Nine million UK mid-life employees flying blind into retirement

  • 8.9 million employees aged 45 and over do not know how much they will need to save for a comfortable retirement while 5.1 million do not know how much they have already saved in their pension.
  • Mid-life employees are calling on their employer for more support.
  • Aviva analysis shows it’s never too late to save, with the average UK employee aged 45 potentially able to generate a pension pot of more than £50,000* by the time they retire at 65 from a standing start.

Millions of mid-life UK employees are sleep walking into retirement, according to new research from Aviva UK1.

The study, which looked into mid-life2 employees’ financial preparedness for later life, revealed 64% of employees aged 45 and over - the equivalent to nearly nine million people - do not know how much they will need to save to afford a comfortable retirement.

In addition, over five million mid-life employees (37%) do not know how much is already saved in their pension. Question marks also hang over the state pension with two in five (43%) respondents unaware of how much support they will receive from government. A further 26% do not know at what age they’ll be eligible for the state pension.

With the full new state pension currently valued at £168.80 per week, this adds up to a retirement income of £8,777.60 per year3.

Table 1: Percentage of employees aged 45+ that do not know the following information


% of UK employees aged 45+

Number of UK employees aged 45+

The age at which I will qualify for the state pension



How many pension pots I have



How much I have currently saved in my private pension(s), if anything



What type of private pension scheme I have



How much my employer contributes towards my current private pension



The state pension provision



What the pension freedoms mean for me



How much I need to save before I can retire comfortably with the lifestyle I want



Most employees (62%) aged 45+ do not know what the pension freedoms mean for them, while 37% do not know what type of pension scheme they have – for example whether it’s a defined contribution or defined benefit scheme.

Never too late to save

However, the analysis also highlights it is never too late to save. Based on the average UK salary of £28,0004, Aviva calculates that an employee aged 45 today with no savings to date could build a pension pot of £56,100 by the time they reach 65, based on the current minimum employee and employer pension contributions under auto-enrolment alone (a combined 8% of annual pensionable earnings). 

Table 2: Projected value of savings for average employee by retirement age of 65[5]

* It’s important to note that these figures are based on assumed charges and rates of growth, which are not guaranteed. The value of investments can go down as well as up and employees may get back less than has been paid in.

Starting age

Amount saved by employee

(5% contribution of annual pensionable earnings)

Amount contributed by employer

(3% contribution of annual pensionable earnings)

Projected value of pension savings by 65 years old

(projected investment growth of 2.4%)

















Employers seen as an important source of financial guidance

Most employees surveyed see their employer as a critical source of financial help in navigating the uncertainty around their pensions, with two thirds (65%) believing their employer should provide support around employees’ pensions.

Lindsey Rix, Managing Director of Savings and Retirement at Aviva comments: “Millions of mid-life employees are flying blind, and fast, towards their retirement. At the same time these employees are calling upon their employers for help.

“Without a clear picture of what they currently have saved or might need to save for a comfortable retirement, our findings show many UK employees are approaching retirement with their eyes closed – with no realistic idea of how near or far they are from their destination.

“As a first step, mid-life employees who are mystified by their pension savings should try to get a clear picture of what they have saved so far and how much of an income this can provide them with over the course of retirement.

"For some, this may be a pleasant surprise, while for others, it could be the wake-up call that’s needed to spur them to take action. People whose pensions are in need of a boost shouldn’t be disheartened, however, as it’s never too late to save.

“At Aviva we’ve launched a Mid-Life MOT for our people aged 45 and over to offer them guidance on their wealth, along with their work and wellbeing needs. Mid-life employees are the fastest growing employee population in the UK by age, and we urge other employers up and down the country to consider introducing similar schemes to ensure they feel fully supported.”

Top tips to help demystify pensions for mid-life employees:

  • Understand where you start – before considering your plans for tomorrow it’s important to understand where you stand today. Look into your current pension savings and policy and research when you’ll be eligible for the state pension, and how much support you’ll receive.

  • Take advantage of your workplace pension – all employers are legally required to provide a workplace pension. And if we save, our employer must save with us too.

  • Track down your pensions – moving jobs more frequently means amassing more pension pots. It can be hard to keep track of different pots, however the government offers a pension tracing service to help you track down any mystery pots.

  • Take advantage of online planning tools - Aviva’s Shape my Future tool can give you an idea of what your retirement income might be based on your current saving habits and let you see the possible effects of making changes.

  • Find out if there’s financial guidance available at your workplace - many employers offer employees sessions with financial advisers, it’s therefore worth checking if your employer already has these initiatives in place. Some organisations such as Aviva have introduced Mid-Life MOTs for their employees, to help employees in this age group to consider their wealth alongside their work and wellbeing.

- ENDS -


1.      Research of 1,036 UK employers and 2,020 employees aged 45+, conducted on behalf of Aviva by Censuswide, January 2019. All figures are based on this research unless otherwise stated. 8.9 million figure scaled up according to the latest ONS Labour Market Stats – calculated as 64% of UK employee population aged 45+
2.      Employees aged 45+ are defined as ‘mid-life employees’ throughout the release
3.      UK State Pension Allowance – weekly allowance of £168.80. £168.80 multiplied by 52 =£8,777.60
4.      Figures based on ONS average weekly earnings in Great Britain: July 2019
5.      Projections calculated based on the below assumptions:

Amount saved by employee:

  • Assuming average salary of £28,000 pa
  • Assuming employee contributes 5% of pensionable earnings
  • Pensionable earnings equates to £21,864 of the total salary of £28,000

Amount contributed by employer:

  • Assuming average salary of £28,000 pa
  • Assuming employer contributes 3% of pensionable earnings
  • Pensionable earnings equates to £21,864 of the total salary of £28,000

Projected value of pension savings by age of 65:

  • Assuming investment growth of 2.4% pa after inflation and an annual pension product charge of 0.75%.

Aviva’s Mid-Life MOT

Aviva’s mid-life employees, aged 45 and over, represent approximately one third of its 17,000 UK workforce. The business recognises that its future success relies on the skills and experience of this important age group. Over-45s represent the fastest growing cohort of Aviva employees, with approximately 500 people entering this age group every year. Aviva piloted a Mid-Life MOT scheme in 2018, inviting staff over the age of 45 to take time out to consider their wealth, work and wellbeing at this mid-point in their lives.

This face-to-face guidance service – complemented by online and one-to-one resources – increased participants’ confidence in their future plans; boosted their awareness of where to seek further support; and grew their appreciation of Aviva as an employer for all ages.

Following the pilot scheme’s 94% take-up rate, Aviva introduced the Mid-Life MOT open to 5,000 employees aged 45 and over in May 2019. It will work with the government and like-minded employers to consider how more mid-life employees in the UK could benefit from a similar intervention.

Media enquiries:

Fiona Whytock

Retirement, Savings and Investments

Notes to editors:

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