Around 15 million UK adults do not have a pension, Interactive Investor research suggests

by | Feb 17, 2021

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Money jar with pension written on

Nearly three in ten UK adults (29%) say they do not have a pension, according to new research, with big regional differences in pension ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

A survey conducted by Opinium for interactive investor, the flat fee pension provider, found that while 52% of people have “at least one” and 17% have “several” pensions, a significant group equivalent to around 15 million* UK adults do not have a pension at all, with 3% of respondents saying they don’t know if they have one.

Younger adults were more likely to say they don’t have a pension, with 35 per cent of 18- to 34-year olds saying they don’t have one, compared with 31 per cent of 35- to 54-year olds and 22 per cent of those aged 55 or older.


Women are more likely than men to say they don’t have a pension, with 31 per cent of women and 26 per cent of men replying that they don’t have any retirement savings of their own.

Regionally, people in the North East are least prepared for retirement, with 44% saying they do not have a pension. People in the East and West Midlands were next least likely to say they don’t have a pension, at 34% each.

The regions where people are least likely to say they don’t have a pension are Northern Ireland (18%) and Scotland (22%).



Region % of adults who say they don’t have a pension
North East 44
North West 31
Yorkshire and Humberside 24
East Midlands 34
West Midlands 34
East of England 25
London 29
South East 30
South West 25
Wales 26
Scotland 22
Northern Ireland 18

Source: Opinium

Broken down by city, Nottingham (41%), Newcastle (39%) and Liverpool (38%) were the cities with the highest number of people without a pension.



City % of adults who say they don’t have a pension
Nottingham 41
Newcastle 39
Liverpool 38
Southampton 30
Norwich 29
Bristol 29
Manchester 29
Birmingham 28
Sheffield 28
Brighton 27
Plymouth 24
Leeds 21
Edinburgh 18
Belfast 18

Source: Opinium

Becky O’Connor, Head of Pensions and Savings at interactive investor, said: “The high proportion of people who say they do not have a pension in this survey is deeply worrying.


All adults, of any age, in any region and whether man or woman should have a pension.

“The findings should concern government and industry as it suggests the problem of poverty in old age will steadily worsen over the coming decades, particularly as more generous defined benefit pensions become a thing of the past and today’s army of self-employed people, who are less likely to have a pension, reach a point where they stop work. Even those with defined contribution workplace pensions may find their pot doesn’t generate enough income in retirement.

Based on this evidence of a lack of private pension provision, any moves to cut incentives to save for the future, such as pension tax relief, would not seem wise. The Government would only have to pick up the bill in the form of higher benefit payments later on, if people have nothing of their own to fall back on when they retire. Equally the findings underscore the need for the protection of the state pension through the triple lock.”


Regional pension inequalities

“The research suggests that the issue of not having a pension is not confined to any one particular group, but across all age ranges and across the country. However younger people and people living in the North East and the Midlands are more likely to say they don’t have a pension.

“There are clear regional and local disparities. There is a high proportion of people in the North East (44%) relative to other regions who don’t have a pension, while at the other end of the scale, less than one in five (18%) of people in Northern Ireland say they don’t have a pension. These differences may reflect decades of employment and income trends in different parts of the country and are likely to be exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic.”


Age and gender

“Younger people may be more likely to say they don’t have a pension because they don’t yet earn enough to be auto-enrolled or because they have opted out, yet the early years of pension saving are the most beneficial, so the concern is that those who are not putting anything aside yet for their future may not be able to generate a big enough pot later on.

“Women are less likely to have a pension as they have historically spent less time in the workplace. Older women may also have missed out on auto-enrolment and so worked but without benefiting from a pension from their previous employers.

“If you don’t have any kind of workplace or personal pension provision but you are working, either on an employed or self-employed basis, it’s really important to put aside whatever you can each month for when you stop working. As long as you are working, don’t feel it’s too late. Also, there’s no such thing as too little. Something is better than nothing.

“The full new state pension currently provides an annual income of £9,110, which may be less than you are used to living on. You’ll only get that if you have 35 full years of contributions – if you don’t work for 35 years, your entitlement could be even lower. Also bear in mind that if you are renting and likely to still be renting into retirement, you’ll need enough pension income to pay rent, too.”


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