Through its reasonable, for the most part at least, assumptions the study projects that the likely pension income shortfalls cover such a broad spectrum and such a large and steadily growing number of future retirees that spot fixes like the proposed PRPPs won't do the job.
The study summarizes the future problems thus (my highlighting):
"The principal finding of this study, however – that is, a projected gradual increase in the proportion of future retirees likely to experience a significant decline in their standard of living upon retirement – persists even with differing assumptions for future real wage growth, inflation, rates of return, RPP coverage, and future saving rates." (page 2)We are just at the start of a long-term uptrend in inadequate pensions that is little affected by such things as increased saving in RPPs, which is essentially what the new PRPPs would offer to people working for small companies and the self-employed. Look at this chart from the study. Other charts in the study have similar inexorably upwards trends based on "business-as-usual" in pensions savings methods/plans.
"... the proportion of newly retired individuals unable to replace at least three-quarters of their average pre-retirement consumption from the sources we model is projected to nearly triple over the next 40 years (see Figure 9). If current trends persist, by the 2046-50 period, about 45 percent of workers currently aged between 25 and 30 years would not meet our 75-percent threshold ... " (page 20)
"This decline in potential consumption replacement would be felt across the entire earnings distribution ... " (page 20)
All this looks like a pretty substantial problem to me.
Ironically, the following quote suggests an alternative:
"... the public pension system, which is mandatory and has nearly universal coverage, provides high levels of consumption replacement to individuals with low pre-retirement earnings. The higher a person’s earnings, the more voluntary saving by the individual (and/or his or her employer) through RPPs, RRSPs, home equity, or other instruments is needed to replace consumption in retirement." (page 13)In other words, the combination of OAS/GIS and CPP have been doing a great job. When higher income income earners have to rely on the various other means, they fall short.
There is one problem with the public pension option, however. The beneficial influence of OAS will progressively wane. By being indexed to CPI inflation, it only maintains the standard of living at the moment of retirement. The standard of living slowly rises i.e. real wages increase and real consumption does too, faster than CPI does. Since the pension objective assumed in the study is to maintain a level of consumption, anything that goes up only by CPI will produce less and less consumption relative to new retirees. Here is the relevant study chart.
A couple of assumptions probably understate the future pension challenge.
1) Home equity drawdown - the study assumes as base case that 50% of equity in a home would contribute to retirement income. The methods for accessing home equity, like high-fee reverse mortgages, or downsizing, seem unlikely to happen for most people except under forced circumstances. To the authors' credit they run the model excluding that assumption and the difference is another 5% or so today, rising to about 8% in 2050, of the population with less than the target 75% consumption replacement rate.
2) Consumption replacement at age 70 - this number derives from actual government data based on what is used from various sources, including investment return sensitive limited capital RRSPs and RRPs from defined contribution plans. The study does not, that it says anyhow, model consumption to track adequacy all through the retirement years. What happens to the income at age 75, 80 and 85? Chances are it won't go up. Age 70 is likely the maximum income / consumption. One of my relatives has been using a RRIF to supplement her income but it will run out in a few years so she is facing a significant drop in income/ consumption. The model thus does not seem to attempt to evaluate the effect of longevity risk sharing, or not, (running out of money before you die).
One telling point founded on the actual past statistics is the fact that " ... the net real rate of return received by individuals in the future is roughly 1 percent for RRSPs and 2.5 percent for defined-contribution RPPs." That's a shockingly low return compared to the actual historical asset class returns of 4% averaged for a portfolio. The combination of fees and poor investment decisions by individuals trying to manage on their own really cuts deep. If the real return for investors could magically be 1.5% higher, it looks from figure 13 as though another 5% of Canadian retirees in 2050 would escape the inadequate income threshold of the study.
People need to assess the problem properly before deciding on how to fix it. Like a bad paint job, if you don't do it right the first time, you will soon be doing it again.