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Retirement priorities in U.S. comparable to levels worldwide

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Saving for retirement tends to be a higher priority in countries where workers are, on average, older and more dependent on retirement savings. And it’s a lower priority in countries where savings are mandatory or quasi-mandatory.

So concludes a new report, “2014 Global Benefit Attitudes Survey,” published by Towers Watson. Based on interviews with 22,347 employees across 12 countries between June and September 2013, the report examines the preferences of employees for retirement security in terms of their financial priorities and plans for retirement.

The report reveals that between 65 and 89 percent of survey respondents globally acknowledge the need to save more, both generally and specifically for retirement. Between half and three quarters of workers also say they need to “save much more in the future” to secure a comfortable level of retirement income.

Among U.S. citizens, 83 percent indicate a need to save more generally and 60 a need to save more for retirement. The percentages are similarly high in developing countries, such as China (69 percent and 72 percent, respectively) and India (71 and 78 percent), where the savings rates are already high.

Why would this be the case?

“The answer might reflect differences in social norms and enthusiasm for saving, as well as the fact that, with limited social protection and underdeveloped insurance markets, people in these countries need a lot of savings to self-finance health care, retirement and other risks,” the survey states.

The research shows that financial concerns of respondents are highest in Latin America. Large majorities of Chileans “often worry” about their current (76 percent) and future (83 percent) financial state. This compares with smaller thought still significant majorities of Mexicans (67 and 79 percent) and Brazilians (63 and 72 percent), respectively.

Among U.S. citizens, the proportions of those worried about their current and future state (47 and 58 percent, respectively), are higher than among counterparts in:

  • Canada (44 and 52 percent, respectively)
  • The U.K. (45 and 54 percent)
  • The Netherlands (34 and 40 percent); and
  • Germany  (32 and 40 percent)

“Around the world, between 40% and 83% of employees are worried about their financial future,” the report states. “Workers have become more insecure about their jobs and their current and future finances, prompting many of them to cut back on day-to-day spending.”