February 27, 2017

A new survey of Asian investors reveals that millennials in the region are at substantial risk of a cash crunch during their later years, with many expecting to carry mortgage debt into retirement or even run out of money altogether. Yet there’s optimism too.

Millennial investors, surveyed as part of the Manulife Investor Sentiment Index (MISI), revealed very mixed expectations about the quality of their financial futures. Despite widespread optimism about their retirement—with nine-out-of-ten (89%) saying they expect to be able to maintain or improve their standard of living in retirement—nearly one-third (30%) of millennial investors also expect to run out of money later on in life.

Roy Gori, President and CEO of Manulife Asia, said: “Asia’s millennials are naturally optimistic about their retirement as many will have grown up in an era of unprecedented economic development. With that prosperity comes a longer and better quality of life—and with that, higher expectations of the future.

“But the economic model that underpins our current understanding of retirement is quickly changing. Young people today will need to start saving, and investing, sooner rather than later. Otherwise they face a retirement of anxiety, not adventure.”

While no two investors will have the same retirement requirements, a common rule of thumb is to accumulate around 25 times the amount one expects to spend in the first year of retirement.  Yet the survey showed that, on average, millennial investors expect to accumulate just 8.2 times their annual income by the time they retire. While this figure was higher than the regional average of 7.5 times, millennial investors are still well short of the “25 times” benchmark.

Commenting on the findings, Michael Dommermuth, Head of Wealth and Asset Management, Asia, for Manulife, said: “Millennials may have been led to feel a sense of optimism for an improved post-retirement living standard, which is potentially misplaced.  Younger generations should plan strategically to begin accumulating wealth at early life stage.”

Family and health burdens likely to strain millennials’ retirement savings

Millennials acknowledge the challenges which threaten their financial security later in life. Nearly four-in-ten (38%) expect to financially support both their parents and children at the same time—significantly constraining their ability to invest and prepare for life after work. In comparison, only 29% of older investors expect to support their family in the same way.

Younger investors are slightly more concerned than generations past about the impact of health on their finances. Many millennials (39%) expect healthcare to become too expensive during retirement, and more still (43%) expect that their health will deteriorate to the point where they can no longer work. Despite these challenges, 71% of millennials expect to work in retirement compared to only 66% of older investors.

“It’s sobering to see how many investors, especially young people, recognise that there are risks to their retirement. Longer lifespans and later retirement will place increasing demands on investment funds, for which every investor should start planning ahead early for future protection,” Mr. Dommermuth added.

Traditional investment model no longer reflects reality of real estate

Many investors, including millennials, continue to seek financial security through real estate. Nearly half (45%) of millennials who intend to purchase local property across Asia seek to generate rental income from it. However, their expectations of a return may not reflect the diverging fortunes of the real estate market within the region.

Mr. Dommermuth said: “Younger investors looking to address their retirement shortfall should reconsider their investments in the context of rapidly maturing—or already mature—real estate markets. While previous generations relied heavily on real estate for their retirement fund, economics and demographics mean that today’s millennials need to take a different approach.

“Millennials whom invest in emerging Asia will likely fare better than those who buy a home in maturing Asia, where slowing growth and ageing populations can dampen real estate markets. They owe it to themselves to consider every option available to them in order to plan more effectively for their future.”

Manulife Investor Sentiment Index in Asia

Manulife’s Investor Sentiment Index in Asia is a yearly proprietary survey measuring and tracking investors’ views across eight markets in the region on their attitudes towards key asset classes and issues related to personal financial planning. 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 each in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, and 500 face-to-face interviews in Indonesia. 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 latest survey was conducted between September 2016 and October 2016 by TNS, a leading global research firm.