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When it's the weekend every day

What does the average Swiss couple really think of retirement? A time for quiet relaxation, or for exploring the big, wide world? No two people have the same idea of what life in retirement ought to be like. We asked thousands of Swiss men and women what they think. This is what they told us.

18 June 2020, text: Olena Faes, photo: Helvetia

Older couple with guitar.
Time for travel, activities and relaxation – retirement gives you all this. But only if you prepare for it.

Quiet and comfortable, or adventurous and varied: retirement has many facets. But whether life in retirement conforms to your expectations is another question. Whether you're 18 years old and in your first job or 64 and already retired, the question is the same: what do I want my life to be like after retirement? In the summer of 2019, for the brief study «What is the cost of living when it's the weekend every day?» Helvetia surveyed 1001 people aged between 18 and 64 whose ages, genders and language regions reflected the Swiss population as a whole. The whole study can be found here.

The dream of early retirement

More freedom, more experiences – many of our respondents hope retirement will give them more scope for peace and relaxation, but also for travel. But not everyone is that positive. Around 3% of respondents were doubtful about retirement, or even anxious about it. Why? They may feel lonely.

Though some respondents were doubtful and uncertain, the trend is towards early retirement. According to the Federal Statistical Office, one in three persons in gainful employment in Switzerland finishes work before reaching the official retirement age. Some respondents even hope to retire before the age of 55. But as finishing work can be quite a wrench, there's an alternative: partial retirement. This offers a smooth transition to the third phase of life, making it an attractive way to prepare for retirement.

Less income, more life

Cars, travel, family – these are what Swiss people spend most of their money on. At an average of 3,338 francs a year, cars are very clearly what the Swiss spend most on – while less is spent on accommodation and food. So cooking at home is still very popular. But retirement brings a few changes. Your income falls, but you want more out of life. Your day used to revolve around work, but now there is more time for relaxation and travel. The younger the respondents, the higher they expect the cost of living to be after retirement. Respondents were realistic about income in the third phase of life, expecting an average of 63.5% of what they make now. But comparing expected income with expenditure identifies a major shortfall. Respondents under 25 expect the highest shortfall.

Pension provision? No problem. Or can it?

When it comes to making provision for the third phase of life, nearly 30% of respondents feel they are not doing enough. This means there must be changes to the Swiss pensions system. For women and young adults especially, pension provision is not an urgent topic. While 42% of men regularly concern themselves with matters of insurance and finance, only 28% of women do. The same is true on a generational comparison.

Savings accounts are one of the most popular products for making provision for the future. 60% of holders of savings accounts use them to make long-term financial provision. In second place comes pillar 3a, seen as a classic private pension product in Switzerland. But it's a hot spot where differences between the sexes are concerned: male respondents have many more 3a products, while more women say they have taken out 3b life insurance.

The study shows that in many cases, pension provision and the products that offer it depend on income and age. «If you want to avoid a pension shortfall», says Donald Desax, Head of Occupational Pensions at Helvetia, «you should start saving in pillars 3a and 3b as early as possible – ideally as soon as you start work.» He also recommends making regular additional pension contributions, and to begin retirement planning no later than the age of 50. This enables a balance to be struck between planned expenditure and income.

All about pension provision

Here you will find the study on life after retirement and many other tips on retirement planning.