Over 5.5 million people saving more as a result of pension freedoms

Middle-aged couple driving in a convertible.
  • Thursday 6 April marks the second anniversary of the introduction of the pension freedoms
  • 14% of the working age population are saving more as a direct result of the reforms
  • Retirement income expectations are becoming more realistic as people engage with their savings

Thursday 6 April marks two years since the introduction of some of the most radical reforms to UK pensions in a generation, the pension freedoms. New research from Aegon has found that 14% of working age people are saving more into their pension as a direct result: equating to some 5.5 million* people in the UK contributing more to a private or workplace pension because of the reforms.

This increased level of saving is reflected in the growth of UK retirement pots. On average, people have £50,000 saved in pensions, up from £29,000 in April 2015. In addition to these positive steps, the pension freedoms have also directly prompted more people to consider their future plans. 15% of people have realised they need to plan more for retirement, up from 10% in April 2016 and the proportion of people engaging with an adviser on their plans for retirement has almost doubled in the last 12 months.

This growing engagement is reflected in people’s financial planning. In April 2015 half of the UK population (50%) had taken no steps to review their retirement plans,  but positively this has fallen by 15%, to just over a third (36%). In fact, one in five (22%) people have reviewed their plans in the past six months alone.

As people become more active in reviewing the status of their savings, it appears that their overall aspirations for retirement income are also becoming more realistic. The average annual income people would like in retirement is £32,000, a fall from the £38,000 in April 2016, and lower again than the £41,000 people were hoping to retire on at the time of the pension freedoms. While these incomes are still some way above the average UK income of £28,200**, and a good deal more than the average pensioner income***, it’s encouraging that aspirations are moving in the right direction. 

Yet, despite the positive signs, over a third (36%) of people have never engaged with their pension savings. The reasons are varied, one in five people (22%) claim they simply don’t understand how to review their plans for retirement, 15% of people say the lack of online services or information prevents them from checking up on their pension savings and for one in ten people (12%) the main barrier is the fear of seeing how little they have saved.

Steven Cameron, Pensions Director at Aegon said: “The 2015 pension reforms put many more retirees in the driver’s seat for the first time. Two years on and all the signs point to the pension freedoms having paved the way for a smoother road to retirement. People have moved up a gear, saving more and becoming more engaged with their pensions. Crucially, the proportion of people speaking to an adviser about their retirement saving and income options is almost double what it was in April 2016. Giving retirees the freedom to do as they please with their money is having an impact not only on those who are taking advantage of that freedom today, but the trickle effect is positive down the generations. It seems that bringing freedoms to pensions and saving for retirement has boosted their appeal across working life, with 5.5 million UK savers contributing more to their pots.

“However, there’s still a long way to go. People will need to accelerate their saving to reach their retirement destination and make the UK a nation of long term savers. Over a third of the adult population have never taken any action that affects their plans for retirement  and these people must be encouraged to engage and save more, or face a very uncertain future. Auto-enrolment does mean many more people have a workplace pension without taking personal action but default contribution levels will only go so far. And there’s a growing issue as more and more people are self-employed and won’t have the benefit of a workplace pension at all.

“We are now firmly in an era of personal responsibility for long term saving. The freedoms bring an increasing number of income choices, while the decline of generous DB pension schemes means that retirement income will be more closely linked to contributions made through life. The challenge is to engage people early enough to give them choice about how they finance their retirement.”

- ENDS -

Research conducted on behalf of Aegon UK by Censuswide. UK representative sample of 2,004 people. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9 and 12 December 2016.

View the full report: https://www.aegon.co.uk/content/dam/ukpaw/documents/readiness-report-2017.pdf

Further information

Stephanie Melrose, PR Manager, Aegon UK


Tel: 0131 549 6743

Notes to Editors

  • In the UK, Aegon offers retirement, workplace savings and protection solutions to around two million customers, and employs more than 3,450 staff. More information: https://www.aegon.co.uk  
  • As an international life insurance, pensions and asset management company based in The Hague, Aegon has businesses in over twenty five markets in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Aegon companies employ over 28,000 people and have millions of customers across the globe. Further information: www.aegon.com  
  • Aegon is the Lead Partner of British Tennis.

* MYE2 population by sex and age for local authorities – UK mid 2015 (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/datasets/populationestimatesforukenglandandwalesscotlandandnorthernireland) estimate shows that population aged 18 – 65 totals 40,428,826. 40,428,826/100 * 14 = 5,660,035.

*** Pensioner Income Series state that the average pension is £296 a week. £296 x 52 = £15,392 - https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/600594/pensioners-incomes-series-2015-16-report.pdf