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1 in 10 slip into low income on retirement

Published on 05 February 2014 12:01 AM

1 in 10 slip into low income on retirement


More than one in ten high[i]  and middle income households - approximately 40,000 households each year - slipped into low income soon after they reached State Pension Age according to a new report commissioned for Age UK.

The report by NatCen Social Research found that six per cent of previously high income households and five per cent of middle income households are living on less than £293 per week for a couple or less than £197 per week for a single person - just above the poverty line[ii].

The study is based on analysis of data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). It concludes that those most likely to find themselves slipping into low income had worked in a skilled trade, administrative work or sales or become single through bereavement or separation. In addition, they were unlikely to have private pension savings and likely to have stopped work.

In total, according to the study[iii], 1.9 million pensioners are struggling to live on just £13,312 (couples) or £8,944 (single person) annually. With the number of people aged 65 and over set to rise by nearly 50 per cent (48.7 per cent) in the next twenty years to over 16 million, urgent action is critical to head off the looming crisis. 

Maximising income in retirement is the subject of the second of Age UK's Financial Services Commission's summits taking place in London on February 6th. The Commission brings together Government and leading industry figures and will consult with older people on ways to build up financial resilience - a way of enabling people to financially withstand challenges that may crop up in later life. The first summit in December 2013 focused on how to help those approaching retirement build up adequate savings.

The Commission follows and was inspired by Lord Filkin's report earlier in the year which warned that Government and society are "woefully unprepared for the UK's ageing population.

A significant number of current pensioners in the UK are already struggling financially.  Age UK's latest tracker poll which monitors the way older people are responding to the UK's current economic climate shows  that more than one in four people  (27 per cent) aged sixty five and over say they are just getting by financially.

Tom Wright. Age UK's Group Chief Executive of Age UK and Co-chair of the Financial Services Commission, said, "We can't put our heads in the sand when it comes to being prepared for retirement. With many of us living longer than ever, it's crucial that we tackle this now and come up with ways to enable people to maximise their income in retirement, particularly in light of historically low interest rates. If not, we will face a bleak future where later life will become synonymous with struggling to make ends meet for many of our older people."

Dr Alexander Scott, Chief Executive of the Chartered Insurance Institute and Co-Chair of the Financial Services Commission said,"With complex issues to think about like annuities and other finances, a few decisions made early in retirement will have lasting effects. These research findings and others like them highlight once again the need for a fundamental rethink about how issues like annuities, decumulation, equity release, and above all information and advice around all these matters are handled."

The Financial Services Commission will report its findings in summer 2014.


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Media contact: Mallary Gelb
Tel: 0203 033 1682
Out of hours:  07071 243 243

Notes to editors

  1. High income is defined as £481 or more per week for a couple or £322 or more per week for a single person. Middle income is defined  as between £293 and £480 for a couple or between £197 and £321 per week for a single person in NatCen's report "Changes to work and income around State Pension Age." The report is a secondary analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing authored commissioned by Age UK. NatCen Social Research is the UK's leading independent social research organisation, dedicated to giving the public a powerful and influential role in shaping services that can make a difference to everyone
  2. 60% of median income is the most common definition of poverty. This study defines low income as  less than 70 % of median income - in other words just above the poverty line
  3. Study used Government's Households Below Average Income Series

Age UK

For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.

We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to well over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we").  Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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