Pensions savings at all time low in UK says Scottish Widows report

3rd June 2013

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Thousands are set for a shock in retirement as pension savings rates collapse to an all-time low while aspirations for income later in life have soared writes Philip Scott.

Less than half, at 45% of working Brits over the age of 30 who could and should be preparing financially for their old age are presently saving enough, asserted to be at least 12% of income, according life group Scottish Widows in its 2013 Pensions Report.

The research found that one in five Britons are actually saving nothing at all for their retirement and over a third not nearly enough, the study of 5,200 UK adults found.

But despite UK pension provision falling to a lower level now than at the height of the recession – with 54% savings adequately in 2009 – the nation’s hopes for their retirement income have actually risen by £700 per annum over the past year.

The findings show that the average level of annual income people would feel comfortable living on at 70 years-old is now £25,200, up from £24,500, 12 months ago.

Based on current savings levels, an average person earning £25,000 per year, saving 9.1% of income planning to retire at 65 could receive under half the amount that they want, and that is assuming a 5% per annum growth rate.

If fact the total pension pot saved, for an average saver could be around £122,000 in today’s terms, which might provide an annual pension of just £3,860.  With the addition of the state pension, this would generate a yearly income of approximately £11,400, falling drastically short of the £25,200 annual income people are aspiring to and equating to a total pension fund shortfall of about £430,000.

This year’s research found that Brits are entering retirement with an increasing number of credit commitments, including loans, mortgages and credit card debt. Almost 5.3 million, some 24%, aged over 50 have a mortgage, over one in four, at 25%, have credit card debt and one in 10, at 8% have an unsecured loan. Out of those who are already retired, a third are still paying off debts and excluding mortgage debt, the average amount owed is £5,682.

Ian Naismith, pensions expert at Scottish Widows, said:  “We are being hit with a triple-whammy of, firstly, continued economic uncertainty making it difficult to save for the long-term; secondly the age of first time buyers rising as we face troubles getting on the property ladder and thirdly an ageing population. These factors combined create a perfect storm for those heading towards retirement. Whilst we are becoming more aware of the need to save for retirement, we must do more to ensure that we have a comfortable old age.

“People are now less prepared for retirement than at the height of the downturn a few years ago, yet expectations for income in retirement are still increasing. To meet these aspirations, an average saver would need to save £12,000 a year, or £1,000 per month. As a nation we must either prioritise saving for the future and prepare accordingly, or seriously adjust our outlook for old age.”

Savers need to consider three factors to tackle their retirement finances- start saving at a younger age, save more, or retire later than planned.

Whilst the majority of workers only start thinking about saving for retirement in their 30s, Scottish Widows has found that even at the relatively low growth rate assumed, beginning retirement savings five years earlier could add almost a fifth, £19 to every £100, in retirement income from their private pension, adding £725 to annual income in retirement for someone earning £25,000 and saving at the average rate of 9.1% of earnings. Starting to save 10 years earlier could add £39 to every £100, adding an extra £1,500 to annual income in retirement.

In addition, if workers start saving at our recommended rate of 12% at age 30 and increase the contribution rate by 3% of their earnings every five years, it could increase retirement income by 68%. In addition, despite Britons aspiring to retire at 62 years of age on average, the study concluded that deferring retirement from 65 to 70 could lead to a 43% fillip in the final pension workers take home.

Naismith adds: “Whilst starting saving as soon as possible is highly desirable, and increasing contributions as retirement approaches is almost essential, the biggest single difference can come from postponing retirement. The issue is whether a nation that aspires to stop working at 62 and have an annual income of £25,200 can accept this change.”

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