Retirement plans at risk: Almost 2 million older workers juggle supporting family with own financial future

Over-50s with dependents say their children’s (32%) or parents’ (12%) financial needs are the only reason they’re still working.

Two in five (40%) are motivated to stay in work by job satisfaction and fulfilment – including more than half of over-65s.

Record employment beyond 50 brings new opportunities with 4 million older workers having made significant job changes and 1.4 million becoming their own boss

One in five (19%) or 1.9 million1 over-50s workers are juggling their children’s or parents’ financial needs with their own retirement prospects, Aviva’s latest Real Retirement Report reveals, with many in this group facing pressure to work for longer and sacrifice saving for a comfortable retirement as a result.

However, with government data2 showing record numbers of over-50s currently in work, others have postponed retirement out of choice and are now enjoying a new career beyond their 50s. 

In a sign of the wide-reaching impacts of the financial pressures currently facing younger generations today, almost two in five (36%) over-50s workers with dependents say they will retire later than they expected because their children are still financially dependent on them. Almost a third of those with dependents (32%) say their adult children’s financial needs are the only reason they’re still working.

The need to help their parents financially is also prolonging over-50s’ working lives. More than one in ten (12%) over-50s workers with financial dependents say the only reason they are still working is to support the financial needs, including healthcare, of their own parents or their partners’ parents. More than two in five (43%) with dependents have concerns about being able to balance their work while caring for a relative.

This ties into a wider trend of people working for longer: among those over-50s who have an expected retirement age in mind, 3.6 million (62%) say this is older than they thought it would be ten years ago. Almost half (43%) of those retiring later than planned blame not having enough pension savings.

Financial pressure from family halts career progress and retirement savings

Having financial dependents is also affecting people’s career opportunities in later life. One in six (16%) over-50s workers with dependent parents or children say their responsibilities to younger family members have limited their future career prospects beyond their current age, while 13% say their responsibilities to older family members have had the same effect.

Worryingly, almost a quarter of over-50s with financial dependents (22%) say they have sacrificed their ability to save for a more comfortable retirement to support their adult children, while 12% have stopped saving completely to support children and parents who are financially dependent on them.  

Lindsey Rix, Managing Director, Savings and Retirement at Aviva said: “With children flying the nest later and later, many over-50s are shouldering the responsibility of putting their families’ financial needs ahead of their own for a prolonged period of time. As a result, many are facing a dilemma over delaying their retirement, while others are struggling to maintain their retirement savings habits. Workers of this age are in a key stage of retirement planning and would benefit from saving as much as possible to ensure a comfortable retirement, but are facing unprecedented hurdles to do so. Employers and government, as well as individuals, have important roles in helping to make saving a reality.”

Longer working lives brings new employment opportunities

However, not all over-50s are still working only because of their own or their dependents’ financial needs. Aviva’s research reveals that two in five (40%) over-50s are motivated to stay in work by job satisfaction and fulfilment rather than financial reasons – rising to 53% of 65-69s and two thirds (66%) of over-70s. Among those retiring later, 34% are doing so because they enjoy the mental stimulation of their job.  

Longer working lives are also bringing new employment opportunities. Almost two in five (39%) over-50s workers, or 4 million people, have made a significant job change since turning 50. One in seven (14%) or 1.4 million older workers have become their own boss post-50.

While almost three in ten (29%) who have made a career change say they are now experiencing more career success since turning 50 than when they were younger (vs. 23% of over-50s workers overall), significant numbers have had to make financial sacrifices to do so. These include accepting a lower salary (37%), dipping into savings (25%) and stopping (12%) or reducing (8%) their pension contributions.

Lindsey Rix said: “Our Real Retirement Report sets out to explore the breadth of experiences, challenges and motivations that characterise this fast growing part of the UK workforce. Better understanding of the issues facing this age group will help employers and government to meet over-50s’ needs and deliver the right support, ensuring older workers can enjoy a successful career while preparing financially for retirement.”


Download the Aviva Real Retirement Report Part 1: Over-50s Workforce Tribes

Media Enquiries:

Instinctif Partners: Rachel Morrod: 0207 427 1431 / 07815 628 825 or

Aviva Press Office:

Fiona Whytock | 01904 452 659 |

Katy Hurren | 07800 692548 |

Aviva’s spokesperson, Lindsey Rix, is available for comment/broadcast interview


1 ONS Table A05: Labour market by age group: People by economic activity and age (seasonally adjusted). There are 9,938,000 workers aged 50 and above (September 2017).


The Real Retirement Report is designed and produced by Aviva in consultation with ICM Research and Instinctif Partners. The Real Retirement tracking series has been running since 2010 and totals 29,568 interviews among the population over the age of 55 years, including 1,177 in July 2017 for the latest wave of tracking data (Q2 2017). This edition examines data from 3,327 UK adults aged 50 and over, of whom 1,829 are still working. 

Technical notes:

  • A median is described as the numeric value separating the upper half of a sample, a population, or a probability distribution, from the lower half. Thus for this report, the median is the person who is the utter middle of a sample. All figures are medians unless otherwise specified and are referred to as ‘typical’ rather than ‘average’ (mean).
  • A mean is a single value that is derived by adding all the values on a list together and then dividing by the number of items on said list. This can be skewed by particularly high or low values.

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