By Nathalie Voit

The United States slipped down one spot in the 2021 Global Retirement Index (GRI), an annual index developed by Natixis Investment Managers that tracks the state of retirement security across 44 nations.

The ninth annual index, released two weeks ago, ranks the U.S. 17th for global retiree wellbeing, below countries like Switzerland, Norway, and New Zealand. The rankings reveal lower scores this year in life expectancy, happiness, and national debt. The GRI places Iceland first for the third consecutive year.  

The index tracks retirees’ concerns across four key areas, including material satisfaction, access to health care, financial services, and quality of life. U.S. scores fell in three of the four sub-categories, placing the U.S. at 11 for Finances in Retirement; at 17 in Health; 21 in Quality of Life; and 26 in Material Wellbeing, according to Business Wire. The lower overall ranking was driven by worse scores in life expectancy, Finances in Retirement, and Quality of Life.

Several factors accounted for the U.S.’s drop in the GRI ranking, most notably the macro-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Business Wire reported. Individual U.S. investors surveyed by Natixis Investment Managers expressed concern over rising inflation, unsustainable public debt, and artificially low-interest rates. The findings revealed a world of worry for the young and soon-to-be retirees, as long-term trends like growing income inequality and a higher ratio of retirees to workers worsen. 

According to the report, over three in four Americans surveyed by Natixis Investment Managers believe rising government debt will lead to reduced Social Security benefits, making it harder for four in 10 to get by in retirement without federal help.

Two-thirds (68%) of investors view long-term inflation as the primary threat to their retirement plans, while one in two are worried low-interest rates will make it harder to generate returns in retirement.

The study revealed that nearly six in 10 agree that they will have to stay in the workforce for longer, while 36% believe they will never save enough money to retire.

Four in 10 U.S. respondents said, “It will take a miracle” to retire securely.

“The pandemic has exacerbated financial inequality and accelerated long-term trends that are eroding the prospect of retirement security for many,” said Senior Vice President of Retirement Strategies at Natixis Investment Managers Jim Roach.

While many Americans worried about the limits of the government’s ability to help them, the majority of investors (73%) understood saving for retirement was primarily their responsibility.

The responses suggest a turn towards the private sector for retirement help as more and more people are concerned about the capacity of the government to ensure security in old age. The report revealed eight in 10 individuals (including 77% of employers) believe private businesses have a responsibility to help Americans save for retirement. Another eight in 10 respondents said they would be more likely to work for a company that offered matching contributions for their retirement plan.