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7 min read

SunLife asked people over 50 to complete an online survey that discusses the financial and emotional costs of retirement, looking at wider concerns that may feature and offering practical tips.

Read on to see our findings.

1. Report background

The research was commissioned in March 2021.

In total, 1,000 online interviews were completed with people over 50.

Half were conducted with people under 65 and half above 65 to have a reasonable spread of those approaching retirement and those who have already retired.

The data has been weighted to nationally representative profiles.

Over 1,000 interviews were completed

Almost half (49%) of all respondents were retired. Almost a quarter (23%) were in full time employment.

The impact of the pandemic on people’s employment status

  • A quarter (26%) of respondents who were in employment were furloughed during the pandemic.
  • 16% had their hours or pay cut.

2. Current household

56% of people we asked were married.

Almost half (48%) had a two-person household.

88% of people lived with their partner while 36% lived with a child or children.

The average number of children was two as was the average number of grandchildren.

Of those asked, 56% lived in their own home without a mortgage. The average property price was £276,286.

3. Priorities for retirement

Holidays feature strongly for all, but those retired find gardening, socialising with friends and family to be top priorities

More than half of those both retired and not yet retired were prioritising travel and holidays.

56% of those retired said gardening came second.

What are your priorities in life now you are retired / What are you looking forward to doing when you retire?

Retired / Not retired

Travel / holidays (58% retired / 59% not retired)

58%

59%


Gardening (56% retired / 40% not retired)

56%

40%


Spending more time with my friends (46% retired / 44% not retired)

46%

44%


Seeing more of my children / grandchildren (49% retired / 40% not retired)

49%

40%


Focusing on my existing hobbies (37% retired / 39% not retired)

37%

39%


Do more exercise / more sport / walking (27% retired / 31% not retired)

27%

31%


Helping my children / grandchildren financially (26% retired / 23% not retired)

26%

23%


Do voluntary work (17% retired / 20% not retired)

17%

20%


Go to the theatre / art exhibitions more (18% retired / 18% not retired)

18%

18%


Starting a new hobby (7% retired / 22% not retired)

7%

22%


Learn a new foreign language (6% retired / 10% not retired)

6%

10%


Start a new business or enterprise to earn money (2% retired / 10% not retired)

2%

10%


Focusing on my health (1% retired / 0% not retired)

1%


Something else (4% retired / 2% not retired)

4%

2%


Amongst those who have already retired 4 in 5 say that life has got better since they retired.

Amongst those who have retired ‘having more time’ is an important reason for why life has become better.

Less stress, more time to spend with my family and friends, pursue my hobbies and relax & listen to my favourite music

More me time for holidays etc. More time to spend with my husband and family. Chances to go walking and spend time in nature

Much more relaxed. Enjoying live and not have the stress of a 2.5 hour daily commute

Spending habits

Since retiring, 41% of people have changed their spending habits.

The biggest areas where people spent less since retiring

38% on Fuel

38%


37% on Clothes

37%


31% on Holidays

31%


22% on Travel or transport (e.g. Train or bus)

22%


21% on Days / Nights out

21%


20% on Takeaways

20%


19% on Weekly shop

19%


14% on Public entertainment (going to concerts / cinemas / theatre)

14%


12% on Alcohol

12%


10% on Beauty treatments

10%

More than 50% of people who’ve spent more since retiring have spent more money on holidays.

Spend on grandchildren, children and home improvements has also risen.

Perceptions

Almost 4 in 10 miss working, but the majority seem happy to have left it behind.

For those who did miss it, memories, social interaction, and a sense of purpose were reasons given.

I miss driving the truck, but I didn't realise that until I'd been retired for 7+ years

I have no family, so my work colleagues were like family to me. We had worked together for years

Whilst most think they retired at the right time, 18% said they retired too early.

  • The average age for retirement was 59
  • For those who weren’t retired, the average preferred retirement age was 64

Coronavirus did not substantially disrupt plans for retirement for most people.

4. Financial income: expectations vs reality

People who were retired had around £100 more in disposable income per month than those not yet retired, despite lower monthly incomes.

Household monthly net income (mean average £)

Retired / Not retired

Retired - £2,114

£2,114


Not retired - £2,375

£2,375

Household monthly disposable income (mean average £)

Retired / Not retired

Retired - £617

£617


Not retired - £525

£525

State or private pensions are the top sources of income for those retired.

Savings and investments also supplement income in retirement.

71% have the same standard of living as they did before retiring though 1 in 10 have seen a fall.

Three quarters have a private pension, and have almost £150,000 saved in it, on average.

Only 12% of people approaching retirement said they definitely had enough money for their retirement.

A quarter of people hadn’t given any thought to financing their retirement.

75% of people approaching retirement said they were expecting the state to finance their retirement.

Those approaching retirement had mixed expectations about their standard of living in the coming years.

Did people expect to have the same standard of living as they have now

40%

40% of people expected to have the same standard of living as they have now

33%

33% of people expected to have a worse standard of living than they have now

14%

14% of people expect to have a better standard of living than they have now

13%

13% of people didn't know what standard of living to expect.

A third were worried about leaving their job when they retire.

Two thirds of people approaching retirement say they were confident about their ability to manage their finances during retirement.

How confident did people feel about managing their finances during retirement?

Very confident / Quite confident / Not very confident / Not at all confident / Don't know

Retired

41% of people are very confident about managing finances during retirement

41%

49% of people are quite confident about managing finances during retirement

49%

5% of people are not very confident about managing finances during retirement

5%

2% of people are not at all confident about managing finances during retirement

2%

2% of people are unsure about managing finances during retirement

2%


Not retired

16% of people are very confident about managing finances during retirement

16%

52% of people are quite confident about managing finances during retirement

52%

20% of people are not very confident about managing finances during retirement

20%

7% of people are not at all confident about managing finances during retirement

7%

5% of people are unsure about managing finances during retirement

5%

Most talk about money to some extent with their spouses or partners, but around two thirds know exactly how much their partner earns.

Among those people who are retired, 24% say they budget more than before they retired.

5. Financial concerns or worries

Worries differ between people who have retired and those approaching it.

Those retired worried more about long term care, whereas those approaching retirement worried more about rising living costs and running out of money.

What is the biggest financial concern or worry?

Retired / Not retired

The rising cost of living (21% retired / 25% not retired)

21%

25%


Running out of money (9% retired / 27% not retired)

9%

27%


Paying for long term care (20% retired / 9% not retired)

20%

9%


Falling value of pensions (5% retired / 10% not retired)

5%

10%


Not being able to leave money to my loved ones when I die (4% retired / 5% not retired)

4%

5%


Not being able to help younger family members (3% retired / 4% not retired)

3%

4%


Increase in tax (4% retired / 2% not retired)

4%

2%


Stock market crash (5% retired / 1% not retired)

5%

1%


House prices falling (1% retired / 2% not retired)

1%

2%


Low interest rates (1% retired / 0% not retired)

1%


Something else (1% retired / 1% not retired)

1%

1%


Nothing - no financial worries (26% retired / 14% not retired)

26%

14%

Amongst those who are retired most (80%) say they have enough money to do what they want to do.

Just over half of those approaching retirement think they have enough money to do what they want to do.

6 in 10 wish they had started saving for their retirement earlier.

6. Financial regrets and advice

The biggest regrets for those approaching retirement is not saving more and not starting a pension sooner.

Top financial regrets

Retired / Not retired

Not saving more (26% retired / 51% not retired)

26%

51%


Not starting a pension sooner (22% retired / 37% not retired)

22%

37%


Frittering away money on small things (13% retired / 26% not retired)

13%

26%


Poor investment decisions (8% retired / 10% not retired)

8%

10%


Giving too much money away to my family (7% retired / 6% not retired)

7%

6%


Spending too much money on big ticket items (5% retired / 6% not retired)

5%

6%


Not getting financial advice (3% retired / 7% not retired)

3%

7%


Not working in a better paid job (0% retired / 1% not retired)

1%


Divorce (1% retired / 0% not retired)

1%


Something else (1% retired / 1% not retired)

1%

1%


None - no financial regrets (51% retired / 24% not retired)

51%

24%

Around half of all over 50s wished they had done something different to prepare for the financial cost of retirement.

Mentions included saving more, setting up a pension earlier.

Consulted a financial adviser in my twenties

Changed my lifestyle and joined a personal pension instead of just a company pension scheme

Saved more into my workplace pension instead of spending it on holidays etc.

6 in 10 of had advice for younger generations, but most are not talking to their children about retirement.

“Starting to save early” is one of the main pieces of advice for younger generations

Other suggestions included budgeting carefully and paying regularly into a pension.

Start saving or investing in safe, reliable products immediately after starting work. Invest a tiny percentage but increase this every year or at every wage/income increase. By retirement the investments will be substantial

Join a credit union to save a little and often

7. Health

9 in 10 of those retired said they now have more time to do the things they like to do.

In general, those who are retired are happier with life now they have retired.

Long term care

Paying for support and long-term care is a worry for many.

Only 1 in 10 say they would definitely be able to manage financially if their partner needed long-term-residential care

End of life planning

7 in 10 of those retired already have a will, and a quarter have a power of attorney – those not yet retired are much more likely to have neither.

Of those with a will, most have informed the person who they would like to be their executor.

Around half of people without a power of attorney said they would consider putting one in place.

Many have not yet made any plans for their funeral.

(Only) a third of those who are retired have made any plans for their funeral – even less of those approaching retirement have done so.

Of those who have made plans, around half expect to use a pre-paid funeral plan to pay for their funeral.

Others plan to use existing savings and investments or an over 50s life insurance policy.

How will people pay for their funeral

Retired / Not retired

Pre-paid funeral plan (54% retired / 49% not retired)

54%

49%


Through existing savings and investments (29% retired / 27% not retired)

29%

27%


Over 50s life insurance (21% retired / 34% not retired)

21%

34%


Other life insurance policies (1% retired / 2% not retired)

1%

2%


By dontaing my body to medical science (1% retired / 1% not retired)

1%

1%


Some other way (3% retired / 2% not retired)

3%

2%


Dont know / not thought about it (0% retired / 3% not retired)

3%

8. Top tips for retirement

A range of practical hints and tips were given by those who are retired to help others prepare for retirement:

  • Enjoy retirement
    80% said that life has become better since they retired. They have more time and the freedom to do what they want.
  • Start saving from a young age
    Save money when you can, and try not to ‘fritter money away’ on small things. Average net monthly income amongst those who are retired is £2,114 and around 8 in 10 are hopeful that they have enough money to last their retirement.
  • Don’t retire too early
    The average age of retirement was 59, and although 76% felt they retired at the right time one in five (18%) said they retired too early. Few felt they retired too late.
  • Plan for the future
    Paying for support and long-term care is a worry for many, particularly if their partner needed long-term residential care. Only 9% of those who are retired felt they could definitely afford this.
  • End of life planning
    Many have not yet planned their funeral yet. Of those who are retired only 36% have made any plans for their funeral.