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One in four Brits to retire in debt in 2017

One in four Brits to retire in debt in 2017

One in four people will retire this year with thousands of pounds of debt to their name, research by Prudential has revealed. 

That was 29 per cent up on the number of debt ridden retirees in 2016, and the highest percentage recorded since Prudential began conducting the survey in 2012.

Credit card debt was by far the biggest problem, with 51 per cent of indebted retirees citing it as one of their debts.

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Mortgage debt was also a major form of debt, with 38 per cent of indebted retirees not yet having paid off their mortgage, up from 33 per cent last year.

The survey, which included 1,000 people who plan to retire this year, found the average indebted retiree would owe £24,300, an increase of £5,500 on the previous year. 

It was the first time the average retiree debt had increased since the 2012 high of £38,200.

Those who were planning to retire with debts in 2017 expected to pay them off within three-and-a-half years, with average monthly repayments of £230 a month. 

Sixteen per cent expected to take seven years or more to pay off their debts, and 7 per cent feared they would never get out of debt.

Women were less likely to retire in debt than men, at a rate of 21 per cent to 28 per cent.

However, women who were in debt said they would owe on average £25,700 compared to the average male debt of £23,400. 

London-based retirees were by far the most indebted, with 44 per cent still owing money.

Class of…Percent of retirees withdebt (of >£0)Average amount owed by those retiring with debt
201725%£24,300
201620%£18,800
201519%£21,800
201417%£24,800
201318%£31,200
201218%£38,200
201121%£33,100
   

The next most indebted regions were the East Midlands and Wales, both at 29 per cent. The least indebted region was the West Midlands, at 16 per cent.

Vince Smith-Hughes, retirement income expert at Prudential, said having to use "precious" retirement income to pay off debts "could make life even more tricky for the newly retired".

“With this in mind, it is a worry that we’ve seen a big jump, not only in the proportion of retirees with outstanding debt but also the amount that they owe," he said.

He urged people to consult a financial adviser before they retired, as well as to use free services such as Citizens Advice and Pension Wise.

Alan Chan, director of London-based financial planning firm IFS Wealth and Pensions, said for a lot of people, retiring in debt was a conscious decision, particularly for those who lived in places where property was expensive, such as London.

Such people, he said, would often be planning to downsize or move out of London altogether upon retirement.

But he added: "For those people who keep their head in the sand, they will have little option but to downsize or keep on working."

He described a third option - equity release - as a "last resort", best suited to people with no children and therefore no need to preserve their wealth for the next generation. 

james.fernyhough@ft.com