Retirement is scary. The overwhelming majority of French people say they are indeed “concerned” by the cessation of activity which, for some, is fast approaching. In fact, as evidenced by the 15th edition of the Barometer Circle of Savings-Ipsos, several questions cross future retirees. Many of them are indeed wondering about the resilience of our system of intergenerational solidarity, particularly after the health crisis and the “whatever the cost” then decided by the Head of State; which some have not failed to recall how costly it has been for public finances. Others fear that they will not be able to support themselves. 79% of respondents say they fear a lack of money to come after the liquidation of their rights.
These concerns, say the pollsters, go hand in hand with poor overall information about pensions and the way the French system works. According to the readers of Planet, solicited on this same subject by the editorial staff, confusion reigns indeed. Well aware of their ignorance, several hundred Internet users explain that they are frightened by retirement – and in particular by all the administrative dimension that accompanies it.
In detail, 773 cybernauts (i.e. 88% of readers questioned by our newspaper) say they have trouble identifying their pension rights with precision. 385 of them say they know nothing about the method of calculating their pension and even more (392) explain that they do not know how to validate new quarters of contributions. Other devices less obvious – but no less important! – as well as the replacement rate are also not well known, since 375 web explorers say they have no idea what it is. 315 of them also report not knowing how to prepare for their departure and avoid the many traps involuntarily set before them… While 266 say they do not know the difference between the general scheme and the supplementary scheme.
More worrying, perhaps: the readers who responded to Planet’s questionnaire also partly say that they do not know the age of the automatic full rate (290 individuals out of 484 respondents) or the legal retirement age on January 1, 2022 (277 individuals out of 547).
Of course, such answers do not necessarily paint a very representative portrait of the French population. However, they at least partially corroborate the results of the Circle of Investors and the Ipsos Institute. Until recently, the two organizations claimed that 71% of workers do not know how much they could earn once they retire. How to explain such a lack of knowledge?
The French and the French show obvious shortcomings in terms of retirement, confirms the economist Philippe Crevel, also director of the Cercle de l’Epargne and former secretary general of the Cercle des Épargne. That being said, he explains, they retain a comprehensive knowledge base. “Our various surveys highlight many flaws, but also a certain French passion for pensions. It is a very passionate subject, studied with as much concern as apprehension, and which has been the subject of a certain pedagogy over the water”, judges the macro-economist.
This “pedagogy over the water”, believes Alexandre Delaigue, is however not the most effective. An economist by training and associate professor at the University of Lille 1, he judges that the succession of reforms has not helped to simplify the situation. “The French system is very complex by nature, which is a first problem. Then, the avalanche of reforms we have been confronted with does not help to see things more clearly. Very clever whoever can know what will happen in the future”, he observes for Planet. Especially since there was never any question of making the task easier for the insured… “The various transformations that we have undertaken were aimed above all at guaranteeing a certain stability for the public authorities. They therefore did not create uncertainty for the State. For the pensioner, on the other hand, they had the opposite effect, which explains why a significant number of French people are convinced that they will not have a pension”, further details the academic, who recently underlined how each reform aimed to save money on the backs of the next generation of retirees. Therefore, he insists, the only certainty that it is possible to have is that pensions are perceived as “an adjustment variable”.
Florence Legros, economist and director of the ICN Business School partly shares this analysis. She also refers to a system that is difficult to understand “given the large number of pension plans”. “As long as an insured person has had a somewhat complex career (navigating between the public and the private sector, or making incursions into the liberal professions, etc.), the method of calculation becomes complex, the methods of indexing the salaries charged to the account vary, point schemes are added to annuity schemes, etc. As a result, it is not surprising that the insured declare a certain opacity of the calculation methods”, she believes.
This state of affairs is all the more dramatic in that it is governed by a perceptible opacity on several levels, adds Alexandre Delaigue. And it is not without consequence on the ratio of assets to heritage. “This ambiguity is inevitably anxiety-provoking. Especially since it pushes French women and men in search of advice… who will therefore face experts whose only reasonable answer will always be ‘We don’t know for the future'”, deplores the teacher-researcher , believing that this is precisely what encourages people to turn to retirement savings and precautionary savings. “All the uncertainty about pensions and acquired rights comes from the discourse maintained by politics in France”, he still judges.
For Florence Legros, it is the questions relating to “retirement age” that “add to this opacity”. “When a leader says that the retirement age should be increased, no one knows exactly what it is: the automatic full rate? of the minimum age to claim your rights provided you have the required number of annuities? age says ‘pivot’?”, she asks.
Only, here it is, the economist emphasizes again: there is not just one type of discourse that poses a problem. Ambient alarmism is just as harmful to a proper understanding of rights.
“The alarmist discourse is also a source of misunderstanding on important mechanisms such as the impact of economic growth on the level of pensions. Many people confuse the replacement rate (macroeconomic, it is the ratio between the average pension and the average salary of the moment) which is actually expected to decrease all the more as economic growth is strong, and the average pension which – it – does not decrease since it is indirectly indexed to economic growth (via wages which increase like productivity)”, she asserts.
French women and men, as Planet has already explained, tend to repeat a number of mistakes when preparing for retirement. Some of the latter, which sometimes result from inaccuracies of which the National Old Age Insurance Fund is guilty, can also cost them a considerable amount, amounting to 70 million euros in total for the year 2021 alone. of this nonsense stems from a misunderstanding of rights. But what are the least known devices on which it would be good to look further?
Some of the most misunderstood rights, unfortunately, are made more complex by the system, explains Florence Legros from the outset. “If the reversion is quite well known, the contributions of children are less so and few people know that they count differently depending on whether they were ‘made’ in private or in the public”, she explains as well. . And to continue: “At the same time, certain rights ‘disappear’ in circumstances that are often ignored: for example, parental leave cannot be combined with quarters of birth and gives rise to quarters assimilated but not assessed. For example, does not allow leaving early for a long career…”
“Anything that relates to an atypical career, it seems to me, is little known and misunderstood”, judge for his part Alexandre Delaigue, for whom “it is likely that many retirees are entitled to more what they touch but are simply not aware”. And he mentioned different types of careers, but also specific statuses likely to give rise to such situations: “As soon as you have not spent all of your time with one and the same employer, you can fall in what is called an atypical course. The same is true for certain professions, as may be the case for the wives of farmers or traders who have specific rights”.
For the economist Philippe Crevel, it is other notions that sin the most. “It should not be forgotten that the quarters of contributions do not really correspond to a temporal quarter. In general, everything related to the calculation of the necessary quarters is often more complex than what some can estimate since one can gain a quarter in a single month, it is necessary to take into account the periods unemployment, maternity leave… This is the key point, which is found at the heart of the calculation of retirement pensions”, judges the director of the Cercle de l’Epargne. “Obviously, all the rights relating to children, as well as the increases to which one can claim, are also fairly unknown. This is also true of the systems for gradual retirement or post-cessation accumulation, which are rarely used. All constitute important points of vigilance at the time of the reconstitution of the career”, warns the expert again.
Of course, we must also talk about the various protection mechanisms put in place by pension funds. The latter are involved in favor of the active and healthy aging of the French population. They therefore prepare various well-being workshops, touching on various areas such as nutrition, memory, balance, sleep… or even lighter themes such as holidays. Be careful, however, these personalized action plans are subject to certain resource ceilings and also depend on the fragility of the insured person concerned, notes the specialized site Retraiteplus.fr.
In practice, it is not necessarily so complex to identify one’s pension shortcomings. Nor is it incredibly difficult to find out about such questions, recall Philippe Crevel and Alexandre Delaigue. “It is less a lack of information than a problem inherent in the system, insofar as it is quite easy to calculate the amount of his future pension with precise simulators”, recalls the latter. And the former secretary general of the Cercle de l’Epargne agrees: “Big progress has been made over the past 20 years, with the emergence of the info-retraite.fr site. The documentation is more accessible, more personal, the assessment easier and, in general, the pension funds have aligned their information”. “Besides, he recalls again, it remains possible to make an appointment with a correspondent of his pension fund; either by phone or email, or directly in person. It is also possible to use structures that facilitate retirement, which can prove to be almost essential for the most complex files, except to tolerate a certain number of errors.
“Great efforts have been made for several years to give employees and future retirees information on their pension rights”, confirms Florence Legros, who also quotes the info-retirement platform. “The access is quite simple (via FranceConnect), the information is detailed and ensures that the entire career of the future retiree is taken into account. Simulations are available which allow for example to arbitrate in full knowledge on a retirement age”, she adds. Not without inviting, in the event of a problem, to turn to the last pension fund of their career. It is with her that it is possible to benefit from assistance, indicates the director general of the ICN Business School. “Both at the material level – rights, age – and at the organizational level, they often do a lot of work. Some employers also organize retirement preparation sessions, often in connection with the additional supplement with which they work”, specifies the expert.