The global retirement index is out and the results aren't good for the U.S.
The United States ranked 19th, behind Slovakia and ahead of only the United Kingdom in the top 20, according to the index, which was released Thursday by Natixis Global Asset Management.
The index measures the quality of life for retirees in 150 nations. Natixis sponsored the study, which analyzed citizens' health, finances, material well-being and happiness and was compiled by CoreData Research. Unfortunately, the U.S. didn't fare especially well in any of those four categories.
The findings pointed out that while Americans have the highest per-capita spending on health, it lags other nations in access to care, placing the U.S. 23rd in the health category. A high level of income inequality put the country in 38th place — behind nations like Poland and Singapore — in terms of material well-being, while the questionable status of Social Security put the U.S. in 28th place in the finances category.
Finally, while Americans are satisfied with life, the U.S. gets lower happiness scores for its environmental measures, which put it behind nations like Italy, Belize and Costa Rica — which is apparently the happiest place on Earth, as it is No. 1 in The New Economics Foundation's Happy Planet Index.
The biggest lesson from the findings is the fact that health care and retirement security appear to be inextricably linked, noted Tracy Flaherty, senior vice president of government relations and retirement strategy at Natixis.
“Your retirement security is dependent on your access to health care and how expensive it is,” she said. “These developing nations are wrestling with longer life expectancies and falling birth rates. In the U.S., we have very high health care costs, fewer doctors and fewer hospital beds.”
“All this factors into life in retirement,” she added. “A lot of advisers get how closely linked other aspects of someone's life are with their financial life, and that becomes more important as people get closer to retirement.”
Interestingly, nations at the top of the list were all in Western Europe and have robust social programs to care for their citizens: Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and France.
For instance, Austria, the top nation in health care, has universal health care and people are able to buy supplemental health care coverage. Norway, the top-scoring nation overall, offers free basic medical care to its citizens. Meanwhile, Switzerland and Sweden scored high on measures of income equality.