5.2 million midlifers taking retirement action

by | Oct 31, 2023

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  • Six in ten (59%) 45- to 54-year-olds are taking action to save more for retirement, according to the latest research from Phoenix Group’s longevity think tank Phoenix Insights. 
  • Midlifers facing acute pension savings challenge, needing £160,000 more on average for a moderate standard of living in retirement.
  • Short term splurges on holidays and luxury items deprioritised by those wanting to get ahead and save more for retirement – with a fifth (18%) cutting back on these already.
  • Over two fifths (44%) would consider giving up eating out and takeaways and three in ten (29%) would even cut back on Christmas spending – recognising that small sacrifices build up to make bigger savings.
  • More significant lifestyle changes include considering downsizing their home (10%) and applying for a second job (8%) to save more for retirement.

5.2 MILLION, or six in ten (59%), midlifers aged 45 to 54 are taking action to save more for retirement according to new research from Phoenix Insights, the longevity think tank set up by Phoenix Group – the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business. 

According to the survey of 2,000 45- to 54-year-old workers across the UK, many midlifers are already reprioritising their current spending to ensure they can support themselves in the future. The most popular steps they have been taking are: 

  • Spending less money on holidays and luxury items (18%)
  • Increasing contributions to a workplace pension (14%)
  • Putting more money into a personal pension (14%)
  • Selling belongings they no longer need (14%)
  • Setting up automatic transfers into savings accounts (13%)

Many are also recognising that smaller steps can build up to have a large impact on their savings for retirement in the future. The top five sacrifices this group would consider making in the next 10 years to prioritise saving more include:

  • Eating out and takeaways (44%)
  • Buying a new car (35%)
  • A holiday (33%)
  • Christmas spending (29%)
  • Home maintenance or improvement (18%)

The findings come as midlifers in the UK face acute challenges when preparing for retirement, with respondents admitting that the high cost of living (63%) and increasing mortgage costs (20%) are making it harder to save. Phoenix Insights estimates that 45- to 54-year-olds in the UK currently have £88,000 on average in retirement savings, meaning this age group will need to save £160,000 more on average for a moderate standard of living in retirement, based on Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) estimates.  

But it’s not just about making changes to spending in order to save more, as some 45- to 54-year-olds are considering making significant lifestyle changes to support their income later in life.

  • One in ten (10%) midlifers are considering downsizing their home to help them save more for retirement. 
  • Some are looking to change jobs or take on more work to bolster their long-term savings, with 8% considering applying for a higher paid job and the same amount (8%) considering applying for a second job – equivalent to 710,000 45 to 54-year-olds across the UK.

Phoenix Insights previously found that 45 to 54-year-olds with workplace pensions are considerably less likely to hold only a defined benefit scheme for when they retire compared to those aged 55 and over (18% versus 26%). At the same time, this generation of workers may have missed out on the benefits of auto enrolment for as much as 21 years of their working life, as the policy came into force in October 2012 and only applies to employees aged 22 and over.  


Yet, today’s research shows that there is a large cohort of those aged 45 to 54 that are addressing these challenges head on, with over four in ten (42%) saying that they have a plan for how they are saving for retirement, and 45% are trying to save more. Recent research by Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, found that the average age people start to actively plan for retirement is 36, making midlife the ideal time to reflect on progress made against these plans.

Phoenix Group’s Patrick Thomson, Head of Research Analysis and Policy at Phoenix Insights, said:

“Across the UK, we are grappling with how to make the most of our longer lives, including how we prepare and save for the years ahead. The challenge is clear, as only one in ten (10%) of this age group believes they could live on the State Pension alone when they retire without cutting down spending. For those currently in midlife, often facing substantial financial and time pressures, it can be a critical time to take stock. Phoenix Insights’ research shows it’s also a time when many people are starting to take action, with 45- to 54-year-olds reprioritising their spending in order to save more, and some considering significant changes to their work and where they live. 


“Everyone’s journey to and through retirement will be different, and it’s clear there is no one-size-fits-all for how those in midlife are saving and planning for this time in their life. As we are living longer than the generations before us, we all need to think differently about our futures, and the futures of those we care about. For many, this can be a challenging topic to engage with. Our research shows that nearly half (49%) of people aged 45-to-54 find thinking about their finances is the hardest part of retirement planning. But with the support of those around you, we can all take the steps – large or small – to build a better retirement.” 

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