The Netherlands scored lowest out of eight countries for “retirement happiness” in research carried out by State Street Global Advisors (SSGA).

The country scored lowest on two of the three variables the provider identified as determining retirement happiness – trust and ownership – and third-lowest for “preparedness”.

The research covered defined contribution (DC) members in eight countries, representing a range of retirement systems: Australia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, the UK, the US, and the Netherlands.

It was informed by a survey of around 9,400 people, all of whom participated in a DC or similar retirement plan.

Launching its research report this week, SSGA said it found that “retirement structures with the highest objective rankings did not necessarily correspond to the happiest respondents”.

Alistair Byrne, head of pensions and retirement strategy at SSGA, said: “From these findings, we hope to have arrived at a blueprint for a successful retirement structure that combines effective practices with rewarding retirement experiences, gathered from around the world.”

The asset manager noted Netherlands’ high score in the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index – of the countries covered by SSGA’s study it scored joint-highest in the most recent ranking – and that it maintained very high coverage, participation and savings rates.

What objective approaches could not indicate, however, said Nigel Aston, global head of strategy and proposition at SSGA, was “how it feels – the human element – to be in those systems, and that’s what we wanted to find out”.

An unhappy retirement?

Just 8% of Dutch respondents said they were optimistic about their financial situation in retirement. The Netherlands also recorded the joint-lowest trust score, 2.2 out of five, level with the UK and Germany. 

Commenting on the Netherlands’ overall “happiness score”, SSGA said the country had “strong assets and a well-developed pension system, but is experiencing a savings model transition that’s created a low sense of ownership and a sombre outlook”.

Once reforms were implemented, the Netherlands would “more closely resemble Sweden”, added SSGA.

Italy, which had recently been through “painful” pension reforms, and Germany, which was on the cusp of reform, could also “look more like Sweden” if changes were successfully implemented, according to the asset manager.

The US scored highest of the eight countries, with Sweden and Australia in joint second place.

Sweden, commented SSGA, had “an established and well-understood system which is sustainable, providing a combination of state and private funding”.

The comparatively high level of confidence US respondents indicated was probably due to their being from a “relatively fortunate sector of the population”, with access to a workplace retirement plan, the manager noted.

The SSGA report can be found here.