Proactive planning may prevent pensions panic – BlackRock

Britain’s nine million 45-54 year olds need to rethink their plans for funding a financially secure retirement more than most, due to the pressures of the economic environment, and the squeeze on household incomes, according to new research from BlackRock.

BlackRock’s Global ‘Investor Pulse’ Survey – one of the most comprehensive surveys into savings, investment and retirement ever undertaken – has revealed Britain’s 45-54 year olds are the most financially squeezed in the country. They are the most burdened by bills and save the least of all Britons, as a proportion of their take home pay. They are the most pessimistic about their financial future and the possibility of a comfortable retirement of any age group.

The squeezed middle
Traditionally thought of as the nation’s better off age group, hard-working 45-54 year olds are being hit more than other age groups by the burden of debt and the overhang of the financial crisis. They have been the most impacted by the rising cost of living, spending 52 pence in every pound of their monthly income on bills.

They also save the least of all Britons each month, squirrelling away 12 pence in every pound as a proportion of their salary, less than those aged 24-35 (18 pence), and even less than those reaching or already at retirement age. Further pressures on their income include still having dependent children (44%), with over a third (38%) not confident that they will be able to fund their children’s’ education.

Unsurprisingly, 58% feel negative and not in control of their financial future – more than any other age group.

Mind the £250,000 pension gap
Like all of the age groups surveyed, Britain’s 45-54 year olds have high hopes for their lifestyle in retirement, saying they would need a household income of £28,655 annually, almost twice the current national average annual income of £15,548 for a single pensioner today.

However, two thirds don’t understand how much money they will need to reach this goal, and 43% of this age group claim they can’t afford to save at all for retirement. 45-54 year olds estimate a £294,000 pension pot is sufficient to fund their desired retirement income when the reality is they will need a pot almost twice this size (£549,000).

While 40% of this age group said funding a comfortable retirement is their top financial priority currently, when questioned what they would do with £100 more a month, only one in five said they would save more towards retirement, and 37% said they would spend more time researching holidays than planning for their retirement (14%).

Clinging on to cash
The survey shows that the pressures of debt coupled with concerns about the economy and job security are creating financial fear and inaction for this age group. This is reflected in their appetite for risk, with 57% unwilling to take any risks with their money and only one in five willing to take on more risk to achieve higher returns. Unsurprisingly, seven in ten people within this age group are seeking sanctuary in cash deposits, with three in ten intending to increase their levels of cash over the next 12 months.

But the cash machine isn’t working
One in three 45-54 year olds believe their cash savings will help fund their retirement income, but seem to underestimate the ravaging effect of inflation on their purchasing power of cash over the long term. A cash pile of £200,000 five years ago will only purchase £169,280 worth of goods today.

Tony Stenning, head of UK Retail at BlackRock, said: “Our research shows that an astonishing half of Britain’s 45-54 year olds – more than four million people – have lowered their aspirations for the kind of lifestyle they want in retirement, with three in ten saying they will need to work longer to fund later life. Despite this reality check, two thirds of their savings pot is in cash and their appetite for taking any risk with their money is low. Perhaps it’s time to reassess the unintended risk that inflation and record low interest rates are having on their hard earned nest eggs, and consider investments which have the potential for higher returns and income over the longer term.”

“Because headline inflation and interest rates are so low, people underestimate the impact that inflation can have on their savings. But actually the effect of inflation today is similar to back in the 1970s. Headline rates were much higher then, but the differential between the inflation and interest rate is much the same now as back then. There is a cost to being in cash that many just aren’t aware of.”

Silver (haired) lining – some good advice?
It’s not all doom and gloom however. BlackRock’s research reveals that across Britain, six in ten people take financial planning seriously, and this in turn means they are twice as likely to feel in control (58%) and confident (60%) about their financial futures, than those who don’t. Additionally, 69% of Brits who use a financial adviser feel confident in their savings and investments decisions compared to 46% of those who don’t.

Alex Hoctor-Duncan, head of European Retail at BlackRock, said: “Conventional wisdom has assumed those people nearing retirement are least at risk of facing pensions poverty. Our research reveals the 45-54 year old age group is in fact struggling the most to meet their financial commitments. This age group has high hopes for their retirement, saying they would need £28,000 a year, however two thirds don’t understand how much money they will need to reach this goal. The reality is they will need £250,000 more towards their pot than they think.”

If I had my time again – wisdom from our elders
Current retirees were asked what advice they would give to help younger generations prepare for a comfortable retirement. With the benefit of hindsight, their top five recommendations are revealed as:

1. Start saving as early as possible – 73%
2. Save as much as you can – 65%
3. Pay off your debts – 61%
4. Think long-term – 57%
5. Regularly review your savings and investments – 54%

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