Debt-laden pensioners poorer than a decade ago

Debt-laden pensioners poorer than a decade ago

UK savers have endured a decade of changes in pensions, not least the fact people retiring in 2017 face a lower expected annual income than those who retired in 2008.

Research based on ten years' worth of Prudential's 'Class Of' pension studies have revealed significant gaps that need to be closed if future generations of pensioners are to receive a comfortable retirement.

Among the findings of its 12-page anniversary report, 10 Years of Class Of', Prudential data gleaned each year since 2008 has shown a persistent gender gap between men and women's projected pension income.

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The report stated: "The gap between men and women's retirement incomes has remained stubbornly wide and it has started to grow again."

For example, in 2008, the gap between the average annual retirement income for men and women was £9,500

In 2017, the average expected retirement income gap stands at £6,400 but while the gap has narrowed over the decade, as Prudential commented, the gap was actually smaller in 2015 and 2016, at £4,800 and £5,300 respectively.

Also in the report, it revealed the average expected annual income from all sources for those retiring in 2008 was £18,700. 

Those retiring in 2017, however, can expect to receive £18,100 - although given the fact inflation keeps pushing above the 2 per cent target set by the Bank of England, today's retirees need at least £22,900 a year to keep pace with the spending power of those who retired in 2008.

Another rising trend, no doubt fostered by the pension freedom and choice regime which came into force in 2015, along with low gilt rates making transfer valuations look more impressive, and defined benefit scheme trustees wanting to offload liabilities, is the growth of defined benefit (DB) pension transfer requests.

According to the report, the switch from DB to defined contribution (DC), together with the rise in DC schemes in the UK, has meant fewer people now are relying on the majority of their income coming from final salary schemes than in 2008 - at 42 per cent in 2017, compared with 52 per cent a decade ago.

Worryingly, the research also found the proportion of people retiring with debt still hanging around them in retirement has also risen. In 2011, 20 per cent of people retired in debt. Today, this has risen to 25 per cent, although the levels of debt are lower - from £33,100 on average in 2011 to £24,300 in 2017.

The complications involved with pension planning have also increased, meaning people have, over the past decade of the Prudential Class Of studies, become less confident about their retirement prospects.

Kirsty Anderson, a retirement expert at Prudential, said: "Pension saving and retirement planning has changed massively over the past 10 years, and retirement is now more of a process than a one-off event."

Nathan Long, senior pensions analyst for Bristol-based Hargreaves Lansdown, commented: "In this past decade there has been three things happening: the continuing decline of defined benefit (DB) pensions; auto-enrolment coming along, which is a massive change for pensions; and then of course the recent pension freedoms."