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Financing Retirement

You will hear a talk by an economist on retirement schemes. Listen to the lecture and complete the notes below. Write short answers (1-5 words). An example is done for you. At the end of the lecture you will have two minutes to read through and check your answers. You will hear the lecture twice. You have one minute to look at the notes below.

Example: The focus of the talk is retirement policy
International solutions will be discussed because 1) ………………..

Three main topics: present situation 2) ……………….. and 3) ………………..
The idea of comfortable retirement became widespread 4) ………………..
Promises made about pensions back then are 5) ………………..
Besides state core pension and a supplementary state scheme or compulsory private saving individuals can 6) ………………..
When present pension contributions fund the pension of people who are retired, the system is called a 7) ………………..
India and China didn’t 8) ………………..

Key: 1-some are more successful 2-history of retirement 3-international situation 4-after World War II 5-are not sustainable any longer 6-make voluntary private savings 7-pay-as-you-go system 8-adopt pay-as-you-go system

Financing Retirement

The title of the talk tonight is “Financing Retirement: History and the Policy Agenda”, and what you see is not necessarily what you get, so we will be cantering through a few areas which are not necessarily all about financing retirement.  I will be talking principally from a UK perspective, but thinking very much also about what is happening internationally, and in particular the places that have been successes in terms of tackling the retirement-funding conundrum, perhaps actually rather better than we in the UK are doing right now or look set to do in the future unless we change.

The things that we will look at in this talk are: where we are today; a short history of retirement – how we got to where we are in terms of thinking about retirement; a look around internationally and see what is going on.  We will be paying a great deal of attention to life expectancy and healthy aging because this is the elephant in the room when we think about retirement; some of the implications of that, policy responses, and some sort of appreciation of really what we have got to expect, as a nation, as a people and as individuals, going forward into retirement.

It will be useful now to take a step back to have a short history of retirement.  First of all, we have got to remember that the idea of retirement is relatively recent.  It could be argued that, given what I said earlier about an age seventy retirement age, that actually the idea of a number of years’ comfortable retirement is a post-War idea.  It was an idea that only really took root with the end of the Second World War, and it is really the second half of the twentieth century that it became something that people culturally looked forward to.  This was really delivered through the Beveridge Report, which set out the welfare state idea for after the War.  This is at a time when Britain and Europe were industrial powerhouses: they made steel, they mined coal, they built ships – they did all sorts of things that we do not seem to do today.  So, we had the economic base to make a range of promises about pensions, about the welfare state, that maybe, going forward today, we are going to find very hard to sustain.

When we look around the world, at the developed world, we typically see a two or three tier pension system.  That will typically be:

1)   The state: a central core pension provision, maybe not very generous, but something of a staple;
2)   A supplementary state scheme, or compulsory private saving;
3)   Voluntary private saving.

So, as we look around the developed world, we typically see these sorts of things in terms of retirement-funding architectures.

State systems in Europe are typically social insurance, which differs subtly from notionally contributory-based system that we have got in the UK, but in fact, both are, to some extent at least, pay-as-you-go.  In other words, the contributions made today go to pay the pensions of the people who are retired right now.  We call those pay-as-you-go or pay-go systems.  The question emerging, as the developed world ceases to be the economic powerhouse it once is: are these sustainable? On this, I think the jury is, at least, still out on whether that is possible or not.

If we look around the world, state retirement benefit systems are under pressure, where they exist at all.  If we think about India or about China as economic powerhouses, they have basically taken a look at the Western model of pay-as-you-go pensions and walked rapidly in the other direction.  India, for example, has a state pension, but it is so pitiful that it is economically impossible to even think about living on it. 

source: www.gresham.ac.uk

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