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Public pessimistic on future of state pension provision

  •  Expectation that state pension age will go up to 70

  • Many believe state pension either won’t exist or will be a relatively small amount when they retire

  • All age groups think that the state pension’s value will go down (in today’s money terms)

  • And many think they’ll put in more than they get out

The UK public anticipates a meagre state pension and expects another hike in the retirement age, according to new research from Canada Life.

The findings come from a survey asking people’s views on the state pension and what they think they are likely to get when they reach state pension age. It reveals, on average, that people in all age groups from 18 to 55 think the state pension age will be 70 by the time they are eligible to claim it. 

This comes just as the state pension age for men and women is equalised to age 65, with further planned hikes to 68 over the coming years. Government estimates suggest that a retirement age of 70 might be on the cards for younger workers.

Surprisingly, that sense of pessimism also extends to how much people think the state pension will be worth by the time they claim it. Although recent governments have been wary of being seen as giving pensioners a poor deal, people think priorities are likely to shift. Most dramatically, one in seven (14%) think the state pension won’t exist by the time they retire – going up to one in five (20%) of 18-24 year olds.

Even among those who think the state pension is likely to still be available when they retire, many think it will change. Just under one in three (32%) think it will still exist but will only provide negligible income, while just over one in five (21%) think it will be means tested. Just under a quarter (24%) think it will still exist largely unchanged.

Andrew Tully, technical director at Canada Life UK, said:

“While people broadly think the state pension will still exist in some form when they retire, it’s striking how many people, especially younger generations, have little confidence it will be there at all by the time they retire.

“Some might say it is unrealistic to expect state pension provision to remain static given we are living longer and working longer. Our research suggests people are being pretty pragmatic and are not banking on the state pension to support them in retirement.”

Despite the ‘triple lock’ guaranteeing annual increases in its value, on average UK adults who are not yet retired expect to receive a state pension of £150 per week when they retire (in today’s money terms) – below the current full pension of £164 a week. Men are a little more optimistic, saying they expect to receive £161 per week, but women are more cautious, saying they anticipate a £143 weekly pension when they retire. Only one in five (20%) expect a state pension of more than £200 a week.

Younger generations in particular don’t seem to think the state pension will provide much for them. On average 18-24 year olds expect the state pension will make up around 27% of their retirement income, compared with an average of 42% among other age groups.

The research also revealed a split on how fair people feel the current system is. A narrow majority think the state pension isn’t fair given how much they have paid in tax and National Insurance contributions (53%). Strikingly, almost two thirds of people (65%) think they will put in more than they get out, although three in ten (30%) of these still believe the current state pension is fair.

Andrew Tully, explains:

“People appear to be ‘pricing in’ low expectations of the state pension that will be waiting for them when they retire, most likely because they see successive governments continually moving the goal posts, often with good reason.

“The success of auto enrolment will hopefully begin to bridge the retirement savings gap, as people take control and appear to be moving away from a reliance on state provision. After all, private pension savings are one of the best protections against whatever decisions future governments may take on state provision.”