Retirement planning: What pension trends should I look out for?

The evolution of pension systems reflects the ongoing quest to provide financial security and dignity in retirement.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Demographic shifts, economic realities, and societal changes have over the years fundamentally altered the way we plan for our sunset years.

Throughout history, pensions have mirrored the changing structures of societies. In the African setting for instance, community-based approaches to elderly care reflect early forms of social welfare. However, as industrialisation and advancements in healthcare reshaped family structures and lifespans, the need for more formalised retirement security became apparent.

The 20th century saw the rise of social security systems and defined benefit (DB) occupational pension plans. Under this model, governments assumed a central role in providing a safety net for workers as DB plans promised a predetermined benefit based on salary and years of service. However, economic pressures and demographic shifts necessitated a paradigm shift.

Contribution plans

Many countries are witnessing a move towards defined contribution plans, placing the responsibility and risk of retirement savings on individuals.

Defined contribution schemes introduce flexibility and empowerment, allowing both employers and employees to contribute fixed amounts or percentages of employee salaries. Additional voluntary contributions and investment returns further bolster retirement savings, with portfolios typically diversified across stocks and bonds in varying percentages based on one’s risk profile, to manage risk.

With this shifting landscape, emerging trends like cash balance plans offer hybrid arrangements that blend elements of both defined benefit and defined contribution schemes. These plans provide members with the flexibility to choose between cash benefits or annuities, catering to retirees’ diverse retirement needs.

Rising retirement age

On a global scale, pension reforms have reflected a concerted effort to adapt to changing demographics and economic realities.

Countries are raising retirement ages, some are transitioning from defined benefit to defined contribution models, while others are exploring innovative financing mechanisms to ensure long-term sustainability.

The retirement age in Germany for instance stands at 65 years and ten months and will be gradually increased to reach 67 years by 2031. The UAE on the other hand raised its retirement age from 60 to 65 years while in the United Kingdom (UK), the state pension age equalised at 65 in 2018, was increased to 66 on October 6, 2020, and will go up to 67 by 2028 and 68 by 2037.

Flexible retirement

Additionally, countries are coming up with crisis management strategies, including adjustments to benefit formulas and increased contributions aimed at safeguarding pension funds against financial uncertainties.

We have also seen some countries introduce to the sector flexible retirement options such as phased retirement or in some instances, allowing individuals to continue working part-time while receiving partial pension benefits.

However, amidst these reforms, longevity risk looms large. Increased life expectancies pose challenges to pension funds, necessitating innovative solutions to mitigate financial pressures.

There have been instances of increased payout periods where accumulated savings within a fund stretch over extended periods potentially leading to increased financial pressure on funds.

Sustainability question

There has also been the question of the financial sustainability of pension funds where individuals live longer than actuarial assumptions used to calculate pension liabilities. To mitigate such risks, the sector is exploring longevity insurance and risk-sharing mechanisms that offer avenues for addressing the implications of longer lifespans on pension sustainability.

For the pension sector to get through the current digital age, the industry should look at innovating retirement income solutions to provide retirees with guaranteed income and financial security in their sunset years. The sector needs to come up with tailor-made retirement solutions such as personalised asset allocation strategies and withdrawal plans, evolving annuity products as well as sustainable and impactful investment strategies aimed at meeting the diverse needs of retirees whilst navigating the complexities of the uncertain future.

The evolution of pension systems reflects the ongoing quest to provide financial security and dignity in retirement. The sector needs to stay abreast of trends, and forge pathways towards robust and sustainable retirement systems that empower individuals to navigate the complexities of the modern pension ecosystem.

The writers can be reached via [email protected] and [email protected]

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.