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Europeans fear inflation is eroding pension pots, says AllianzGI


Many 50 to 70 year olds are uncertain if they can maintain their current standard of living in retirement and will need to build additional savings to achieve their goals, according to pan-European research conducted by Allianz and Allianz Global Investors.

The study looked at retirement finance of 1,402 respondents, aged 50-70 years, living across seven European countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK.
It found that half are uncertain if they can maintain their standard of living in retirement with many needing to build additional savings to maintain their existing standard of living.
The younger respondents tended to have an altogether more pessimistic outlook. This group were particularly concerned about maintaining their standard of living due to the consequences of pension reforms and the impact of the financial crisis on their financial and pension wealth. Only 40 per cent of 50-to-54-year-olds think they will have the same standard of living in retirement. In contrast, 53 per cent of those aged 60-70 are optimistic or already enjoy a relatively comfortable standard of living.
Inflation is cited as the biggest financial risk in retirement in all countries (except Austria). In Germany and UK this is particularly apparent with 60 per cent of Germans and 65 per cent of Britain’s citing inflation as the greatest financial concern to potentially impact their pension. However, when tested on their understanding of the effects of inflation, respondents in the UK and the Netherlands tended to overestimate and Austrians tended to underestimate its impact. French, German and Swiss respondents were most realistic about the effects of inflation.
Despite some people misinterpreting the risk that inflation poses, the research showed the majority of 50+ respondents feel they are well informed about financial matters and use a wide variety of information sources.  However, while there is a wealth of information available, what matters to pension savers is its usefulness so that investors can both understand it and know how to act in response to it.
Nearly two thirds of the respondents said they are satisfied with their retirement planning, only eight per cent said to be dissatisfied, Swiss respondents are the most satisfied at 81 per cent, with only two per cent “dissatisfied”. The overall level of satisfaction with retirement planning is significantly lower in France (46 per cent “satisfied” and 11 per cent “dissatisfied”) and Italy (54 per cent “satisfied” and 14 per cent “dissatisfied”).
The survey also reveals substantial national differences with regard to the preferred payout method upon entering retirement: Half of Swiss respondents prefer life-long monthly or annual payments compared to only one quarter to one third in the other countries. Austrian and German prefer by far one-off lump sums (40 per cent and 37 per cent of the respective respondents) other the 50+ generation in other countries.
UK respondents stand out when it comes to investment decision making. Nearly half of the respondents from the UK said that they make their own investment decisions without the assistance of an investment professional or advisor. Only Dutch respondents with 42 per cent are nearly as self-directed in their decision making. In Switzerland the share of respondents not seeking external advice is lowest with 23 per cent.
Dr Renate Finke, senior economist in the international pensions unit at Allianz and author of the study, says: “Retirement planning is crucial to ensure ease of living in later life, but many of those surveyed admitted to making mistakes in their approach, with one third of respondents saying they started planning too late and one in four highlighting that they did not save enough. Saving for a pension is arguably more challenging in the current economic environment of financial repression. In order to maintain their existing standard of living, many will people will need to build additional savings either through particular retirement savings plans or general individual saving. Hopefully the experience of those about to enter or in retirement should motivate the younger generations to start thinking about saving for their retirement.”
Nick Smith, head of European retail sales (ex-Germany), says: “Pension savers face an uncertain landscape including inflation risk, volatility and the challenges posed by reform processes. These are forcing people to adapt to changing situations. People saving for pensions need to look at what lessons can be learned from the 50+ generation, especially as the last decade has shown that it is a difficult task to factor in the various investment risks.”

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