“My pension won’t cover the bills,” Say Asia Investors — Manulife Survey

— Almost 9-in-10 investors in Hong Kong and Japan lack confidence in mandatory pensions

— Lack of confidence leads to calls for change in the system

— Only one-in-five Asian investors buy optional retirement plans

— Asia home to the ‘DIY Investor’, with majority missing out on professional advice

HONG KONG, Aug. 26, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Asian investors don’t believe their mandatory pensions will be sufficient to cover their post-retirement expenses, and would like to see a raft of changes made to the pension system, according to new research from Manulife[1].

Fig. 1 Many Asia investors lack confidence in their mandatory pensions
Fig. 1 Many Asia investors lack confidence in their mandatory pensions

Although pensions are expected to be a top-three source of retirement income, when investors were asked if they were confident that their mandatory pension would be sufficient to satisfy their retirement needs, only 38 percent could answer with a definite “yes”.  The top reason for their lack of confidence was concern the savings from the plan would not be enough to cover their retirement expenses (43 percent). Investors are also worried that investment returns will be too low and that they are unable to predict what they will get from their plans on retirement.

Notable is the fact that where reliance on a mandatory retirement scheme is highest, confidence is lowest. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, investors expect state or employer pensions to account for 18 percent of retirement income, while in mainland China and Japan it’s even higher at 30 percent and 31 percent respectively. But with dependence comes insecurity. Almost nine-in-ten investors in Hong Kong and Japan say they lack confidence in their mandatory pensions. In Taiwan the figure is 7-in-10, and even in mainland China, where there’s a strong heritage of state support for those in retirement, almost three-in-five lack confidence.

Investors Call for Changes to the Pension System

Calls for enhancements to the mandatory pension system are however shared Asia-wide. The top request from survey respondents was for more education on retirement planning (65 percent). Other changes requested were for greater flexibility on withdrawing funds before retirement and a wider range of investment choices. Investors also showed a strong preference for the contribution level to be raised, but said they felt the onus should be on the government or employer to contribute more to their pension plan (60 percent) as opposed to themselves (30 percent)

“Mandatory pensions are often investors’ first experience of forced saving for the future, so there’s a learning process in order to understand the features and benefits of their mandatory plan,” said Robert A. Cook, President and CEO, Manulife Asia. “The fact that investors recognize they need more education on retirement planning is a good thing. We encourage all investors to take greater personal responsibility for their own retirement and plan for other sources of income that will support them. Government pensions are a good start, but as investors know, they won’t be enough.”

Few Asia Investors Buy Optional Pension Plans  

Investors’ lack of enthusiasm is even more apparent in the case of private pensions, with only a fifth of Asia investors saying they’ve bought an optional pension or retirement plan.

Instead Asia investors expect to turn to other sources of income during their retirement, including savings (26 percent) and returns from other investments such as property (16 percent). However, the survey also shows that Asian investors aren’t managing their portfolios in a way that will generate the returns they need. Just over a third say they review their investment portfolio once a quarter, and changes to portfolio allocation are rare.

“The relatively low ownership of optional pension plans and the sense that government plans won’t be enough sends investors in search of other sources of retirement income,” said Donna Cotter, Head of Wealth Management for Manulife Financial in Asia. “But investors need to be sure that the alternative sources they are relying on will in fact generate the returns they expect, that the level of risk involved is not too high, and that they’re managing a diversified portfolio that will meet their needs.”

DIY Financial Planning Popular; Percentage Seeking Industry Advice Half that of US 

Asia investors express concern about their aptitude when it comes to retirement planning, with more than half (55 percent) admitting that they don’t understand their government pension plan, however, only 25 percent seek advice from a professional financial advisor — just half the level seen in the United States.[2]  The majority (60 percent) simply prefer to manage their own investments and miss out on input from industry professionals, such as financial advisers, insurance agents or bank staff.  

The findings show that Japan has the biggest percentage of do-it-yourself investors (76 percent), with Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan all above 50 percent. Conversely almost three-in-five investors in the region rely on family, friends and colleagues for their financial planning advice, while just under half use mass media.

“As with a lot of DIY, DIY financial planning makes good sense  when you have the right knowledge, tools and time to dedicate to it, but if not, you can end up with a result that isn’t what you hoped for or that underperforms,” said Donna Cotter, Head of Wealth Management for Manulife Financial in Asia. “Investors have variable levels of financial knowledge and often limited exposure to the various investment options available to them. This creates a greater risk of getting calculations wrong or of overlooking an investment product that could be the perfect fit. Taking the time to check thoroughly with professionals is time well spent.” 

For more information on the Manulife Investor Sentiment Index in Asia, please visit www.manulife-asia.com.

*About Manulife Investor Sentiment Index in Asia

Manulife’s Investor Sentiment Index in Asia is a quarterly, proprietary survey measuring and tracking investors’ views across eight markets in the region on their attitudes towards key asset classes and related issues. The Index is calculated as a net score (% of “Very good time” and “Good time” minus % of “Bad time” and “Very bad time”) for each asset class. The overall index is calculated as an average of the index figures of asset classes. A positive number means a positive sentiment, zero means a neutral sentiment, and a negative number means negative sentiment.

The Manulife ISI is based on 500 online interviews in each market of Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Japan, and Singapore; in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines it is conducted face-to-face. Respondents are middle class to affluent investors, aged 25 years and above who are the primary decision maker of financial matters in the household and currently have investment products.

The Manulife ISI is a long-established research series in North America. The Manulife ISI has been measuring investor sentiment in Canada for the past 15 years, and extended this to its John Hancock operation in the U.S. in 2011. Asset classes taken into Manulife ISI Asia calculations are stocks/equities, real estate (primary residence and other investment properties), mutual funds/unit trusts, fixed income investment and cash.

About Manulife

Manulife is a leading Canada-based financial services group with principal operations in Asia, Canada and the United States. Clients look to Manulife for strong, reliable, trustworthy and forward-thinking solutions for their most significant financial decisions. Our international network of employees, agents and distribution partners offers financial protection and wealth management products and services to millions of clients. We also provide asset management services to institutional customers. Funds under management by Manulife and its subsidiaries were approximately C$637 billion (US$597 billion) as at June 30, 2014. Our group of companies operates as Manulife in Canada and Asia and primarily as John Hancock in the United States.

Manulife Financial Corporation trades as ‘MFC’ on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and under ‘945’ on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at manulife.com.

Media Contact:


Saijal Patel
(852) 2202 1382

David Norris
(852) 2202 1749



Manulife Investor Sentiment Index, Q2 2014.


Manulife Investor Sentiment Index, Q1 2013

Photo – http://photos.prnasia.com/prnh/20140826/8521404761