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Press release

A quarter of UK adults expect to ‘never really retire’

Press release

A quarter of UK adults expect to ‘never really retire’

Press release.

Person Using Pottery Wheel

Latest research from Phoenix Insights*, Phoenix Group’s longevity think tank, conducted by Message House, finds a huge difference in perceptions around how people have retired in the past, and what this could look like in future decades.

Perceptions of retirement

A ‘hard stop’ or ‘transitional’ retirement are seen as the most prominent ways people have moved into retirement over the last 50 years but the ‘hard stop’ retirement is expected to dwindle significantly in the future. Only 15% of UK adults think it will represent most people’s experience in the next 10-25 years.

The biggest change between retirement perceptions in the past and the future is a large, anticipated increase in people never really retiring because they want or need to keep working. 41% of UK adults expect this to be the norm in the next 10-25 years, up from 13% in the past.

People's expectations of retirement are changing. Looking at the last 50 years 40% of people expected a hard stop retirement while just 13% expected to keep working in some capacity. Looking at the next 10-25 years this trend reverses, with 41% expecting to continue working and just 15% expecting a hard stop.

Phoenix Insights research among UK adults, figures in %

Retirement as a period of transition, where people reduce the amount of time they spend working and balance it with doing other things, is expected to continue to be the most common experience.

Hopes vs expectations

The research looked at hopes compared to expectations of moving to retirement. 44% hope for a ‘hard stop’, 47% hope for a period of transition, and just 9% hope to keep working. However, when looking at expectations, 30% expect a ‘hard stop’, 46% expect a period of transition, and 24% expect to keep working.

Just half (52%) of those who have still to retire who are hoping for a hard stop realistically expect to achieve this, and one in five (19%) of this group think they will actually have to keep working.

Many people don't expect to achieve the retirement they hope for. 44% of people ideally hope for a hard stop retirement but just 30% think they will actually achieve it. Only 9% want to continue working in some capacity while 24% think that this is the realistic path for them

Phoenix Insights research among UK adults, hopes vs expectations for retirement.


Phoenix Group’s Catherine Sermon, Head of Public Engagement and Campaigns (Phoenix Insights) comments:

“The idea of a ‘hard stop’ retirement has long been superseded by people looking to reduce their working hours and gradually transitioning into retirement, many working part-time while drawing on some of their pension to supplement income. Moving forward, however, while a gradual transition into retirement is expected to remain popular, our research suggests a sea change is looming, with a significant rise in people anticipating they will carry on working throughout their life.

“It’s vital that this changing approach to retirement is matched by how people are supported in work and saving throughout their life. There will need to be more flexibility so people who want or need to remain in work for longer are able to do so. This should go hand-in-hand with policy change to help people save more. Millions of adults are off track and not saving enough to provide the retirement income they expect and may end up delaying their retirement plans as a result. Increasing the minimum auto enrolment contribution rate being made into workplace pension should be a high priority in the next Parliament to help close some of pension savings gap.”



* Phoenix Insights research conducted by Message House, carried out in January 2024 among 1,502 UK adults. Weighted to be nationally representative.


Andrew Golder
Senior Public Relations Manager


Nathalie Lahiri
Senior Account Executive, Lansons