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Survey-Based Study on Partial Aspects of Retirement Decisions of Private Persons in Germany / von Ivonne Honekamp


In Germany, private retirement provision is a topic of increasing importance. The ageing population in combination with unemployment, an increasing number of temporary work contracts, more individuals who work part-time or in jobs not subject to social insurance contributions, make it problematic to finance the pensions of the retired in a pay-as-you-go financed pension system. Besides, the number of individuals not able to acquire sufficient pension claims exceeding the needs-oriented basic pension is increasing. Several pension reforms have taken place in order to alleviate the pressure on the pay-as-you-go system. In 2001, a voluntarily funded part was introduced to close the pension gap which has slowly been rising due to a declining replacement rate in the statutory pension system. Individuals now have to decide if they start to provide for retirement privately, how much they are going to save and where to invest. Such decisions require a sound knowledge of the German pension system and general financial knowledge in order to be able to approximate retirement needs and to compare financial products. Based on the theory of saving and its behavioral refinements, a decision model has been developed in this thesis which describes each step from thinking about retirement to actually saving for retirement. Each of these steps has been investigated empirically in order to find out more about the hurdles individuals face on their way towards private retirement savings. Based on an instrumental variable estimation, it will be shown that providing information about retirement provision alone will not be sufficient to make people think about an appropriate retirement income, to induce people to make concrete retirement plans and to increase the number of individuals who translate their plans into action. Instead of providing general pension knowledge, offering concrete and targeted information at the time it is needed might be a more successful strategy. These idea, results and conclusions stem from Oehler and Wilhelm-Oehler 2009a, 2011 who analyze the data from „Altersvorsorge macht Schule” („retirement planning goes school”). They recommend a practice-oriented, case-based financial education as well as a „meta education” to improve the „meta literacy” as shown by Oehler (2004, 2009a, 2011, 2012a, 2012d-e, 2013a-b). „Meta literacy” in this sense means that it is more important to know methods or people who can solve the problem when it appears, than acquiring all knowledge themselves being prepared to solve all possible problems (Oehler/Wilhelm-Oehler 2009, 2011; Oehler 2011, 2012a, 2012d-e, 2013a-b). This strategy may also be successful to solve the problem of time constraints which many individuals stated to be the main reason why they would not participate in a retirement seminar. Furthermore, the confidence in one’s own knowledge seems to be more important than actual knowledge which requires measures to increase consumer confidence. Such a measure could be, for example, a hypothetical situation in which seminar participants have to evaluate the offer they received from a financial advisor (Oehler 2004, 2005b, 2006, 2011, 2012a, 2012d-e, 2013a-b). According to the literature findings in the last five decades it is known that individuals fall back to heuristics in order to simplify decision. This behavior has also been observed in this work. Even though they own a pension product, they stated they did not try to figure out how much retirement wealth would be necessary to live an adequate retirement life. Hence, they must have followed some kind of decision rule to decide, among others, about the amount they save. Using heuristics was more prevalent among individuals owning a “Riester Pension” than among individuals owning a company pension. Since individuals with a company pension often receive information about the pension plan through the employer or via employer sponsored retirement seminars, such seminars seem likely to have the potential of increasing the number of individuals who engage in retirement planning before starting to save. The second one is that individuals who admit that they tend to procrastinate on financial decisions are more likely to join a retirement seminar than individuals who indicate that they would rather not procrastinate. Making people aware of the widespread problem of procrastinating retirement savings might increase the number of individuals who realize that they have procrastinated retirement planning and henceforth increase the number of individuals participating in retirement seminars.