United States Ranks 16th Among Developed Countries for Retiree Wellbeing in the 2020 Natixis Global Retirement Index

·11-min read
  • Iceland, Switzerland and Norway lead globally for the wellbeing and financial security of retirees.

  • US moves up two spots on improved material wellbeing and quality of life, ranking among the top ten for per capita income, but in the bottom ten for income equality, a continuing challenge for the country.

  • Low interest rates represent one of the greatest threats – 16 countries in this year’s GRI report moved to negative rates, adding further pressure on retiree security.

  • Natixis analysis finds response to COVID-19 elevated threats to retirement security long-term.

The United States rose two spots to No. 16 among developed nations in the 2020 Global Retirement Index (GRI), released today by Natixis Investment Managers. The eighth annual index, a snapshot of the relative wellbeing and financial security of retirees in 44 countries, shows that the chances for a financially secure retirement depend on a fragile balance of social, economic and public health pressures, and the global coronavirus pandemic has just tipped the scales further against retirees.

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2020 Rankings (Graphic: Business Wire)

Natixis’s analysis of multi-year index trends suggests that the pandemic and policy actions taken to moderate its economic impact will have lasting implications for retirees. Retirement security in the US and developed nations around the world now faces elevated threats of lower-for-longer interest rates, record levels of public debt, recession, income inequality and climate quality.

"Balancing the needs of current and future retirees with other public policy demands has long been one of the most intractable issues for nations around the world, and the global pandemic and its economic fallout have only compounded the challenge," said Jean Raby, CEO of Natixis Investment Managers. "Individuals, employers, institutions, policymakers and asset managers all have an important role to play in addressing these issues, and we believe the 2020 Global Retirement Index can help advance the dialog by providing a clear and consistent picture of where each economy stands on a range of key indicators."

The Natixis GRI examines 18 factors which influence retiree welfare across four categories including Finances in Retirement; Material Wellbeing; Health; and Quality of Life. The Index calculates the relative performance for each nation on each of these criteria, resulting in a composite score that provides a comparative tool for evaluating retirement security globally.

The data used in the calculation of the 2020 GRI include the most recent statistics available, typically from 2019. As a result, more recent developments such as higher unemployment, rate cuts and impacts on health statistics in 2020 resulting from the coronavirus pandemic are not reflected in this year’s GRI rankings.

Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany Continue to Climb the Rankings

  • The top three nations worldwide in this year’s GRI are unchanged from 2019, with Iceland in first place, Switzerland in second and Norway third. In fact, stability at the top is the norm: Nine of this year’s top ten countries have been in the top ten for each of the past two years.

  • Ireland (No. 4) improved its performance steadily in each of the past several years, from seventh in 2018 to fifth in 2019 to fourth this year. In particular, it has performed strongly on the insured health expenditure indicator, moving from 14th in 2019 to fifth in 2020. Ireland’s life expectancy indicator has also improved (from 18th in 2019 to 11th this year).

  • The Netherlands had the largest climb in the overall rankings (moving from 10th to 5th), mainly because of improvements in the Quality of Life sub-index, including stronger scores in environmental factors and water and sanitation.

  • The other countries in the 2020 top ten include New Zealand (No. 6); Australia (No. 7); Canada (No. 8); Denmark (No. 9); and Germany (No. 10). Germany climbed from 13th place last year to tenth this year due to higher scores in the Quality of Life, Health, and Finances sub-indices.

The only nation to depart from last year’s top ten is Sweden, which dropped from fourth place to 11th. Sweden’s steep decline resulted in part from poor performance within the Finances category (to 30th from 22nd. Specifically, its decreasing five-year average for real interest rates – a concern for retirees on fixed income – moved into negative territory.

Factors Affecting the US GRI Ranking (No. 16)

The improvement of the US resulted from better scores in the Material Wellbeing (26th) and Quality of Life (21st) sub-indices. Within Material Wellbeing, the US improved its ranking in the unemployment1 indicator (to 11th from 15th). Its ability to reduce income inequality improved slightly, although it still ranks seventh from the bottom globally, despite ranking in the top ten (6th) for income per capita. The US also stepped up in Quality of Life, with an improvement in the happiness of its retirees, and held steady on environmental factors, though it still holds the ninth-lowest rank in this indicator.

In the Finances in Retirement (11th) category, an improvement in the interest rates2 indicator offset declines in the tax pressure and old-age dependency (the ratio of retirees to working adults) indicator rankings. A lower life expectancy ranking contributed to the US dropping out of the top ten in the Health category to 16th, though it continues to have the highest score for health expenditure per capita (average amount spent on health per person) among all developed countries in the GRI.

Low Interest Rates – The New Normal?

Interest rates in the major economies in North America, Europe and Asia have trended downwards over the last four decades, and, according to GRI analysis, negative interest rates have become an ongoing trend in the last few years. In 2016, when the GRI methodology was adjusted to use a weighted five-year average of real interest rates as part of the Finances in Retirement category, only one country (the United Kingdom) was working with negative rates. That number has increased steadily, and in 2020, 16 countries in the GRI have had their five-year average for real interest rates move into negative territory. This means that almost 40% of the developed countries ranked in the GRI are facing this retirement challenge today.

"When the economy and markets are in crisis, interest rates are the go-to tool for central bankers looking to stimulate spending and get markets moving, but the cuts raise the stakes on retirement security," said Edward Farrington, Head of Retirement Strategies at Natixis Investment Managers. "From an individual perspective, low rates are generally good because it costs less to borrow money, but, for retirees, negative rates magnify the problem they face in generating income from investments. The implications of negative interest rates likely will continue to affect retirees for many years ahead."

Five Threats to Retirement Security

In a supplemental report to the 2020 GRI, titled "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?," Natixis identifies five specific issues that the firm believes present the greatest threats for retirement security in the future:

  • The long-term impacts of the recession on savings: The speed and severity of the global economic slowdown stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak are greater than those in recent recessions. Resulting measures taken to cover income shortfalls may dampen the savings needed for future retirement security. For instance, workers may make hardship-based early retirement withdrawals that are never replaced, and employers may reduce or suspend matching contributions to defined contribution plans, steps that may become permanent.

  • Falling interest rates disadvantage retirees: Rates in the US and other nations have been at historic lows for a dozen years, but central bankers lowered them further as part of stimulus efforts. Lower rates may require individuals and institutions alike to be more creative about how they prepare to meet longer-term needs and commitments.

  • Fiscal stimulus raising public debt: The $12 trillion of fiscal and monetary stimulus provided globally has kept economies afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, but will magnify already high levels of public debt. While low interest rates keep debt servicing costs manageable today, those same low rates may tempt policymakers to boost spending, further increasing public debt. In order to control spending in the future, governments could be forced to raise taxes, including on retirees, and reduce funding for retiree healthcare programs and public pensions.

  • Climate-related disasters threatening retirees: As seen in brush fires in Australia, wildfires in California, and typhoons and hurricanes in Africa, Asia and the Americas, climate-related natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more severe. Air pollution, too, is worsening, posing greater safety and health risks for vulnerable retirees, including chronic cardiac and pulmonary illnesses. Such disasters also have financial implications, including higher insurance costs, increased food expenditures as crops fail, and greater housing expenses as storm severity grows.

  • Inequality worsens economic outcomes: The issues of inequality – of race, gender and other factors – have come to the fore in the US and other nations. Research globally illustrates race and gender gaps in both worker pay and access to workplace retirement plans, with implications for inequality in retirement income. Lower lifetime earnings and contributions to savings can result in imbalances that last past the working years into retirement, with lifelong gaps in savings and income that, in the case of women, are exacerbated by longer lifespans.

"The Natixis Global Retirement Index is an accurate snapshot of retirement security that serves as an important guide for policymakers," continued Farrington. "At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crises and other issues that have come to light this year have intensified longer-term threats. It will be important for individuals, employers, institutional investors, asset managers and policymakers to plan for how they will take on the challenge of retirement security in the years and decades to come."

The report provides suggestions for how individuals, employers, institutional investors, policymakers and asset managers can begin to address these trends now. To download a copy of the 2020 Global Retirement Index, visit im.natixis.com/us/research/2020-global-retirement-index.

Methodology

The Global Retirement Index assesses factors that drive retirement security across 44 countries where retirement is a pressing social and economic issue. It was compiled by Natixis Investment Managers with support from CoreData Research. The index includes International Monetary Fund (IMF) advanced economies; members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). The researchers calculated a mean score in each category and combined the category scores for a final overall ranking of the 44 nations studied.

About the Natixis Investment Institute

The Natixis Investment Institute applies Active Thinking® to critical issues shaping the investment landscape. A global effort, the Institute combines expertise in the areas of investor sentiment, macroeconomics, and portfolio construction within Natixis Investment Managers, along with the unique perspectives of our affiliated investment managers and experts outside the greater Natixis organization. Our goal is to fuel a more substantive discussion of issues with a 360° view of markets and insightful analysis of investment trends.

About Natixis Investment Managers

Natixis Investment Managers serves financial professionals with more insightful ways to construct portfolios. Powered by the expertise of more than 20 specialized investment managers globally, we apply Active Thinking® to deliver proactive solutions that help clients pursue better outcomes in all markets. Natixis Investment Managers ranks among the world’s largest asset management firms3 with more than $1 trillion assets under management4 (€906.0 billion).

Headquartered in Paris and Boston, Natixis Investment Managers is a subsidiary of Natixis. Listed on the Paris Stock Exchange, Natixis is a subsidiary of BPCE, the second-largest banking group in France. Natixis Investment Managers’ affiliated investment management firms include AEW; Alliance Entreprendre; AlphaSimplex Group; DNCA Investments;5 Dorval Asset Management; Flexstone Partners; Gateway Investment Advisers; H2O Asset Management; Harris Associates; Investors Mutual Limited; Loomis, Sayles & Company; Mirova; MV Credit; Naxicap Partners; Ossiam; Ostrum Asset Management; Seeyond; Seventure Partners; Thematics Asset Management; Vauban Infrastructure Partners; Vaughan Nelson Investment Management; Vega Investment Managers;6 and WCM Investment Management. Additionally, investment solutions are offered through Natixis Investment Managers Solutions, and Natixis Advisors offers other investment services through its AIA and MPA division. Not all offerings available in all jurisdictions. For additional information, please visit Natixis Investment Managers’ website at im.natixis.com | LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/natixis-investment-managers.

Natixis Investment Managers’ distribution and service groups include Natixis Distribution, L.P., a limited purpose broker-dealer and the distributor of various U.S. registered investment companies for which advisory services are provided by affiliated firms of Natixis Investment Managers, Natixis Investment Managers S.A. (Luxembourg), Natixis Investment Managers International (France), and their affiliated distribution and service entities in Europe and Asia.

1 Data source: World Bank WDI 2020, based on the latest data available (2019).
2 Data source: World Bank WDI 2020, OECD, based on latest available data (2014–2018).
3 Cerulli Quantitative Update: Global Markets 2020 ranked Natixis Investment Managers as the 17th largest asset manager in the world based on assets under management as of December 31, 2019.
4 Assets under management ("AUM") as of June 30, 2020 is $1,017.7 billion. AUM, as reported, may include notional assets, assets serviced, gross assets, assets of minority-owned affiliated entities and other types of non-regulatory AUM managed or serviced by firms affiliated with Natixis Investment Managers.
5 A brand of DNCA Finance.
6 A wholly-owned subsidiary of Natixis Wealth Management.

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Contacts

Press contact:
Maggie McCuen
(617) 849-2769
Maggie.McCuen@Natixis.com