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Survey Finds Nearly One in Five Americans Expect Never to Retire

18 September 2013

New York, NY - Working until you drop is no longer confined to the pages of Victorian novels according to the sobering findings of a new report published today by HSBC. The study discovered that nearly one in five (18%) working-age Americans expect they will never be able to afford to completely retire, believing that circumstances will require them to work indefinitely. This compares to an international average of around one in eight (12%).

This latest HSBC report entitled 'Life after work' is the ninth in a series focused on international attitudes towards aging and retirement and is based on a survey of more than 16,000 people in 15 countries and territories1 between July 2012 and April 2013. The findings paint a particularly bleak picture for the growing number of Americans who are currently living alone. One in three (33%) divorced or separated U.S. respondents said they did not believe they would ever be able to retire, compared with the survey average of one in five (20%).

For those already in retirement, over two fifths (44%) of people in the U.S. said they had not prepared adequately or at all for a comfortable retirement, compared to some 38% globally, with almost half (43%) of those only realizing they were underprepared after retiring. Around one in eight (12%) of those Americans who did not prepare adequately said they would be forced to go back to work to cover their financial shortfall. This compares with the survey average of 14%.

However, it's not all doom and gloom. HSBC's research goes on to highlight four practical actions, which can help retirement savers everywhere to plan now for a better future in their old age:

Action 1: Don't rush into retirement
There is a view among retired people that they might have been too hasty in giving up paid employment. Nearly two-thirds (64%) who entered semi-retirement wished that they had stayed in full time employment longer. This regret is largely for positive reasons, with many retired people seeing work as an important means of keeping the body and mind active.

Action 2: Don't rely on one source of retirement income
Current retirees have three different sources of retirement income on average, wisely choosing not to generate all of their income from one place. Spreading their sources of retirement income and associated risks means that not all their eggs are in one basket.

Action 3: Plan your retirement with family in mind
Rather than family ties loosening in future, the family will continue to be a major consideration in retirement planning, and may even grow in importance for the next generation. While many people (40%) aspire to travel extensively during their retirement, nearly half (49%) of current workers expect to have some financial responsibilities towards others even when they are themselves retired. This includes on-going financial responsibilities for their adult children as well as supporting frail elderly parents.

Action 4: Be realistic about your retirement outgoings
Many working people assume that their income needs will fall once they enter retirement. Yet 52% of people in retirement have seen no reduction in their outgoings, and 17% have seen their outgoings increase. Although people are familiar with the concept of increasing life expectancy, the consequent increase in later life medical and nursing care costs may not be well understood as people are still not doing enough to prepare themselves for these potential costs.

Andrew Ireland, Regional Head of Wealth Management, HSBC North America, said: "While some people still regard a comfortable retirement as a natural entitlement, for a large number of Americans this is no longer the case. Today's workers should prepare for retirement as early as possible to have some certainty later on. Life is full of reasons to prioritise short term spending over longer term planning but the sooner people start saving, the less likely they are to have to rely on working in retirement."

Notes to editors:

1 Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States.

Respondents in the United States numbered over 1000.

HSBC's The Future of Retirement program is a world-leading independent study into global retirement trends. It provides authoritative insights into the key issues associated with aging populations and increasing life expectancy around the world. The latest global report, Life after work? is the ninth in the series and is based on an online survey of 16,000 people in 15 countries and territories. Since The Future of Retirement program began in 2005, more than 125,000 people worldwide have been surveyed.

For more information about The Future of Retirement, and to view all previous global and country reports, visit www.hsbc.com/retirement.

HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of the HSBC Group, is headquartered in London. The Group serves customers worldwide from around 6,600 offices in 80 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, North and Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. With assets of US$2,645bn at 30 June 2013, the HSBC Group is one of the world's largest banking and financial services organisations.

HSBC North America Holdings Inc. is the holding company for HSBC Holdings plc's operations in the United States and, at 31 March 2013 had assets of US $305.3bn (US GAAP). The company's businesses serve customers in the following key areas: retail banking and wealth management, commercial banking, private banking, and global banking and markets.

Cicero Consulting is a leading consultancy firm serving the banking, insurance and asset management sector, Cicero specialises in public policy consulting as well as global thought leadership and independent market research. Cicero was established in 2001 and now operates from offices in London, Brussels, Washington and Singapore. As a market leader in pensions and retirement research, Cicero designed and analysed the research and wrote this report, with Mark Twigg as author and Paul Middleton as research director.

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