Where are the best places in the world in terms of retirement security?
To start, not America. The United States ranks just 19th in the world in retirement security, the same position it held in 2013, according to the Natixis Global Asset Management 2014 Global Retirement Index.
The index analyzed the standard of living and retirement security of 150 nations around the world, looking at measures of health, material well-being, finances and quality of life.
The United States received a final combined score of 73 percent, while the world’s top-ranked country. had a final combined score of 84 percent (more about it later).
On a positive note, the United States showed improvement in each of the four sub-categories measured by the index. On the other hand, in terms of health, the United States ranked 21st. It spends more per-capita on health care than any other nation, but life expectancy is lower than in most advanced Western countries.
Worse, Americans ranked 36th when it came to material well-being. It enjoys the sixth-best per-capita income in the world, but high levels of income inequality and persistent unemployment combined to bring the country’s score down. Norway, Luxembourg, Austria and Kuwait were the top countries for material well-being.
The United States ranked 22nd in finances. The report measures government indebtedness and the United States ranks as one of the 10 worst countries in the world on this metric. Rising inflation and interest rates also combined to depress the U.S. score in this category. It did improve in the overall strength of its financial institutions and in the area of tax pressure. Chile, Australia, Costa Rica and Bahrain led the Finances category because their governments have low debt and inflation, a positive interest rate environment and better-than-average bank loan performance.
So who’s got it better than we do? Here are the top 10 countries, in descending order, for retirement security, and why:
10. Luxembourg dropped from third to 10th place this year. It is one of the most prosperous economies in the world, has the third-highest income per capita in the world and an outstanding health care system. It has relatively low levels of unemployment, at 5 percent in 2014, and remains one of the most equal nations in terms of income. Luxembourg outperforms the top 30 average in the Health sub-index, with high life expectancy and impressive figures for health expenditure per capita.
9. New Zealand improved its overall score to 78 percent, moving from 22nd to ninth place on the Index. In Finances in Retirement, the country moved from 88th to fifth place due to a lowering of tax pressures and increased performance on various indicators such as bank non-performing loans. Unemployment levels increased since 2008 but it continues to outperform the top 30 countries average with policies remaining focused on environmental issues. It placed 26th in Health, although it does have a good health care system, it experienced lower indicators compared to last year, with decreases in physicians per capita and life expectancy.
8. Finland dropped two positions this year. It is a country with an overall high quality of life, and although its ranking in Finances in Retirement and Material Wellbeing have decreased, it still maintains a great healthcare system and a sound financial system. Finland has low levels of inflation and has one of the highest levels of income per capita. In terms of Health, it had an overall good performance in health care services and expenditure. The country jumped to 16th in the Quality of Life sub-index.
7. Germany increased its ranking from ninth to seventh this year. It is the largest economy in Europe and has a top welfare and health care system. It ranked second in Health and improved its standing in the Quality of Life sub-index as German policy has continued to focus on environmental issues, Natixis found. In Finances, although increased tax pressures could hinder economic prosperity, low levels of inflation and sustainable government debt have helped boost Germany’s standing in this category.
6. Denmark jumped to sixth place from eighth last year even though its score remained 79 percent. Denmark is considered a modern market economy. Its people also benefit from extensive government welfare measures and comfortable living standards. Denmark has extremely low levels of income inequality while possessing one of the highest levels of income per capita, with about $40,000 per capita. Denmark ranked 26th in the Finances in Retirement sub-index, with a reduction of inflation and overall lower levels of governance. IT also improved its ranking on the Health sub-index with one of the most favorable levels of health expenditure per capita coupled with a high number of physicians per capita. It ranked third on the Quality of Life sub-index.
5. Australia moved from 11th to fifth place in 2014. Australians benefit from a strong welfare system and high income equality, but unlike other large economies, Australia has extremely low levels of unemployment, about 5 percent in 2014. It ranked second in the Finances in Retirement category with low tax pressures and low levels of inflation. Improvements in the number of physicians per capita and stability in the total health expenditure covered by insurance resulted in a rise from 22nd place to 11th in the Health sub-index. The country also improved its standing in the Quality of Life sub-index.
4. Sweden maintained its position in fourth place in 2014 even though its overall score decreased to 79 percent. The country’s universal health care system, with high levels of physicians per capita and high life expectancy makes it one of the top health care systems in the index. Swedes benefit from high levels of income equality and one of the highest levels of income per capita in the EU with around $42,000 per capita. To sustain a generous welfare state, tax pressures have substantially increased, which have impacted the Finances in Retirement sub-index. Sweden ranked fifth in terms of Quality of Life.
3. Austria took third place on the index, up from fifth in 2013. The country has a well-developed social market economy and a high standard of living, with an exceptional universal health care system. It is also one of the wealthiest nations in the European Union with about $44,000 in income per capita. It topped the Health sub-index, with impressive figures in the physicians and health expenditure per capita indicators and had a higher relative life expectancy compared to last year’s figures. Austria placed third in Material Wellbeing because of high income equality and low levels of unemployment.
2. Norway dropped from first to second place in the index this year, but it has an extremely high quality of life, an outstanding healthcare system and a sound financial system, according to Natixis. It is one of the wealthiest countries in the world with a sovereign wealth fund worth $800 billion. Norway saw improvement in a number of indicators and outperforms the average of the top 30 countries in all 4 dimensions of the Global Retirement Index, particularly in Material Wellbeing and Quality of Life. The country had a lower level of inflation, which prevents the loss of purchasing power of savings, a decrease in unemployment and an improvement in the curtailment of factors that lead to climate change. It underperformed in the Old-Age Dependency indicator because its ultra-low interest rate environment makes it hard for investors to grow their retirement savings and its high levels of taxation, 43 percent of GDP, hurt disposable incomes and the capacity to set aside savings for retirement.
1. Switzerland overtook Norway to claim the top spot on the Natixis Global Retirement Index. Its overall score was 84 percent compared to 87 percent last year, showing that overall country scores have gone down in 2014. Natixis points out that the index included government indebtedness as an indicator for the first time and it is developed country governments that generally have higher levels of debt as a percentage of gross domestic product. This new indicator, coupled with historically low real interest rates and a rise in the proportion of bank loans that are in default relative to other countries in the index, resulted in Switzerland falling from first to 6th place in the Finances in Retirement sub-index. Decreasing income inequality and rising incomes saw the country jump from 9th to fifth place in the Material Wellbeing sub-index. Improvements in the number of physicians per capita and the proportion of total health expenditure covered by insurance pushed Switzerland from 9th to 5th place in the Health sub-index. It also placed first in the Quality of Life sub-index.