A sizeable minority of Irish homeowners expect still to be paying their mortgages off in their retirement years, new research shows. The annual Friends First pension report, which includes a survey of adults between the ages of 25 and 55, found just over half - 56% - expect to be mortgage free when they retire. Meanwhile, less than half of those surveyed said they had a private pension. 

Simon Hoffman, pensions and investments director with Friends First, said a combination of the scale of mortgage debt, income pressure and the fact that people are getting on the housing ladder later in life may be the reason for this scenario. Mr Hoffman said problems may arise when the financial burden of a mortgage along with planning for retirement - two of the biggest financial assets that anyone can have - start to clash.

The problem around the takeup of pensions has been known for quite a while, and Mr Hoffman said that pension takeup cover has remained at a stubborn level of 43-44% for the last 10 years or so. He said that people's well-being in retirement is about two things - the income they have from their pension savings and their expenditure. The fact that people may still paying off a mortgage when they retire is not "an ideal situation", he added. 

He said there has been lots of talk about the pension time bomb, bookcases of reports have been carried out. But a pension - something which is put away and is not gotten back for a long time - is an easy thing for a person to push aside and more day to day things come to the fore, he added.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  last night talked overnight about publishing a five year roadmap for pension reform before the end of the year. Mr Hoffman said the Taoiseach's comments were welcome as they gave an actual starting day for the much needed reforms to begin. In his speech, Mr Varadkar also talked about auto enrolment starting in 2021 and Mr Hoffman said that while there are lots of complexities and issues yet to be sorted out an actual start date was a key move forward.

MORNING BRIEFS - Hong Kong's debt has been downgraded by Standard and Poor's a day after its ratings cut on China. The ratings agency is citing what it called "spillover risks" from the Chinese mainland into Hong Kong. S&P said the cut reflects Hong Kong's status as a Special Administrative Region of China.

*** Germany's Lufthansa and UK-based Easyjet are both in talks with Air Berlin which is in bankruptcy protection. The two will have three weeks to negotiate with its creditors. Reuters reports the two are likely to carve up the insolvent carrier with Lufthansa seen as likely to acquire the majority of the business.