Debt and happiness in later life
Part of the Life Well Spent Report 2023
It’s no surprise that debt can affect our happiness. But what debts are over 50s worried about the most? We asked more than 2,000 of them to fill us in...
What debts do the over 50s have?
Around half (49%) of people over 50 have outstanding debts – mostly credits cards and mortgages – which marks an increase on the 44% we saw in 2022.
Retirees are 24% less likely to have outstanding debts than those still working. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the happiest over 50s are 8% less likely to be in debt than the average.
How much debt do the over 50s have?
Over 50s yet to retire have higher outstanding debts than those already retired, across all categories except ‘some other debt’. Their remaining mortgage is up by £3,000 since last year, and is a hefty £36,000 more than the average retiree’s.
Average debt still left to pay
|All over 50s (Change from 2022)||Not retired||Retired|
|Outstanding mortgage||£65,290 (+1%)||£70,051||£33,627|
|Car finance*||£11,341 (n/a)||£12,189||£7,206|
|Personal loans||£6,171 (-42%)||£6,407||£5,267|
|Money borrowed from family*||£5,186 (n/a)||£5,526||£1,450|
|Credit cards||£2,487 (-28%)||£2,565||£2,306|
|Store cards*||£930 (n/a)||£948||£848|
|Some other debt||£6,907 (-15%)||£6,060||£9,824|
*New addition to the 2023 survey.
What debts have the over 50s paid off?
Just over a third (37%) of over 50s have paid off their mid- to long-term debts in the last five years – that’s up from 34% in 2022. But 18% haven’t yet paid off any of their debts in full (19% last year).
19% of people over 50 have paid off their mortgage in the past five years. When we asked this same question in the first half of 2022 – just as the Bank of England base rate rises were beginning – that figure was 21%.
Paying off debt significantly improves happiness
Unsurprisingly, most people over 50 who have paid off their debts feel happier as a result (85% – exactly the same as in 2022), including 55% (-1%) who say they feel significantly happier.
And three-quarters of those who still have debts to pay off think doing so would make them happier. However, 24% think that paying them off would have no impact on their happiness whatsoever, or would even reduce their happiness.
85% of over 50s feel happier as a result of paying off their debts.