U.S. and European Opinions on Working Past Retirement Age for Larger Pensions

ROCHESTER, N.Y.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As the economic crisis continues around the globe, adults in the five largest European countries and the U.S. have different ideas about what it will mean for their retirement and their pensions or retirement savings. Seven in ten Germans (71%) and majorities of French (54%) and Spanish (53%) adults would oppose the idea of working beyond the current state pension/social security age to receive a larger pension while two-thirds of Americans (66%), three in five Britons (61%) and Italians (59%) would support such this idea.

These are some of the findings of a Financial Times/Harris Poll conducted online by Harris Interactive® among a total of 6,332 adults aged 16-64 within France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States and adults aged 18-64 in Italy between April 29 and May 6, 2009.

Looking at what people will rely on for income during retirement, three-quarters of Spaniards (74%) and majorities of German (59%), French (56%) and Italian adults (52%) will rely on the state pensions. Two in five British adults (39%) will rely on their private pensions while one-third (32%) will rely on the state pension. Americans are more divided as one-third will rely on social security (32%), one-third will rely on private pensions (32%) and 26% will rely on other investments.

One question is who should be responsible for providing a secure income for individuals during retirement. Seven in ten Spaniards (69%) and 51% of Italians say the state/government should have the main responsibility. Majorities of Americans (54%), French (53%), and half of British adults (50%) as well as a plurality of Germans (46%) believe that the state, employers and individuals should all have equal responsibility for providing a secure income during retirement.

Two possible ways of boosting pensions would be to pay higher taxes and/or for people to accept lower pay now. Strong majorities (between 73% and 89%) in all six countries are opposed to the idea of paying higher taxes and even stronger majorities (between 78% and 92%) are opposed to the idea of having less pay in order to receive a bigger pension when they retire.

There is a level of concern among people when it comes to their retirement and the robustness of income during that time. Three in five Americans (59%) say, compared to 12 months ago, they are more concerned about the robustness of their income as do half of Spanish (50%), French (50%) and Italian (49%) adults as well as 47% of British adults. Over half of Germans (54%) say they have the same level of concern as a year ago on this while 38% are more concerned.

So What?

The dream of a retirement at 65 (or earlier) with no concerns over money is long gone for many people world-wide. Some of this started even before the current global economic crisis, but that has just deepened the concern for many who are beginning to think about ending the daily grind of going into an office or job. While there is a shared responsibility for providing a secure retirement income the government is looked to in countries as the entity mainly responsible for this. As more doubt the government’s ability to provide for them, whether through state pensions or social security, the need for solutions will grow. If none are provided, concern may turn into anger.

The Harris Poll® #53, May 27, 2009

By Regina A. Corso, Director, The Harris Poll


This FT/Harris Poll was conducted online by Harris Interactive among a total of 6,332 adults aged 16-64 within France (1,077), Germany (1,007), Great Britain (1,126), Spain (1,030) and the United States (1,052), and adults aged 18-64 in Italy (1,040) between 29 April and 6 May 2009. Figures for age, sex, education, region and Internet usage were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. Full data tables and methodology are available at www.harrisinteractive.com.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls and of the British Polling Council.

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Harris Interactive Inc. 5/09