The retirement dream may not be the retirement reality

Nearly one in four think their retirement will be a financial struggle.

31% think they will only have enough to 'get by' in retirement.

Travelling, hobbies and giving money to children and grandchildren are the top three things employed people would most like to do when they retire1, according to Aviva’s new Retirement Reality report. But the findings2 also show a gap between people’s hopes for the future, and the reality they may be facing.

The report also found almost a third (31%) of people surveyed think they will only have enough money to ‘get by’ in retirement and nearly a quarter (23%) think life is likely to be a financial struggle. Only 17% believe they will have enough money to really enjoy themselves.

When you think about what your retirement will be like financially, which of the following is most likely?

Answer Total Age 22-30 Age 31-45 Age 46-55 Age 56-65
I will have enough to get by 31% 28% 29% 36% 32%
Retirement will likely be a financial struggle 23% 20% 24% 24% 24%
I won’t have enough to do everything I would like, but I will have enough to live well 18% 18% 18% 17% 22%
I will have enough money to really enjoy myself 17% 24% 19% 12% 13%

I don’t know, I’ve never thought about this

11% 11% 10% 11% 10%

Source: Aviva, 2018 - All percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number

The gap between dreams and reality

Aviva’s new report examines the gap between the retirement dreams of employed people in the UK and the financial reality they may be facing.

Despite aspirations to lead an active and generous retirement, less than a third of people surveyed (32%) said saving for retirement is among their top financial priorities. This drops to around one in five (19%) workers aged 22 to 30, but comes into much sharper focus for 56 to 65-year olds, with over half (54%) stating it is a top priority.

The success of auto-enrolment since it was introduced in 2012 means almost 10 million more people are now contributing to a workplace pension. In April 2019, minimum contributions will rise to 8% of earnings, including top ups from employers and the government.

However, Aviva believes even this is unlikely to give people the pension pot they will need for a comfortable retirement, or to achieve the dream of travelling and helping their children financially.  To help close the gap, Aviva is calling on the government to increase minimum auto-enrolment contributions to 12.5% by 2028.

Aviva has also developed three ‘rules of thumb’ for retirement saving to help people be better financially prepared:

  1. The 40 Year Rule: aim to begin saving at least 40 years before your target retirement date.
  2. The 12.5% Rule: aim to save at least 12.5% of your monthly salary towards your retirement. That includes contributions from employee, employer and the government.
  3. The 10 Times Rule: Aim to have saved at least 10 times your annual salary by the time you reach retirement age.

Our research has shown that the retirement dream may not be the retirement reality for many people.

Travelling the world is clearly a goal for some people, but if you’re not prioritising saving for retirement, that dream trip may never come true.

We know people are facing many financial pressures, which often make saving more difficult. But saving into a pension should be aspirational.  We need to remind ourselves that we are putting aside money for a better life in the future.

Retirement is something we should all look forward to, but we should be aiming to thrive, not just survive. To make our dream retirement a reality, the planning starts now.

Alistair McQueen, Head of Savings and Retirement at Aviva


Download the Retirement Reality Report 

1 Table 2: Thinking about when you are old enough to retire, what do you think you would most like to do? (select up to three)

Answer % of respondents
Travel 47%
Take up a new hobby/continue with old ones 29%
Give financial help to children/grandchildren 21%
There isn’t anything I would most like to do 18%

Buy a holiday home

Move abroad 15%
Start your own business 10%
Other  2%

Source: Aviva, 2018 - All percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number

2 Survey of 2,010 UK employed adults, aged 22-65, surveyed by Censuswide on behalf of Aviva in Q1 2018


Ben Moss
0117 928 5843

Instinctif Partners
020 7457 2020

Notes to editors:


  • Aviva provides life insurance, general insurance, health insurance and asset management to 33 million customers.
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