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Singapore ranked top in retirement finances

But it does less well in quality of life and material well-being in ranking of 44 countries

Seow Bei Yi on 21 Sep 2019

The Straits Times


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Singapore has come out tops among 44 countries in the area of retirement finances, according to an annual retirement security index.


But the Republic performed less well in two other aspects - quality of life and material well-being - in the 2019 Global Retirement Index by Natixis Investment Managers. It came in 41st in the quality of life sub-index and 32nd for material well-being.


Singapore's ranking in quality of life was bogged down by a poorer showing in happiness and environment factors this year.


The lower scores for happiness could have something to do with financial inadequacy among seniors, be it perceived or actual, Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser of the National University of Singapore told The Straits Times.


This has its source in rising costs of living, as well as factors such as employment and income insecurity that relates to the threat of not having a job or suffering income loss after passing the retirement age.


Professor Paulin Straughan of Singapore Management University said that leaving gainful employment does not just mean a loss in income, it also creates a strong sense of displacement in a capitalist society.


This could weigh on seniors' happiness levels.


In the material well-being sub-index, which measures the ability of a country's population to provide for its material needs, the Republic's ranking fell slightly this year due to a dip in income equality.


But it retained the top rankings for income per capita and employment indicators.


Prof Tan said the poorer score on material well-being may have to do with financial inadequacy.


This relates to factors such as a high cost of living, low savings and a high dependence on income transfers from adult children.


But Singapore, which ranked 28 overall, the same as last year, did well in other aspects.




It was top in the retirement finances sub-index, up from second place last year. This sub-index rates the soundness of a country's financial system, the level of savings and investment, and the preservation of the purchasing power of savings.


The country came in first for tax pressure, eighth in interest rates and 10th for governance.


The main driver behind its improved ranking was its higher score in bank non-performing loans.


Prof Straughan said the Central Provident Fund (CPF), the social security system where Singaporeans set aside funds for retirement, is a reason the Republic does very well in ensuring retirement adequacy.


"Without CPF, we wouldn't have been able to afford to buy our flats," she said. "The appreciation of property has been quite consistent in land-scarce Singapore as well."


In the health sub-index, Singapore was in 24th place, up from 29th last year. This was driven by higher scores in insured health expenditure and life expectancy.


Among Asian countries in the ranking, it was the third-highest for overall retirement security, behind Japan in 23rd spot and South Korea in 24th globally.


The overall index involves performance indicators, grouped under four thematic indexes, covering key aspects for welfare in retirement.


These are: having the material means to live comfortably in retirement; access to quality financial services to help preserve savings value and maximise income; access to quality health services; and a clean and safe environment.


The top five countries overall were Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, Ireland and New Zealand in that order.


Ms Madeline Ho, executive managing director at Natixis Investment Managers, said: "With the increasingly uncertain economic conditions and improved life expectancies, it has become imperative for individuals to be proactive in starting early for retirement planning."


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.



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