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Insufficient auto-enrolment scheme is set to leave Brits with only 53% of a comfortable retirement income

  • The average pension savings through auto-enrolment will give £22,800 a year after tax, just over half of what is needed for a comfortable retirement.
  • For women, this drops to less than half (46%) of the income needed for a comfortable retirement, at less than £20,000 a year.
  • The average 22-year-old male will have a private pension pot worth over £318,000 in today’s money when they reach 68, compared to £218,000 for a woman, a gap of £100,000.

09 April, 2024, LONDON –

New research highlights the shortfall of auto-enrolment in providing a decent income in retirement, with those starting to pay into a private pension now projected to save just half of what they need to live comfortably if current trends continue.

According to recent figures, a single person needs £31,300 a year for a moderate income and £43,100 a year for a comfortable retirement in today’s money, which includes energy, food and clothing costs, an annual two-week holiday in Europe, and £50 per birthday or Christmas present.

However, the research by personal finance comparison website found auto-enrolment with the current average salaries plus the full state pension would give the average person just around £22,800 a year after tax if trends continue, which is only 53% of what is needed to live comfortably.

Prices have risen significantly in recent years and while the cost of living in relation to wages may be different in 40 years time, the research highlights that current pension contributions are not sufficient to prepare us for times of economic uncertainty in the future.

The £100k gender pension gap

The research also highlights the gender pension gap those starting to save now could face in the future. Pension auto-enrolment based on the average UK salaries is projected to create a stark £100,000 difference in private pension pots between men and women.

The average woman would have a pension pot of around £218,000 in today’s money if they were auto-enrolled at 22 and retired at 68. Meanwhile, the average man would have a pension pot of over £318,000.

When combined with the state pension, retirement income for the average woman works out to an estimated £19,800 a year when taking life expectancy into account. This is £5,500 less than the £25,300 a year the average man is projected to receive on retirement.

In fact, the projected annual retirement income for women is less than half (46%) of what is needed for a comfortable retirement and less than two-thirds (63%) of what is needed for a moderate standard of living in retirement.

This signals that more needs to be done to close the gender wage gap, especially as women are predicted to still live longer than men in 40 years’ time.

To see the research in full visit:

George Sweeney DipFA, pensions expert at, commented:

“When it comes to saving for retirement with your pension, there’s no such thing as too much or too soon. Auto-enrolment is a great start and gets people on the path towards a more abundant retirement, but it’s not a complete solution. Our research shows that auto-enrolment is only half the battle (literally), and if people want a comfortable retirement, they need to take ownership and responsibility for the other half.

To try and make up the difference, there are a few options. The first and most obvious is to try and maximise and increase contributions whenever possible. This doesn’t have to be done every month, even sporadic and infrequent increases in contributions (as early as possible) can make a huge difference in bridging the gap to comfort. But that strategy isn’t always possible. So an alternative option everyone can do is making sure their pensions are invested in an appropriately aggressive manner (if they’re a long way off retirement). Doing this can lead to a massive increase in the overall pot size.

And when it comes to the gender pension gap, more discussions need to be had at home between partners. Ideally, leading to better planning around equalising contributions and seeing it as a joint effort – perhaps using additional tools like self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs), especially if a woman is taking time out of work to care for children or family. Hopefully as the gender pay gap closes, this will be less of an issue, but the reality is what it is, so couples and families need to work together and plan their finances as a team if they want a comfortable retirement.”


Finder took average salaries by age group and gender, as reported by the House of Commons Library, working out what pension contributions would be each month with auto-enrolment, where the employee contributes 5% and the employer contributes 3%. Annual fees of 0.75% and annual growth of 5% were also applied to get an accumulating total over time until retirement age at 68.

The average private pension pot was then combined with the state pension to get an average yearly income after tax. The yearly income was calculated using ONS life expectancy and the average number of years someone would spend in retirement.

The yearly expenditure needed for moderate and comfortable living standards in retirement is from the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA), a trade body.

The projections are based on current economic conditions and estimate what could happen to private pensions if salaries and living costs change in line with the conditions we are currently experiencing. It therefore uses figures in 2024 money to contextualise what future pension pots could look like if current trends continue.


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