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Financial futures

Gen Xers expected to face significant challenges in retirement

With many ‘Gen Xers’ (those born between 1965 and 1980) having entered the job market too late to benefit from final salary pensions, yet too early to benefit from schemes such as auto-enrolment, this group is expected to face significant challenges in retirement, if policymakers fail to respond urgently.

There are currently 14 million Gen Xers in the UK – 1 in 5 of the total population. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic putting additional strain on finances, the case for policy action becomes urgent.

No pension provision

Research by the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC)[1] finds that self-employed Gen X workers are five times more likely to have no pension provision than other workers due to a lack of access to traditional pension schemes.

The report on the impact of longevity, finds that self-employed Gen Xers (those born between 1965 and 1980) are at high risk of facing inadequate income in retirement. This is in part due to self-employed Gen Xers being more likely to face periods of low or insecure pay, alongside a more general lack of incentives to save.

Impacted by COVID-19

While the adoption of auto-enrolment into pension schemes, for example, has been highly successful in supporting many employees to start saving, there hasn’t been similar initiatives to support the self-employed, and people in this group can’t rely on contributions from an employer to top up their pension pots.

Self-employment, including in the gig economy, is on the rise among Gen X workers. While overall, 19% of Gen Xers say they struggle to save for retirement due to insecure earnings, this is more than double for those who are self-employed – 44%. The research, based on a nationally representative YouGov survey of 6035 people, identified self-employed Gen X workers have been further impacted by COVID-19, with 39% reporting spending their savings or saving less due to the pandemic.

Flexibility during hard times

In the report, ILC call for policymakers to urgently offer an equivalent to auto-enrolment to the self-employed, but in a way that offers more flexibility during hard times – by giving this group the option to save into a Sidecar Savings Scheme (as well as a traditional pension).

This would enable savers to pre-commit to regularly put money into an accessible savings account, and once these savings have reached an agreed target – which ensure they have sufficient savings for a ‘rainy day’ – to automatically transfer any additional payments into a pension.

Variable or insecure pay

Many Generation Xers don’t have adequate pension savings in place and sadly this financial vulnerability is exacerbated if you’re also self-employed. Many people who are self-employed are likely to face periods when they are on variable or insecure pay, but there is also a worrying lack of incentive for them to save for their financial futures.

With self-employment and the gig economy on the rise it’s vital that saving for retirement is encouraged and more easily facilitated for these workers and would welcome any moves by policymakers to introduce an equivalent auto-enrolment scheme for the self-employed, which we know has worked so well for employees.

Source data:

[1] The findings are ILC calculations based on nationally representative YouGov survey responses of 6035 UK adults aged 40-55 (collected online between 13-24 November 2020). The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults aged 40-55.


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