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Three quarters of UK employees say they won’t be able to retire by the age of 65

Britain is growing old, and not just proverbially. As the population is set to increase, the proportion of the population aged 85 and over is projected to double over the next 25 years[1], and the number of those working for longer rises with it. Recent figures[2] reveal that nearly three quarters of UK employees say they won’t be able to retire by the age of 65.

Driving this development is a series of economic factors. While inflation has slowed in recent months, the rising cost of necessities has impacted on employees everywhere, as have poor savings returns from low interest rates. Britain is entering a period in which working into old age is both a novelty and a necessity.

The peak of their financial responsibilities
The need to work into older age is starting long before retirement. Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1979) are perhaps affected the most. Previously found to be at the peak of their financial responsibilities[3], this age group struggles to save for retirement between providing financially for their children and, increasingly, also their parents. One in four of them (27%) expect to retire after their 75th birthday.

It’s not all doom and gloom, as not everyone begrudges the thought of continued employment. More than a third (35%) of UK employees cite non-monetary reasons for wanting to work beyond the traditional retirement age. Many simply enjoy their job and the benefits of social interaction that come with it.

Not catering to an older workforce
No matter what the reason for continuing to work into old age, it’s clear this is a trend that Britain could bank on in the future and should seek to encourage. Currently, it’s not one leveraged successfully. In fact, a report by accountancy firm PwC shows that the UK economy might be accruing a loss of nearly £200 billion as a result of not catering to an older workforce[4].

With over nine in ten (94%) UK employees believing that the Government isn’t helping to promote older workers, the opportunity lies with employers to address this issue.

Giving adequate support for varying employee needs
What might be the biggest challenge for employers going forward is not just including older candidates in their hiring decisions, but also ensuring they retain their employees as they age. Employers can do so by giving adequate support for varying employee needs, as well as creating positive practices to encourage a diverse workforce.

Solutions also need to be considered at an individual level, rather than a one-size-fits-all offer. For example, employers can offer flexible working options to ensure that employees can continue working in an environment best suited to their needs.

Making a big difference and creating a more supportive environment
A suitable environment also applies to the office, and it’s essential that employers consider the ways they can make small but impactful changes to support employees. For example, 10 million people in England and Scotland suffer from persistent back pain, a condition that becomes more common with rising age[5]. Small changes to office equipment, such as providing adjustable or more comfortable seating, can make a big difference and create a more supportive environment.

It’s not just about providing the right equipment, though. In the case of older workers, a supportive environment also means that (re-)training and upskilling opportunities are available where they are required.

Firms should be taking into account the differences in training motivation
Many employers overlook the opportunity that lies in the training of older workers. However, firms should be taking into account the differences in training motivation – older employees get higher returns from informal and role-relevant training, rather than wider business or industry training[6].
From a business perspective, an underlying assumption that investment in training of older workers does not yield a fast enough return has also been proven wrong. In fact, most training returns an investment within a year, and the risk of an employee leaving the company after receiving training is the same across all age groups and isn’t limited to those approaching retirement[7].

Encouraging inclusive working practices and skill sharing across all ages
The perception of older workers amongst younger employees still leaves a lot to be desired. Nearly a third (30%) are concerned that they make it harder for young people to move up the career ladder, or that they don’t have the right skills to offer anything to a 21st century workforce. To support an ageing workforce, employees need to encourage inclusive working practices and skill sharing across all ages.

Employers have a significant role to play in changing the way we view older workers, and often small changes can have a big impact. Almost two thirds (60%) of UK employees say they’d be more inclined to work for an employer that supported their health and well-being when thinking about working past age 65. By adapting and providing more ageing-friendly support, employers will be in a better place to engage, retain and support workers valuable to their own business and the whole economy.

Source data:
[1] ONS: National Population Projections: 2016-based statistical bulletin, 26 October 2017
[2] Canada Life Group: Three in four employees will work beyond 65 as rising cost of living and poor returns on savings takes its toll, 20 June 2018
[3] Canada Life Individual Protection research, March 2018
[4] PwC Golden Age Index: How well are the OECD economies harnessing the power of an older workforce? 2018 update
[5] Arthritis Research UK: State of Musculoskeletal Health 2018
[6] University of Wuerzburg, Faculty of Business Management and Economics: Training older employees: what is effective? 2015
[7] DWP: Employing older workers – An employer’s guide to today’s multi-generational workforce, February 2013

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