Why working longer is the way of the future
People will increasingly realise the benefits of redefining retirement
In the past, retirement was not an active decision – it just happened to you, dictated by your employer, a pension scheme or society: Traditional UK retirement was not an active choice, but an event that happened, dictated by outside forces rather than being a positive and considered decision. For example most people automatically stopped work at their pension age or were offered the chance to retire early with a good pension funded by their employer, or believed they must stop when reaching state pension age. Workers were not encouraged to make pro-active decisions about how or when to retire, unless they were in poor health.
Most people retiring now are still fit and healthy – what a waste of resources. Decisions about how, when – and even whether – to retire can increasingly become the choice of the individual. The old days of standard lifestyles that shoehorn everyone into the same mould are outdated. In the 21st Century, retirement no longer needs to be standardised. As people are living longer and are healthier, they do not need to leave the labour force just because they reach a ‘standard’ pension age. The skills and talents of the over 50s are too often wasted, due to outdated stereotypes of poor health and disability. Medical advances enable most of us to recover and live well with illnesses which would have disabled previous generations.
The recent pension changes make flexible working in later life easier: The UK has a tremendous opportunity to revolutionise its retirement and pensions system over the next few years as the restrictions and inflexibilities that have hampered UK pensions are being swept away. This can transform the way we think about retirement and pensions. This pensions revolution is an important part of the social revolution being driven by issues such as increased longevity, improved health in retirement and economic reality.
Pensions and retirement are out of step with people’s lives: As the proportion of people’s lives spent working has fallen so much, the failure to move retirement thinking to match developments in health and life expectancy has left many living on much lower incomes for longer than they need to. In the 1950s, when the current pension system was designed, the average worker would start working at age 15, work for about 50 years and then live for five or 10 years in retirement. That meant most people would be working for around two thirds of their lifespan (50 years out of 75). 10 years of retirement might follow their 50 years of work. In other words, each 1 year of retirement was funded by 5 years of work. Nowadays, people are working for perhaps 45 years and living in retirement for around 23 years, so each 1 year of retirement is funded by less than 2 years of work.
Record numbers already working past pension age: According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of pensioners in work nearly doubled from 753,000 (7.6% of pensioners) in 1993, to 1.4million (12% of pensioners) in 2011. Two thirds of older workers are working part-time, the majority with their previous employer. The longer people can stay economically active, the more chance they have to protect their spending power and increase their future income prospects. Those who work longer will not only have more money immediately, but they will also have more chance to build up savings. Setting money aside for future income needs, even after age 60, can help meet the challenges of longer periods in retirement.
Survey evidence confirms this is already happening: MetLife Survey results, from a nationwide Survey of 2000 adults highlight how attitudes are already changing:
- 71% of workers said they would consider working past state pension age, in order to achieve a higher retirement income
- Only 8% of workers said they would not be willing to work on, even if that meant they had to struggle financially
- Only around 20% of workers believe they are saving enough for retirement.
TABLE 1: Most people expect to be fit enough to work beyond their mid-60s.
Do you think you will be physically fit enough to work in your current job beyond your mid-60s?
|Age 60+||Age 50-59|
TABLE 2: The majority of people will consider working longer, particularly part-time, in order to achieve a much higher retirement income
Would you consider working longer to have much higher retirement income?
|Age 60+||Age 50-59|
|I would consider working full-time past state pension age to have much higher retirement income||24%||27%|
|I would consider working part-time past state pension age to have much higher retirement income||42%||42%|
TABLE 3: There are other reasons for staying on at work, apart from financial, such as giving a sense of purpose in life and social interaction.
Why would you want to keep working past state pension age?
|Age 60+||Age 50-59|
|I can’t afford to retire||32%||44%|
|I enjoy working and don’t feel ready to retire||47%||21%|
|Work gives me a sense of purpose in life||34%||29%|
|I would miss the social interaction of work||20%||31%|
|I want to save more for my retirement||20%||19%|
Working longer brings significant income and capital benefits. Every extra pay cheque means higher lifetime income, larger potential pension fund and pension savings have to last for fewer years. Staying at work can also keep people healthier – both physically and mentally.
Many people find retirement disappointing: Retiring while fit and healthy has been disappointing for many, who find they are bored or miss their work colleagues, do not have enough money and little structure to their lives. Some may have sufficient income to travel the world, participate in their hobbies and do voluntary work without any financial concerns, but they are a minority. The ideal is to work part-time for a while, before retiring altogether. This would give them a better work-life balance, help provide more income and enable a more gentle transition to full retirement. The retirement of the future will be one where people cut down work gradually and work part-time before finally stopping altogether.