Ranked: Countries with the Best and Worst Pension Plans
The global population is aging—by 2050, one in six people will be over the age of 65.
As our aging population nears retirement and gets closer to cashing in their pensions, countries need to ensure their pension systems can withstand the extra strain.
This graphic uses data from the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index (MMGPI) to showcase which countries are best equipped to support their older citizens, and which ones aren’t.
Each country’s pension system has been shaped by its own economic and historical context. This makes it difficult to draw precise comparisons between countries—yet there are certain universal elements that typically lead to adequate and stable support for older citizens.
MMGPI organized these universal elements into three sub-indexes:
- Adequacy: The base-level of income, as well as the design of a region’s private pension system.
- Sustainability: The state pension age, the level of advanced funding from government, and the level of government debt.
- Integrity: Regulations and governance put in place to protect plan members.
These three measures were used to rank the pension system of 37 different countries, representing over 63% of the world’s population.
Here’s how each country ranked:
The Importance of Sustainability
While all three sub-indexes are important to consider when ranking a country’s pension system, sustainability is particularly significant in the modern context. This is because our global population is increasingly skewing older, meaning an influx of people will soon be cashing in their retirement funds. As a consequence, countries need to ensure their pension systems are sustainable over the long-term.
There are several factors that affect a pension system’s sustainability, including a region’s private pension system, the state pension age, and the balance between workers and retirees.
The country with the most sustainable pension system is Denmark. Not only does the country have a strong basic pension plan—it also has a mandatory occupational scheme, which means employers are obligated by law to provide pension plans for their employees.
Adequacy versus Sustainability
Several countries scored high on adequacy but ranked low when it came to sustainability. Here’s a comparison of both measures, and how each country scored:
Ireland took first place for adequacy, but scored relatively low on the sustainability front at 27th place. This can be partly explained by Ireland’s low level of occupational coverage. The country also has a rapidly aging population, which skews the ratio of workers to retirees. By 2050, Ireland’s worker to retiree ratio is estimated to go from 5:1 to 2:1.
Similar to Ireland, Spain ranks high in adequacy but places extremely low in sustainability.
There are several possible explanations for this—while occupational pension schemes exist, they are optional and participation is low. Spain also has a low fertility rate, which means their worker-to-retiree ratio is expected to decrease.
Steps Towards a Better System
All countries have room for improvement—even the highest-ranking ones. Some general recommendations from MMGPI on how to build a better pension system include:
- Increasing the age of retirement: Helps maintain a more balanced worker-to-retiree ratio.
- Enforcing mandatory occupational schemes: Makes employers obligated to provide pension plans for their employees.
- Limiting access to benefits: Prevents people from dipping into their savings preemptively, thus preserving funds until retirement.
- Establishing strong pension assets to fund future liabilities: Ideally, these assets are more than 100% of a country’s GDP.
Pension systems across the globe are under an increasing amount of pressure. It’s time for countries to take a hard look at their pension systems to make sure they’re ready to support their aging population.
Visualizing $156 Trillion in U.S. Assets, by Generation
We’ve visualized data from the Federal Reserve to provide a comprehensive break down of U.S. assets by generation.
Visualizing U.S. Wealth by Generation
The distribution of wealth is an important measure of the economic power of each generation.
In the U.S., for example, baby boomers own half of the nation’s $156 trillion in assets despite making up 21% of the country’s population.
To learn more about U.S. wealth by generation, we’ve created two visualizations using Q4 2022 data from the Federal Reserve that break down both the assets and liabilities held by each American generation.
Assets by Generation
Assets by generation are listed in the table below. All figures are as of Q4 2022 and in USD trillions.
Baby boomers’ biggest category of assets is Equities & Mutual Funds, where they own 56% of the national total. Millennials, on the other hand, represent just 2%.
Where millennials do have more wealth is Real Estate, with 12% of the national total. This suggests that millennials have, for the most part, foregone investing in financial assets in order to purchase a home.
Liabilities by Generation
The following charts show a breakdown of liabilities by generation. Not surprisingly, Mortgages make up the largest component of liabilities for all generations.
Something to highlight is that millennials are carrying the largest amount of Consumer Credit, at $2 trillion (representing about 43% of total consumer credit). As of 2022, millennials accounted for 22% of the U.S. population.
U.S. Wealth by Generation
Finally, we subtract liabilities from assets to arrive at total wealth by generation in the United States. Figures again are USD and in trillions.
|Generation||Assets||Liabilities||Wealth||Share of Wealth|
As a final note, it’s worth highlighting that Gen Z is still too young to be included as a separate demographic in datasets like these. Born between 1997 and 2012, these individuals are currently between 11 and 26 years old. Interestingly, the Federal Reserve currently considers all U.S. adults born after 1981 as millennials.
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