Why don’t employees save for retirement? When employees don’t appreciate the value of company benefits, potentially millions of pounds are "left on the table." My colleague in our London office decided to find out, and has published the results in a white paper. Here’s his blog post from  http://blog.buckconsultants.com/ 

It’s a question many employers ask themselves. Findings from initial research by Buck Consultants, through its think tank Financial Frontiers, turned up 5 attitudes and beliefs at the root of the problem. We are pleased to report Pensions World has been given a sneak preview and there are a few surprises. Here are the highlights:

  1. I may die tomorrow
    Contrary to all health statistics, people are caught up in a morbid grip of fatalism. Statistically, we know that the average citizen is due to live to 80. Cambridge University geneticist and researcher, Dr Aubrey de Grey claims that the first person to live to 1000 has already been born. Yet, feedback from Financial Frontiers research shows a belief system that discourages retirement savings.
  2. Work ‘till I die
    A second stream of thought is that people will be able to work until they die. The reality is that this is just not going to be possible. Many will need to sell their homes to meet the bare minimum of care in their old age. Entire professions will not be able to maintain their livelihood due to the preciseness of their skills, the need for manual labour, or due to the sensitivity of the task.
  3. Someone will look after me
    There is a strong paternalistic streak in people’s worldview. The blue-collar workforce still believes in a job for life. Young, well educated and highly paid employees believe that the government will look after them financially. The belief was almost religious. The overall message was “something will happen and it will all work out”.
  4. Can’t save, won’t save
    After evaluating the research, there was a growing question: is lack of savings due to the high cost of living or other priorities? A 45-year-old research participant said, “I say bugger it, live for today”. The focus appears to be on enjoying the moment rather than worrying about the future. Holidays, a car, electronics and clothes were seen to be more important than retirement savings.
  5. Can’t do the math
    Overall, people who had taken a look at their finances decided that saving for retirement fell in the “too hard bucket”. They don’t save in percentages, but rather put away small amounts of money whenever they can. They do not understand compounding, either on their salary or on the interest on capital. They find it difficult to compute what needs to go into the pot and what is likely to come out.

People invest their money in things they believe they understand. Mortgages and property together topped the list of savings vehicles. Current and savings accounts came next. New tax-free savings accounts have gained traction with savers as investment vehicles. Finally, even credit cards showed up on the list of savings vehicles, but not a word on pensions.

Buck’s research suggests key barriers to retirement savings are behavioural. The research has explored how people in the study have made positive financial decisions outside of the workspace and these have a direct impact on how employers can encourage retirement savings. There is a growing belief that employers are at the start of employees’ journey in making sensible decisions around their finances and retirement savings behaviour.

For a full review of the research, download “How to overcome employee apathy over retirement savings”.

If you’re not saving for your retirement, what’s your reason?