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UAE Retirement Trends in 2020

It’s estimated that 90% of the workforce in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are expats, which splits UAE retirement trends in 2020 somewhat. Pension funds are only limited to UAE nationals working in the government and private sectors as well as:

  • Emirati employers
  • Emirati self-employed
  • Citizens of GCC countries

For expats there is no pension fund in place, just end-of-service-gratuity. It’s been highlighted that generally, gratuities and end-of-service-benefits (EoSB) that are offered to employees are not sufficient to cover retirement expenses. It’s expected that a number of policies and programmes will be introduced by the UAE government soon that can help fund retirement costs for expats including healthcare costs.  

UAE Retirement Trends

On average, people in the UAE expect to retire at age 58 and expect to live until 73 according to HSBC research, roughly equating to a 15 year retirement compared to the global average of 20 years.

Property is seen as the top way to build returns for retirement savings in the UAE. When asked to rank which investments they believe delivered the best returns, 65% of working age people said property. The next preferred investment cash savings at 50%, while 22% preferred stocks and shares. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t represented within people’s retirement plans. Only 6% of respondents are expecting property to help fund their retirement, while 43% expect pension schemes to be their main source of income.

With interest rates at historic lows, 50% of working age people are expecting to move their money from savings into investments, although within the UAE especially the risk threshold is very low – only 40% would be willing to make an investment with a level of risk and only 28% would make an investment that could result in financial losses.

How does the UAE want to fund retirement?

65% of working age people think property delivers the best returns. 

50% for cash savings

25% for buying a business

22% for stock/shares

16% for government/corporate bonds

15% for personal pension schemes

UAE Retirement Plans

So how are the varying generations of the UAE workforce planning for retirement? On average UAE millennials start saving for retirement by age 28 but nearly 41% haven’t even started. When posed the same question, 35% of Generation X and 29% of Baby Boomers haven’t put any savings towards retirement.

In terms of risk aversion and information-gathering, millennials are more proactive on both fronts. 45% of millennials are willing to make riskier investments to ensure financial stability – higher than both Generation X (35%) and Baby Boomers (34%), while 67% of millennials actively seek information to inform future financial decision, compared to 66% of Generation X and 63% of Baby Boomers.

Research also shows that even though people realise the need to start preparing for retirement, certain life events are holding them back. With over four in five (83%) in the UAE expressing this sentiment, it’s clear that people are still facing the effects of the financial crisis, even though the overall economy has generally moved on. 23% of pre-retirees have cited the economic crash and subsequent effects – unemployment and a drop in earnings – as having an impact on their ability to plan for later life.

UAE Conclusion

So what does this mean for the UAE workforce? Clearly property is a popular choice for retirement planning, even if it isn’t always attainable in the local market. For many investors in the Middle-East, a solution is to look at overseas markets for their investments – especially those where value can be found in favourable foreign exchange rates. This is especially true for expats that are planning retirement now. With no pension scheme currently in place, it’s vital to find alternative routes to securing finances in later life.

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