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Radical rethink required as the over 50s underestimate life expectancy by up to 8 years

Men approaching retirement age underestimating life expectancy by average of 6 years; women underestimating by average of 8 years

Research1 by Retirement Advantage shows that eight out of ten people (78%) over the age of 50 significantly underestimate how long they are likely to live. The figures, based on the firm’s annual Retirement Sentiment Index, reveal that both men and women aged 50-64 on average guessed their life expectancy to be 82 years old. However, analysis of official statistics show that the average 50-64 year old man will likely live until 88, while the average 50-64 year old woman expected to live until 90.

Retirement Advantage is warning that a radical rethink is required as the pension freedoms have meant many people have raided their pension pots before they reach their planned retirement age, and many will be left without sufficient income if they underestimate their years in retirement.

Andrew Tully, pensions technical director at Retirement Advantage, said: ‘Planning for retirement can be a complicated business and no one knows how long they will actually live. The pension freedoms have given people the opportunity to plunder pension pots early, often before planned retirement ages. This is potentially storing up trouble for the future, especially if people are underestimating how long these pensions need to last in retirement.

‘It’s important to remember these are averages and so the numbers mask significant differences, for example from male to female and area to area across the UK. However, there are tools available which can help people consider the probability of living to older ages.

‘This is an area where proper financial advice is key. An adviser can make a plan for your personal retirement journey which considers all the risks at play, whether that be investment risk, or the risk of living longer than you may have expected.’

Free tools are available which use official data to help people work out their average life expectancy, including:

  1. The data in this release is taken from the latest Retirement Advantage Retirement Sentiment Index report, which is based on data from the following sources:
  • 2017 figures: Censuswide survey of 1,005 over 50s, yet to retire, with private or defined contribution pensions, conducted between 28/06/2017 and 29/06/2017.
  • 2016 figures: YouGov survey of 1,001 UK adults over the age of 50, with a DC pension but not yet in retirement. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15/08/2016 and 19/08/2016.

Life expectancy estimates are based on Retirement Advantage analysis of ONS projected cohort estimates of life expectancy, 2014: