The UBS International Pension Gap Index reveals that when it comes to pension provision, only in very few countries can citizens rely on everything turning out well. It is especially clear that they will not be able to rely on the state pension system alone. Demographic changes and low interest rates are putting a strain on pensions everywhere. The best advice is to plan your long-term financial situation – and therefore your retirement – as actively and as early as possible.

This fact is also clear to the main protagonist of our study: our fictional “average Jane.” We compared 24 pensions systems worldwide based on each country’s specific circumstances and the financial situation of an average Jane living there. Let’s take a look at Jane’s situation: 50 years old, single, has until now concentrated on enjoying life and has not actively looked into her retirement situation. She is now wondering whether she is suitably prepared for the “longest vacation” of her life.

Study: UBS International Pension Gap Index

Would you like to learn more about Jane’s retirement situation in international comparison? You can download the complete study.

Pension gaps are a global problem

Jane starts by listing her living costs and examining her mandatory pension provision to determine her expected retirement income. If her expenses in retirement exceed the benefits of her state and occupational pensions, a pension gap arises. This is the norm rather than the exception in all the pension systems studied, so too for Jane. Especially because until now she has ignored the possibility of voluntary savings. She now realizes that her pension situation would be much more straightforward if she had looked into it at least twenty years earlier.

Required savings quota in %; the darker the color, the lower the savings quota. | Source: UBS

Countries

Countries

Required savings quota in %

Required savings quota in %

Countries

Australia

Required savings quota in %

7%

Countries

Brazil

Required savings quota in %

69%

Countries

Canada

Required savings quota in %

50%

Countries

Chile

Required savings quota in %

80%

Countries

Denmark

Required savings quota in %

14%

Countries

France

Required savings quota in %

44%

Countries

Germany

Required savings quota in %

30%

Countries

Hong Kong

Required savings quota in %

74%

Countries

India

Required savings quota in %

35%

Countries

Israel

Required savings quota in %

41%

Countries

Italy

Required savings quota in %

28%

Countries

Japan

Required savings quota in %

102%

Countries

Netherlands

Required savings quota in %

5%

Countries

Nigeria

Required savings quota in %

145%

Countries

Russia

Required savings quota in %

108%

Countries

Saudi Arabia

Required savings quota in %

7%

Countries

Singapore

Required savings quota in %

3%

Countries

South Africa

Required savings quota in %

49%

Countries

Sweden

Required savings quota in %

9%

Countries

Switzerland

Required savings quota in %

14%

Countries

Taiwan

Required savings quota in %

91%

Countries

UAE

Required savings quota in %

0%

Countries

UK

Required savings quota in %

26%

Countries

USA

Required savings quota in %

42%

Now that she is aware of her pension gap, Jane calculates how much she will need to save between now and her retirement in order to close it. The amounts that need to be saved vary greatly from one country to another. Whereas in the Netherlands or Australia the amounts in question would be relatively small, in Japan they would be well above average.

But what if Jane were Swiss?

She would need to save 14 percent of her income, which puts Switzerland in the top third of the 24 countries studied. Relatively high life expectancy, a comparatively low retirement age and relatively high living costs are the key factors impacting Jane’s situation.

Saving early on with pillar 3a (especially with securities), continuing to work part-time after retirement or adopting a more frugal lifestyle in old age would also reduce the savings quota. If Jane had started saving in pillar 3a when she was younger, her dream of owning her own home may have been easier to achieve and she would have been able to optimize her property and pension situation.

Save right for retirement. By getting advice.

Do you need help drawing up your budget or planning your living costs in old age? 60 minutes of retirement advice from UBS will really help you and is time well spent. We look forward to hearing from you.

How are other countries dealing with current challenges?

The situations faced by other “Janes” around the world vary considerably. For example, one country’s pension system might be designed to provide its citizens with a comfortable deck chair when they retire, whereas another might only give them a wooden stool. Anglo-Saxon countries in particular, like the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom, place a much greater emphasis on individual responsibility, with their respective pension systems aiming solely to prevent poverty in old age.

A pension system that promises benefits independently of contributions (defined benefits) is a European invention. Many of our EU neighbors, e.g., Italy and the Netherlands, are more progressive than Switzerland. They are gradually switching to a system of defined contributions (at least for occupational pensions), in which benefits will be based on personal contributions and market conversion rates. When it comes to retirement age, more advanced models also exist elsewhere in Europe. For example, Germany and Sweden have already raised the retirement age to 67. In Denmark it is even higher and will be raised automatically as life expectancy increases.

Expect changes to the Swiss pension system

In the years leading up to her retirement, Jane can expect regulations to change, e.g., an increase in retirement age. For younger people, the impact of upcoming changes is potentially greater. This is because most pension systems are under pressure due to demographic changes (more pensioners and fewer people of working age) and will not be able to fulfill their promises. A voluntary retirement plan for which individuals are personally responsible is required, especially in Switzerland. Jane’s situation is proof that by planning your retirement early, you will be able to maintain your current standard of living in retirement.