The cost of retirement: setting your own standard

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New research confirms many people are experiencing the growing gap between what the State pension provides and a comfortable retirement.

In April 2022, all state pensions will increase by 3.1% while the National Living Wage – another government-set base income level – will grow by 6.6%. The manifesto-breaking one-year suspension of the triple lock means that the new state pension will reach about £185 a week, approximately 5% less than would otherwise have been the case.

Costs of living

The announcement of the new state pension rates came in the same month that an updated report was published that looked at retirement living standards in 2021. The report calculated the cost of three different baskets of goods and services that equated to three retirement living standards:

  • minimum, where income covers all needs, with ‘some left over for fun’;
  • moderate, providing more financial security and flexibility; and
  • comfortable, offering greater financial freedom and ‘some luxuries’.

For example, at the minimum level, a couple would have no car, while at the comfortable end of the spectrum each would have their own car, replaced every five years. In between, the couple with moderate retirement living standards would replace a three-year old car every ten years. There was less difference in food and drink budgets, which ranged from £67 a week to £94 a week.

The research put annual costs to each living standard for couples and singles, with an adjustment of up to £5,600 for the additional expense of living in London:

  MINIMUM MODERATE COMFORTABLE
  Standard London Standard London Standard London
Single £10,900 £13,200 £20,800 £24,500 £33,600 £36,700
Couple £16,700 £21,100 £30,600 £36,200 £49,700 £51,500

Source: Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association

These figures show the net income required and make no allowance for any tax. So, for instance, a couple living in the Midlands who want a comfortable standard of living would each need pension income of about £28,000 before tax. If they were to rely on just one partner’s pension income, that would need to be almost £62,000 because higher rate tax would be payable on the excess over £50,270. Different pre-tax figures would apply in Scotland because of the country’s different tax bands.

Covering the shortfall

The uprated new state pension from April 2022 will be equivalent to £9,628 a year, leaving a significant gap if your goal is anything other than the minimum retirement living standard (no car, no European holiday). The shortfall is not a surprise – the UK has traditionally occupied the bottom slot in international comparisons of state pensions undertaken by the OECD. Given the condition of government finances and an ageing population, the UK is unlikely to advance up the OECD’s pension league table.

Bridging the gap between the retirement living standard you want and what the state will provide requires private retirement provision. Determining how much the gap-filling will cost and what form it takes begins with a detailed review of your current retirement plans. The sooner you contact us to start that process, the longer the period over which you can spread the investment required.

The value of your investment and any income from it can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.  

Investing in shares should be regarded as a long-term investment and should fit with your overall attitude to risk and financial circumstances.

The value of tax reliefs depends on your individual circumstances. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate tax advice, and tax laws can change.

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