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Are Americans Ready for Retirement?

Christine DiGangi

A global report shows that people are more prepared for retirement this year than they were in 2013 and 2012, but that relative improvement doesn’t mean much when you look at the details. A survey of 16,000 employees in 15 countries puts average retirement preparedness at 5.8 on a 10-point scale — anything below 6 is considered low and indicates the person needs to do much more to get ready for retirement.

The Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey isn’t the most uplifting report, considering it says “the index shows employees everywhere continue to fall short in retirement planning,” and only 19% of those surveyed were very or extremely confident in their ability to retire comfortably. Europeans are particularly pessimistic, with only 6% in France and 4% in Poland expressing confidence in their futures as retirees.

Then again, improvement shouldn’t be overlooked: The readiness index improved to 5.8 after falling to 4.9 last year. In 2012, the first year Aegon produced the report, it was 5.2. At the same time, the report has grown over three years, now encompassing 15 countries, as opposed to the original 10. The countries with the two highest scores on the preparedness index were new additions in 2014.

U.S. employees have been interviewed in every report, and Americans finally edged their way out of the “low” preparedness category this year with a 6.2. (The U.S. scored a 5.2 and 5.6 in 2013 and 2012, respectively, and scores between 6 and 8 indicate medium preparedness.) It fares well in comparison to similarly developed nations, surpassing Germany and Canada in this year’s rankings.

Here’s how the 15 countries stacked up in this year’s report:

1. India — 7.0
2. Brazil — 6.8
3. China & the U.S. — 6.2
5. Germany — 6.1
6. Canada & the U.K. — 6.0
8. Netherlands — 5.7
9. Sweden, France & Turkey — 5.4
12. Poland — 5.1
13. Spain — 5.0
14. Hungary — 4.9
15. Japan — 4.6

The scores are determined by respondents’ answers to six questions, “which explore people’s understanding of pension planning, their sense of personal responsibility and the extent to which they are currently saving for retirement.”

Saving habits really drive preparedness, at least according to this survey, and while it may be a simple concept, it can be incredibly difficult to incorporate into your financial practices as you age. Not only is it hard to change your ways, you also have to save more the later you start planning for retirement. Failing to save now will likely push you into debt later in life, so you need to strike a balance of saving for the future while meeting your current financial obligations. Building savings and building great credit are not independent practices, so use free tools at your disposal to track your spending and your credit standing in order to come up with a financial plan that serves both interests. To see how your credit fares throughout time, you can check two of your free credit scores through Credit.com.

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