Brazilian policy makers and researchers have discussed the introduction of a complementary pension system to complement the Regime Geral de Previdência Social (RGPS), specially for those that want a retirement income above the RGPS ceiling. This article first recommends that the complementary system must be SUPER (Simple, Universal, Portable, Efficient with low cost and Robust Regulatation). It then proposes the adoption of a financial innovation called SeLFIES (Standard-of-Living, Forward-starting, Income-only Securities), as the default investment option for a modern capitalization regime. Brazil presents an interesting opportunity to be the first country to adopt and implement SeLFIES given the initial conditions, especially the innovations introduced in the market for government bonds. This financial innovation would help the Brazilian government address two challenges simultaneously: improve retirement security (by including even the most financially illiterate people and those in the informal sector in retirement plans) and boost infrastructure financing.
There is a looming retirement crisis, as individuals are increasingly being asked to take responsibility for their own retirement planning and a majority of these individuals are financially unsophisticated. They cannot perform basic compounding calculations and do not understand the impact of inflation, both critical aspects of retirement planning.
There is a looming retirement crisis, as individuals are increasingly being asked to take responsibility for their own retirement planning and a majority of these individuals are financially unsophisticated. Yet, these individuals are being tasked with the responsibility for three complex, interconnected decisions: how much to save, how to invest, and how to decumulate one’s portfolio at retirement.
A Globally Applicable Bond Innovation to Improve Retirement Funding, Support Infrastructure Development, and Lower Government Financing Cost and Risk
With a rapidly aging population, Portugal faces some serious pension challenges including a Social Security system which is under pressure, and pension benefits gradually approaching levels that will require individuals to supplement Social Security with private savings. In addition, Portugal has a low rate of financial literacy and hence transferring the responsibility of retirement planning to the general population runs a major risk of many individuals retiring poor. While some attempts have been made to create private pension plans, they have not had the level of acceptance as has been the case in some of the Anglo-Saxon countries. This paper argues that the government of Portugal could issue a new form of Sovereign Contingent Debt Instrument (SCDI) that can address the growing retirement challenge and achieve other goals as well. SeLFIES (Standard-of-Living indexed, Forward-starting Income-only Securities) are a new type of bond that greatly simplify retirement planning to the level of basic financial literacy and can not only address retirement security, but also improve the government’s debt financing and funding for infrastructure. Finally, since Portugal is part of the EU, the demand for these new bond instruments could be Euro-wide thereby providing additional benefits to the government in reducing its overall financing cost.