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US Retirement System Receives C+ Grade in Global Ranking

In a recently released Mercer CFA Institute Global Pension Index, the United States has received a C+ grade, placing it alongside countries like Kazakhstan, Colombia, Spain, and France. The index evaluates retirement income systems globally, considering factors such as adequacy, sustainability, and integrity.

Adequacy Concerns and Ranking Details

The C+ grade indicates that while America’s retirement system possesses positive aspects, it also harbors significant risks and shortcomings that require attention. With a score of 63 out of 100, the U.S. ranks 22nd out of the 47 countries assessed. The study emphasizes that the efficacy and long-term sustainability of the U.S. retirement system may be in question without necessary improvements.

Challenges and Inadequate Coverage

Katie Hockenmaier, partner and U.S. defined contribution research director at Mercer, highlighted the challenge of inadequate retirement savings coverage and the quality of retirement vehicles for many Americans. This inadequacy contributes to a significant gap that must be addressed to enhance the overall retirement system.

Three-Legged Stool and Social Security Concerns

The three primary sources of retirement income in the U.S. – Social Security benefits, employee pensions, and personal savings – collectively known as the “three-legged stool,” face challenges. Many Americans lack access to employer-sponsored retirement plans, as revealed by a recent Economic Innovation Group study. Social Security, providing about 40% of pre-retirement income, faces solvency issues, with projections suggesting potential depletion by 2033.

Long-Term Solvency Issues and Potential Solutions

The study underscores the long-term solvency concerns surrounding Social Security, indicating a potential depletion of funds by 2033. Without substantial changes before 2034, over 66 million Americans could face benefit reductions ranging from 23% to 25%. To enhance the U.S. retirement system, the Mercer study recommends measures such as increasing the minimum Social Security payment for low-income retirees, improving vesting benefits for individuals with retirement-savings accounts, and addressing “pre-retirement leakage.”

Global Leaders in Retirement Systems

While the U.S. grapples with challenges, only four countries – the Netherlands, Denmark, Iceland, and Israel – achieved an A grade in the index. This top-tier grade signifies a “first-class and robust retirement income system” characterized by delivering substantial benefits, sustainability, and a high level of integrity. As discussions on improving the U.S. retirement system continue, insights from top-performing countries may inform potential reforms.

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