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7 July, 2020

Retirement savings in the time of COVID-19 – OECD – June 2020

This document details the impact of COVID-19 on retirement savings plans, describes some of the policies that are already being implemented in different countries, and provides policy guidelines to follow. According to the report, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, associated quarantines, and the related economic downturn, are affecting retirement savings, retirement savings plans, providers, regulators, and supervisors, which could lead to lower future retirement earnings and major market dysfunctions.

In view of the above, countries have introduced a series of policies to face these challenges. These policies are directed at members of the pension plan; employers, retirees and/or providers of retirement savings plans (e.g. pension funds). The OECD analysis has identified several policy responses:

  1. Policies to limit the materialization of short-term investment losses.
  2. Policies to guarantee the solvency of the guaranteed plans and the business of the pension providers.
  3. Policies that grant subsidies to cover pension contributions and support asset accumulation.
  4. Policies to address operational disruptions
  5. Policies to protect providers and participants from cyber risks and scams related to COVID-19.
  6. Policies to provide short-term relief to individuals or their employers.

The first five policy responses focus on ensuring the resilience of the privately funded pension system and protecting future retirement income and their adequacy from the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the latter answer provides short-term relief, but may have a potential cost for future retirement income.

Some of the final recommendations made in this report are that policymakers should ensure that people who save for retirement stay on track, as saving for retirement is long-term (avoid selling and materializing losses in value).

Allowing access to retirement savings should be seen as a last resort, depending on the specific and individual exceptional circumstances in each country. Retirement funds are for financing pensions. Accessing retirement savings could lead to temporary losses in asset value, liquidity and investment management problems for pension funds, and, most importantly, insufficient retirement income. Current regulatory frameworks already allow retirement savings to be tapped in exceptional circumstances when substantial income losses occur, and should not be further expanded.

To review the complete document, please download it here.

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