When will YOU retire? The average is long before state pension age at 59, poll claims... but older workers reckon they'll put it off to 64

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Three out of four retired people think they stopped work at the right age, but others regret that they gave up their job too soon, new research shows.

The retirement wishlist of over-50s is taking holidays, gardening, spending time with friends and family, enjoying hobbies and playing sport, it also revealed.

The average retirement age was 59 among those who have already given up work, considerably earlier than the current state pension age of 66, but 18 per cent now believed they should have hung on for longer, according to the survey by SunLife. Just 6 per cent felt they retired too late.

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The firm polled more than 1,000 people with a mix of those both working and retired and among over-50s who have not yet retired, the predicted average age to stop was 64, indicating a shift towards later retirement may be under way.

Separate recent research showed 33 per cent of people aged over 55 have made changes to their retirement plans as a result of the pandemic, and that workers are delaying leaving the workplace by an average of two and a half years. 

>>>Have you saved enough? Find out how to get your pension on track here 

The SunLife research into retirement finances also found:

– Average monthly net income among retired over-50s was £2,114, but among those not retired it was £2,375

– But retired people have more average disposable income (£617 versus £525), maybe due to budgeting better or from having paid off debts

– Seven in 10 retirees have managed to maintain their old standard of living, with many using savings or investments to do so

– Some 26 per cent of those still employed were furloughed during the pandemic and 16 per cent had their hours or pay cut

– A quarter say they have not given any thought to how they will finance their retirement

– The biggest financial worry of those already retired was the rising cost of living, while for those not retired it was running out of money

– Concern about running out of money drops dramatically after retirement, from 27 per cent beforehand to 9 per cent

– Among those surveyed, 56 per cent lived in their own home without a mortgage and their average property price was £276,000.

SunLife surveyed 1,000 people, of whom 29 per cent were retired, 23 per cent in full-time work, 11 per cent working part-time or semi-retired, 8 per cent unemployed and 3 per cent self-employed. They were weighted to be nationally representative.

Marketing director Ian Atkinson said: ‘A significant proportion of people feel they retired too early, with many missing the social interaction and sense of purpose from being in employment.

‘Our findings show that the average age for retirement is 59, but the preferred age for those still working is 64 – suggesting many people over 50 want to continue working for longer.

‘While it’s interesting to see that many retirees tend to have slightly more disposable cash than those still working, the majority still wish they had started saving for retirement earlier.’

What about the state pension?

Men and women’s state pension age is now 66. Between 2026 and 2028, this will rise again to 67.

The basic state pension is currently £137.60.  It is topped up by additional state pension entitlements – S2P and Serps – accrued during working years. 

The two-tier state system was replaced in 2016 by a new ‘flat rate’ state pension. This is currently worth £179.60 a week.

People who have contracted out of S2P and Serps over the years and retire after April 2016 get less than the full new state pension. 

But they can fill gaps in unpaid and or underpaid National Insurance in previous years, and build up more qualifying years if they have enough time between now and state pension age.

Workers needed to have 30 years of qualifying National Insurance contributions to get the old state pension, but they now need to have 35 years of contributions to get the new flat rate state pension.

But even if you paid in full for a whole 35 years, if you contracted out for some years it might still reduce what you get. 

Everyone gets the option of deferring their state pension to get more in their later years. You can check your NI record here.

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