HSBC warns of East-West divide on pensions

26th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Global banking giant HSBC warned of a "major East-West divide" over pensions on Thursday, as workers in Europe and the US struggle to match their Asian counterparts in adequately saving for retirement.

The London-based bank revealed the findings in a report entitled 'The Future of Retirement' after surveying 17,000 people in 17 countries about attitudes towards pensions.

HSBC said the report highlighted "the emergence of a major East-West divide in retirement perceptions."

It added: "The impact of the economic downturn has had a measured impact, particularly in the developed economies of North America and Europe where many people now expect to be worse off than their parents when they enter retirement.

"However, this view is by no means universal with households in many parts of the world having come through the global downturn with their aspirations for a prosperous retirement largely intact.

"This is particularly true in the economic powerhouses of the emerging markets such as India and China," HSBC said.

The bank's head of investments, pensions and savings, David Wells, said that "unless Westerners take a leaf from the book of their Asian peers and start to be accountable for their own futures, sadly many will find their fears of financial hardship in later life come true."

HSBC said half of those questioned in its global survey did not have a financial plan while 41 percent felt under-prepared for retirement.

The survey also showed that 32 percent of respondents expected to face financial hardship when they retired -- but this figure fell to 17 percent in China.

The bank said Chinese households saved the equivalent of 38 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), while in India the figure is 35 percent. That compared with just 3.9 percent in the United States.

Some nations have introduced compulsory plans to change behaviour but HSBC stressed further education was necessary.

"The financial services industry clearly has a role to play in jolting the non-planners into action," it said. "The role of brand and marketing needs to be accompanied by a mix of other interventions."

The bank appealed for "greater funding of financial education programmes creating basic levels of financial education and awareness."

Additionally, it suggested that governments could provide tax relief on workers' pension contributions.

"The key message in this report is that those who take the time to put in place a financial plan are far more likely to enjoy a positive retirement," HSBC concluded.

"As our findings show, financial planning has the power to transform our well-being in retirement."

© 2011 AFP

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