For younger workers it might be time for a retirement reality check

28 October 2016

  • Average target retirement age for UK workers is before their 62nd birthday

  • However, one in 10 workers have not started to save for pension and won’t start to do so until they are 46 years old

  • Meanwhile many younger workers expect a retirement income similar to or below this year’s retirees – a big real-terms pay cut by the time they come to retire

UK workers are hoping for an early retirement as they plan to give up work before they turn 62. However, they could be facing up to a retirement reality check, according to new research from Prudential1 which explores the retirement preparations of different age groups across the country.

Prudential’s new Intergenerational Retirement Study found that one in ten people (11 per cent) have yet to start saving into a pension, and the average age that those who are saving for retirement started to do so was 27.  

The results also show that as people get older their target retirement age tends to get later. However, across most age groups people expect to retire well below the State Pension age.


All respondents

aged 21-30

aged 31-40

aged 41-50

aged 51-65

Average target retirement age 

61 years,
8 months

60 years,
6 months

60 years,
8 months

61 years,
8 months

62 years,
10 months

Current State Pension age


68 years

(Now aged 31) 68 years
(Now aged 40) 67 years

67 years

Variable ages up to 67 years depending on gender and date of birth

Sources: Prudential’s Intergenerational Retirement Study – July 2016.
State Pension age calculator: - correct to October 2016.

In a sign that a reality check is around the corner for many younger workers, despite the widespread confidence in being able to retire early, nearly one in five under-50s (18 per cent) are worried that their savings aren’t on track and they’ll have to work on past their target retirement age. A further 37 per cent of under-50s fear that they’ve only saved enough to just get by in retirement. By contrast, nearly nine out of ten (87 per cent) of those aged 51 to 65 are on track to give up work as planned, the majority of whom say they expect to live comfortably in retirement.  

To further underline the shock that many younger workers may have coming their way when the time comes to stop working, more than half of those under the age of 40 (53 per cent) estimate that their retirement incomes will be roughly equal to or below the average incomes of those retiring in 20162. In context, this means that people who are anything up to 45 years away from retirement are expecting to be able to live on £17,7002 or less per year, which of course will be worth considerably less in real-terms, when they give up work.

Vince Smith-Hughes, a retirement income expert at Prudential, said: “The desire to retire as early as possible is completely understandable, but with life expectancies increasing all the time and the average retirement now lasting over 20 years, it is unlikely to be achievable for everyone.

“As people’s retirements get longer the responsibility for funding them will shift even further towards individuals. Pensions are about saving for the long term so the best way for most people to secure a comfortable retirement is to save as much as possible from as early as possible in their working life.

“For many people with a specific retirement date in mind, it is likely that a consultation with a professional financial adviser will help to put a savings plan in place to make sure they meet that goal with sufficient savings in their pension pot.”

Prudential’s research also found that the 11 percent who are not yet saving for retirement say that on average they don’t expect to start saving into a pension until they are 46 years old. Worryingly, included in the ranks of those not yet saving are nearly one in ten people (nine per cent) in the 51 to 65 age bracket. 

Notes to editors                                                                                     

1 Consumer Intelligence conducted research on behalf of Prudential between 6 July and 24 July 2016 among a nationally representative sample of 1,052 people aged between 21 and 65.

2 Prudential’s Class of 2016 research found that people planning to retire in 2016 have an average expected annual retirement income of £17,700.

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