AARP Report Finds Low Global Retirement, Health Care Confidence Level

July 20, 2005 ( - The AARP's International Retirement Security Survey found optimism about retirement and confidence in government retirement programs is low.

Only 16% of the approximate 4,000 respondents reported being very optimistic, while 41% reported being somewhat optimistic. Thirty nine percent reported being somewhat or very pessimistic, according to AARP’s report on the survey.

Respondents who were already retired showed the most optimism (65% somewhat or very), and 41% of those who are employed report being somewhat or very optimistic. Not surprisingly, respondents with higher incomes (greater than $40,000) are more optimistic than those with lower incomes (67% v. 55%). The survey also found that optimism is greater among those who are married than single (60% v. 50%) and greater for the 45 to 65 age group than those 30 to 44 (59% v. 53%).

By country, the study found that Australians and Canadians are the most optimistic (77%) and the Germans, French, and Italians are the least, with only a little over a third of respondents from those countries reporting being somewhat or very optimistic. Interestingly, the survey found that the Germans, whose optimism is low, have given the most thought to their retirement along with Americans.

Retirement Income

In spite of current pension system woes, public pension systems were rated as a major source of retirement income by 42% of respondents. Other sources of income were rated as major as follows: employer-provided/occupational pensions-28%, earnings from employment-26%, workplace retirement savings programs-26%, and personal savings-25%. Not surprisingly, the public pension systems were expected to be the primary source of income for more non-American respondents. Americans rated workplace savings programs (such as 401k’s) as the expected primary source of income in retirement.

The AARP report shows confidence in retirement income in general is low. Forty three percent of respondents are not confident they will have sufficient income in retirement. Only 15% reported they are very confident they will have adequate retirement income.

Health Care in Retirement

All ten countries included in the AARP study have a national health care system for retirees. Respondents reported “some confidence” in having access to health care during retirement (64%), being able to pay for medical expenses (70%), being able to pay for prescriptions ( 71%), and expecting good health throughout retirement (65%). Only 55% expect to be able to pay for long term-care such as a nursing home or home health care if they need it in retirement.

Overall, 47% of respondents believe government programs will pay for all or most of their health care in retirement. Italians and Germans most expect government to pay for health care, while only 29% of Americans expect so. Thirty one percent of Americans say government sponsored health care will pay none of their health care costs in retirement, according to the report.

Trust in the Government

All countries report a lack of confidence in their governments’ abilities to fund public pensions or pay health care benefits.

On a scale of 1 to 10, the overall rating of trust in the government’s ability to pay current retiree health care obligations was only 4.5. It was even lower (3.8) for the ability to pay for future retiree health care benefits.

The overall rating for trust in the government’s ability to pay current public pension obligations is 5, while trust in its ability to pay future benefits is only 3.9. All countries reported less trust in the government’s ability to pay future obligations than currently.

AARP’s full report can be found here .