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Sobering Look at Retirement Systems in 11 Countries

NEW YORK (AP) -- Retirement systems vary widely from country to country. In China, policymakers are just beginning to expand retirement benefits to everyone. In Australia, people have been compelled for years to save for their own retirements. Italy and Germany are raising retirement ages and cutting benefits.

Here's a look at retirement systems in key nations:

  • UNITED STATES

The United States is struggling to finance its promises to future retirees. Social Security is the core of its system. Social Security payments are financed by a tax on both workers and employers. The payments average $1,269 a month. Two-thirds of retirees rely on Social Security for most of their income. Americans can collect as early as age 62 but don't receive the full benefit unless they wait later to collect -- until age 66 for those born from 1943 through 1959 and age 67 for those born after. Many also rely on corporate pensions. But companies have been replacing them with 401(k)-style plans. These plans require employees to save and invest themselves. But many who are eligible for 401(k) or similar plans don't enroll in them, contribute too little or raid their accounts before retirement.

  • CHINA

China's population is aging rapidly. That has left a shortage of working-age people to pay into the pension system. For now, the retirement system remains generous for most city dwellers. Urban workers pay 8% of their income toward retirement; their employers add 20%. The pensions equal about half of pre-retirement income. Men are eligible for pensions at 60, women at 50 to 55. Only about half of adults are covered by the urban pensions or similar pensions that are available to government workers. In 2009, China introduced a pension plan for rural areas. But it's barely begun. And it pays rural retirees an average of just $12 a month. Policymakers are considering raising the retirement age for urban workers. China tightly regulates investing, making it difficult for workers to put money in riskier investments that offer higher returns and the potential to build significant retirement savings. China is reviewing ways to ease investment restrictions.

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