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Life Well Spent Report 2023 summary

To better understand the relationship between happiness and major spending decisions, for the second year running SunLife asked more than 2,000 people over 50 to share:

  • What big purchases they've made in later life
  • The big purchases they'd like to make if money was no object
  • How their spending has affected their happiness

The report covers daily spending, holidays, home improvements, family, debts, other big purchases and equity release.

With the cost of living on everyone’s minds, the findings are a window into the lives, concerns and dreams of people over 50.

The report at a glance

Happiness and retirement

38% of over 50s rate their life satisfaction as an 8, 9 or 10 out of 10 – the same as in 2022

61% of over 50s would retire early if money was no object – just 1% down since 2022

Daily spending

73% of over 50s say the rising cost of living is their biggest financial concern

59% of over 50s say they are spending more on the weekly shop in the last year


£2,411 The average cost of a holiday abroad for people over 50 (-£161 since 2022)

£732 The average cost of a holiday in the UK for people over 50 (+£27 since 2022)

£7,037 The average estimated cost of a dream holiday for people over 50 (-£4,365 since 2022)

The USA is the top dream holiday destination for people over 50

Home improvements

90% of over 50s who've paid for a new extension say it's improved their happiness (-1% since 2022)

36% would get a new kitchen if money was no object (-1% since 2022)


49% of over 50s have outstanding debts (+5% since 2022)

£65,290 The average amount left to pay on the mortgage for all over 50s (£504 more than in 2022)

Cash gifts

£29,616 The average amount gifted by over 50s to loved ones for a house deposit (+11% since 2022)

£1,610 The average amount gifted by over 50s to their loved ones to help with the rising cost of living

Other big purchases

44% of over 50s said they've made big purchases in the last five years (+6% since 2022) – with the most common purchase being a car

45% of over 50s want a new car and/or holiday home

Equity release

3% of homeowners have taken out equity release

£106,747 The average amount of equity people would choose to release (+£18,604 since 2022)

£43,579 The amount people who release equity spend on paying off their mortgage and/or other debts – £25,138 more than in 2022

38% of people who released equity spend it on home improvements (-1% since 2022)

3 in 4 people who released equity say it made them happier

Over 50s are still worried about the rising cost of living

The UK is in a cost of living crisis, with 73% naming this as their biggest financial concern (-2% since 2022).

People over 50 are also especially worried about unexpected, sudden costs – and about running out of money during retirement.

When asked freely, money was the third most popular answer for “what brings you most happiness” – but it wasn’t having a lot of money that brings people joy. Most mentioned simply having enough to pay for essentials without worrying about paying the bills.

However, certain big spends do actually improve their happiness overall (for example, gifting cash to family or getting a new extension), despite the high cost.

How do the happiest over 50s spend?

According to our 2023 findings, the happiest over 50s:

  • Spend more on longer holidays abroad and in the UK
  • Spend on extensions, garden, or new kitchens to improve their homes
  • Have paid off their outstanding debt
  • Have given cash gifts to family, especially for early inheritance, special Christmas/birthday presents, or towards a house deposit

Supporting family matters most

Family is listed as one of the top three things that makes people over 50 the happiest , and 27% are worried about how their children and grandchildren are managing financially. So, it’s no surprise that gifting loved ones cash made them happier – whether it was for tuition fees, a special gift, a wedding, or a house deposit.

Most over 50s would also like to leave their family an inheritance when they’re gone, or give them an early inheritance while they’re still here.

Very few know all the facts about equity release

For some, equity release can make big purchases in later life possible.

Almost 3 in 4 people who released equity said it made them happier, with the most popular uses of the money going towards paying off debts, giving family financial support, and supplementing income.

But only 4% of over 50s know all the facts about equity release, and misconceptions about the industry are still common. So there’s still a way to go when it comes to awareness about all the options available.

Find out more about equity release

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Carol Vorderman smiling