Pension statistics

Does the UK know how much to save up for retirement?

Have you ever thought about what you’ll do with your life when you’re done working? Do you see yourself spending your days in a big house in the English countryside, sipping cold drinks on a Spanish beach or running off somewhere more exotic?

It’s never too early to start thinking about how to save for one’s retirement and to compare pension options. Depending on whether you also need to pay the rent, and what you want your final years to look like, it may take more money than you think to live them comfortably. We commissioned some research to see how much Brits know about their pensions.

Key statistics

To understand how much the UK population knows about pensions, we commissioned research to find out just how clued up Brits are about their savings for retirement.

  • 35% of the adult population say they don’t have a pension.
  • 43% of the population admit they don’t know how much they will need.
  • Over half (55%) of people estimate that up to £100,000 is enough to retire comfortably.
  • Only 28% of people think they are on track to meet this.
  • The recommended amount for a comfortable retirement is £260,000–£445,000, depending on accommodation costs.
Pension status Percentage
Have pensions 33.40%
Say they don't have a pension 18.40%

The coronavirus pandemics effect on pensions

During the coronavirus pandemic, most pension funds have decreased in value. With 950,000 benefits claims in a fortnight, the number of people getting laid off by their employees is skyrocketing. Unemployment rates are anticipated to rise from the current 3.8% to 4.1% by 2021, when the pandemic hopefully is over as well as some Brits coming back into employment. This will impact the amount Brits can put into their pension funds that are already low, as only 25% think they have enough to stop working completely with their retirement.

Despite automatic enrolment workplace pensions being put in place in the UK, only 65% of our survey respondents said they had a pension, equating to 33.4 million people. This means 35% of people, in other words 18.4 million Brits, either have no pension or are unaware that they have one. Of those who said they did have one, 36% weren’t sure how much was in it.

How well could people estimate the size of a good pension?

When asked to estimate what a healthy pension pot looks like, 43% of people said they didn’t know. Of those that did estimate, the average response was £174,000, and 55% of people thought up to £100,000 would be enough. This is significantly below the amount recommended by Royal London: £260,000–£445,000.

The table below shows some of the key differences we found in responses based on age group.

MillennialsGen XBaby Boomers
Percentage of population who say they don’t have pension55%33%24%
Percentage of population who are not sure how much pension they have32%44%32%
Average estimated amount in current pension£9,912£60,135£111,427
How much people think they need to retire comfortably£126,405£188,291£211,820
Percentage of population who think they are on track to achieve their minimum pension amount20%25%41%
Percentage of people who think 50k is enough to retire comfortably32%25%19%
Actual amount need for a comfortable retirement for those still renting£445,000£445,000£445,000

Pension predictions by age group

Generation Estimated current pension Average predicted amount needed Actual amount needed
Millennials £10,000 £126,000 £445,000
Gen X £60,000 £188,000 £445,000
Baby Boomers £111,000 £212,000 £445,000

As you might expect, pension estimates varied by age, with older age groups predicting what they’ll need more accurately. In fact, almost a third (32%) of millennials thought up to just £50,000 would be enough. Even the oldest age group was underestimated by over £40,000, or even more than this if they’re still renting or paying off a mortgage.

Do people feel on track to save up a good pension?

Disturbingly, the majority of people in every age group did not feel on track to have a good pension by the time they retire. This is even more concerning when you take into account that most of their estimates of what they’ll need were significantly below the recommended figure.

Gender differences

Percentage of population who don’t have pension32%39%
Average estimated amount in current pension£70,000£45,000
How much people think they need to retire comfortably£169,000£178,000
Percentage of population who are not sure how much pension they have31%42%
Percentage of population who think they are on track to achieve their minimum amount34%22%

Estimated current pension compared to predicted amount needed

Gender Current pension Predicted amount needed for comfortable retirement
Male £70,000 £169,000
Female £45,000 £178,000

It seems men, in general, are more likely to meet their pension requirements than women, with the average male participant of our study having an estimated £70,000 in his pension pot, compared to £45,000 in the average woman’s. This is despite women having a higher, and therefore more accurate, prediction of what a good pension should be, at £178,000, £10,000 more than the average man’s prediction.

“It’s often not a priority at a younger age, but the cost of retirement for millennials is something to be prepared for, especially as this generation is also expected to contend with the cost of rent or a mortgage on top of the general cost of living in their retirement. It’s also concerning to learn that so many baby boomers are still yet to look into it. Our study revealed that almost a quarter (24%) of this generation do not yet have a pension.

Employers must legally provide a workplace pension in the UK so it’s important that employees in the UK are aware of what they’re eligible for, as well as looking into a private pension to top up their pot.”

– Jon Ostler, UK CEO at


We calculated these figures using a survey of 2,000 British adults commissioned by and conducted by research provider OnePoll in June 2018.

Recommended pension sizes are based on analysis by Royal London.

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
UK Communications Manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806

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