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Average person will need £260,000 for retirement, says report

Patrick Collinson
Historically low interest rates mean that the income from savings is at rock-bottom lows. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

The average person will have to save £260,000 over their lifetime to enjoy a basic income in retirement, climbing to £445,000 if they are unable to get on the property ladder, according to a report by a former government pensions minister.

In a gloomy assessment of the outlook for today’s millennial generation, Steve Webb said most savers in the government’s auto-enrolment scheme were likely to accumulate only half the target amounts.

The report, Will we ever summit the pensions mountain?, from the pensions investment company Royal London, where Webb is director of policy, assumes that the average person will need to generate an income of just over £9,000 a year to top up their state pension at 65. But to achieve that income – with some protection from inflation – the person will have to save £260,000.

Worryingly, younger workers who fail to buy their own home and face a lifetime of renting will have to save far more. Royal London said it expected that around one in three retirees would eventually be renting, and would typically need to find £6,554 a year to pay private landlords. This additional costs means they will have to accumulate £445,000 to fund their retirement.

“We can no longer assume that we will be mortgage-free homeowners in retirement. For those unable to get on the property ladder during their working life, a large private rental bill needs to be factored in to retirement planning,” said Webb.

Data on amounts saved in pension plans is incomplete, with many people having different pots of money while working for different employers over their career, but Webb said the average sum saved into pension pots was around £30,000 to £40,000.

Except for a dwindling number of people enjoying final salary pensions, the large majority of private sector workers now have to rely on whatever amounts are saved into their company scheme. Historically low interest rates also mean the income from savings is at rock-bottom lows.

“The pension mountain has grown by about 75% in real terms since 2002/03,” said Webb. “This is partly because we are living longer and partly because interest rates are much lower, so a given pension pot generates a smaller income.”

In 2002/03, a pension pot of about £150,000 would have delivered a private pension of £9,000 a year through retirement, but the target has jumped to £260,000 today.