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Big purchases in later life

Part of the Life Well Spent Report 2023

When it comes to big spends, it can be tricky to weigh up whether the cost will be worth it. For the second year running, we asked more than 2,000 over 50s about big purchases they’ve made in later life, and how they impacted their overall happiness.

What else are the over 50s spending their money on?

For everything that doesn't fall into the categories of holidays, renovations, cash gifts or debt repayments, there are other big purchases – think new cars, jewellery, and costly hobbies – that are popular spends in later life.

When asked if they’d made any of these big spends in the past five years, 44% of over 50s said they had – up from 38% in 2022. The most common purchase is a shiny new car or motorbike, which 31% of people over 50 report having bought.

But how much did they spend? Holiday homes and mobile homes came out as most expensive – both around the £21,000 mark – meaning spend on holiday homes is down by over £8,000 since 2022. New cars and motorbikes trail at an average of £15,000.

And how much did you spend on each of these? (Change since 2022)
Holiday home£21,439 (-29%)
Mobile home£20,459 (+1%)
Car/motorbike£15,252 (-21%)
Speciality home items*£4,109 (n/a)
Expensive hobbies£3,960 (+31%)
Expensive clothing/jewellery*£2,716 (n/a)
New bicycle(s)£1,008 (-4%)

*New addition to the 2023 survey

How do big purchases affect happiness?

Of those who made big purchases, 76% reported that they felt happier afterwards – 5% less than last year. Only 2% (+1%) saw a reduction in their happiness. And when split by retirement status, those not yet retired were seen to be marginally happier (78% vs 74%).

New wheels and holiday homes top the list of dream purchases

When it comes to dream purchases, nearly half (45%) of over 50s want a new car or motorbike – 6% less than last year – and the same figure want a holiday home.

Mobile homes (24%), expensive clothing or jewellery (16%), and speciality home items (16%) are also very desirable – with unretired people dreaming about all of these significantly more than their retired counterparts.

The one thing retirees and unretired people agree on is wanting a new car or motorbike, with 45% of both groups dreaming of this. There is, however, a slight gender divide, with 51% of men versus 39% of women reporting cars as a dream spend.

Women on the other hand are more likely to dream of purchasing holiday homes (49% versus 41% of men) and more than three times more likely to want to purchase cosmetic surgery (13% versus 4% of men).

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Carol Vorderman smiling