Chileans have been dumping money into mutual-fund retirement portfolios for more than two decades thanks to a government mandate that privatized the pension system. But that hasn't turned...
SANTIAGO, Chile Chileans have been dumping money into mutual-fund retirement portfolios for more than two decades thanks to a government mandate that privatized the pension system. But that hasn’t turned the country into a nation of serious retirement planners.
Experts say few of the 3.5 million workers who regularly contribute 10 percent of every paycheck into stock and bond funds have any idea whether their savings will be enough to give them a decent living after they stop working.
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Despite getting quarterly statements saying how much money they’ve saved, “most Chileans don’t know what their pensions will be,” said Joseph Ramos, an economist at the University of Chile.
The six private pension fund companies Chileans choose from to manage their money offer retirement calculators on the Internet or at customer-service centers to help savers determine whether they are on track. But most people don’t bother to do the arithmetic.
Chileans can also voluntarily contribute up to an additional 10 percent of their pay into their funds to ensure they’ll have enough money when they get old. But they rarely opt to do so, or even know if they should.
Most don’t start paying attention until they get past age 50, Ramos said. But saving more money earlier in life allows people to take advantage of compounded interest, meaning they’ll have more money later on based on a longer period of investing.
About 7 million of Chile’s 15 million citizens contribute to their own pension funds. The self-employed aren’t required to do so. But only about 3.5 million of the contributors add to them regularly through payroll deduction, according to the country’s Association of Pension Fund Administrators.
The government body that regulates the funds says 40 percent to 50 percent of contributing Chileans aren’t saving enough to fund the minimum pension of $136 monthly, meaning they will likely rely on the government to make up the difference.
But the pension fund association says 72 percent of regular contributors can expect $471 per month, assuming 5 percent average annual returns, and $544 monthly with 10 percent annual returns. Chile’s minimum wage is $207 a month.
Ramos advocates adding information in the quarterly statements to let clients know what sort of income they should expect at retirement based on the historic returns of their retirement mutual funds.
In the United States, the government-run Social Security program sends out annual statements to workers, letting them know how much they should expect each month after retirement.
The Chilean “statements should say what you will get if you continue to contribute at this rate,” Ramos said.