Retirement years: Millennials more sanguine than those over 50

Millennials here are more optimistic about their retirement prospects than older generations are, according to a new survey.

In the poll, 83 per cent of millennial investors - those aged between 25 and 34 - said they believed they would be able to maintain or even improve their current lifestyle after they retire.

In contrast, older investors seem to be lowering their expectations as they draw closer to retirement age - among the survey respondents, 44 per cent of those over 50 said they expected to scale back their lifestyle, according to new research from insurer Manulife.

Despite their optimism, many millennials in Singapore appear to be falling behind in their plans, even though saving for retirement is among their top financial priorities.

In the survey, only 50 per cent said they were on track to achieving their financial goals - one of the lowest figures in Asia.

Many millennials recognise that their retirement aspirations might be adversely affected by financial and health issues.

Of those polled, around 74 per cent planned to continue working in a full- or part-time job after retirement, expecting income from work to contribute nearly 20 per cent of their retirement income.

However, 53 per cent expected health conditions in old age to prevent them from taking this path. This suggests that part of their retirement income could be at risk.

These millennials might also eventually become the new "sandwich generation", as they find themselves having to care for both their children and their aged parents.

Of those surveyed, about 34 per cent believed they would need to support their children as well as their parents financially even after they retire, as opposed to only 8 per cent for those aged 50 or above. Moreover, 44 per cent did not expect to receive any financial assistance from their children.

In terms of additional financial burdens, half of the millennials who responded said they believed they would still be dealing with debt or a mortgage in retirement.

Manulife Singapore president and chief executive Naveed Irshad said: "It is heartening to see that millennials in Singapore are hopeful about their life in retirement, while still having realistic views about the financial and health risks that might be present."

"When it comes to saving for one's retirement, the key is to start as early as possible. The earlier you start, the easier it will be to make your retirement dreams a reality," he added.

The research also indicated that even though many millennials continued to favour investing in property as a means of achieving financial security, it might no longer deliver the returns they hoped for.

Of those polled, 68 per cent said that they intended to purchase a local property, with two out of five saying they planned to do so for investment purposes in order to generate rental income.

However, Singapore investors seem the least satisfied with their rental yields in Asia. Only 58 per cent of those polled expressed satisfaction, which suggests that millennials who are banking on this investment option might benefit from seeking alternatives so as to avoid disappointment.

Ms Wendy Lim, who is chief executive of Manulife Asset Management (Singapore), noted that in the past decade, yields had fallen across the board, be they rental, dividend or bond yields, and that the market had, on the whole, experienced greater volatility.

"Against this backdrop, investors should build a diversified portfolio across asset classes, instead of depending on one asset class or property alone to achieve their retirement goals," she advised.

Carried out in September and October last year, the survey was based on 500 online interviews in markets including Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Singapore. Respondents were middle-class to affluent investors aged 25 or above. They were the main decision-makers of financial matters in the household and holding investment products.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 26, 2017, with the headline 'Retirement years: Millennials more sanguine than those over 50'. Print Edition | Subscribe