is very high compared to the U.S. and Europe, Zlatkus says, “Japanese aren’t necessarily saving in the right manner.” The Japanese have $6 trillion in cash “that can earn better returns if they invest it in the stock market.” That’s why The Hartford is aggressively marketing its variable annuities–particularly those with guarantees–to the Japanese. She says VA sales in Japan have taken off, with assets in VAs now totaling $70 billion to $90 billion, an amount projected to grow to $350 to $400 billion by 2010.

The survey also found that those individuals who use a financial advisor are more willing to take risks. The leading sources of financial information for Japanese investors, the survey found, is the media, and then their friends, whereas investors in the U.S and U.K. are more willing to take risks because they are more likely to have an advisor, Zlatkus says.


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