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Britain resigned to becoming a nation of ‘Dot Cottons’

New research from Bestinvest has revealed that many Britons are resigned to working well into retirement age

Jason Hollands Jason Hollands
20 February 2014

Bestinvest can today reveal the findings of a survey looking into the retirement expectations of 2,000 UK non-retired adults aged 18 and over. To draw comparisons, each of the responses to the question ‘Which one of the following statements BEST describes your expectations for your living standards in retirement?’ have been matched to popular British television characters.

The findings show that 27% of those surveyed are resigned to the fact that they will need to continue to work part time in their retirement, like veteran Eastenders character Dot Cotton.

Dot Cotton, Eastenders:
Dot Cotton continues to work at the nation’s most famous laundrette, despite being well into retirement age. A frugal character who only drinks the occasional sherry for medicinal purposes and certainly isn’t a gossip, has financial worries which frequently simmer below the surface. Respondents who answered that they would ‘Probably need to keep working part-time to supplement my pension after retirement age’ were matched to Albert Square’s veteran. Overall, 27% of all those surveyed selected this option, with the highest figure found in East Midlands (35%), followed by the South West (34%).
Hyacinth Bucket, Keeping Up Appearances:
Like ‘Lady of the House’ Hyacinth, 25% of respondents believed they are or will be ‘Financially comfortable in retirement’. With a surname pronounced ‘Bouquet’, not ‘Bucket’, Hyacinth and her put-upon husband Richard took the occasional cruise and hosted infamous ‘candle light suppers’. The highest ‘Hyacinth’ figure was found for those in the South East (32%) and lowest in the East Midlands where 18% chose this comparable profile.
Jim Royle, The Royle Family:
Jim Royle, played by Ricky Tomlinson, is the lovable patriarch of the state-benefit dependent Royle Family. Sofa-loving Jim’s profile was matched to the 16% of respondents who believed they would be ‘Entirely or largely reliant on state benefits’. This answer was chosen most amongst those from the South West (24%) followed by Eastern (21%) respondents. More confident that they could avoid Jim’s fate were found to be those in London and the affluent South East where only 10% ticked this answer.
Victor Meldrew, One Foot in the Grave:
Victor Meldrew represents the frustrated middle class whose simmering anger at the unfairness of life frequently manifests itself in his immortal catchphrase “I don’t believe it!” 15% of people surveyed chose the option that, like Mr Meldrew, they would ‘Need to be quite tight-fisted in retirement; it won’t be fun’, an uncomfortable prospect if you have enjoyed middle class comfort during working life. We see this answer as representing those for whom aspiration is replaced by frustration.  Results were highest in Northen Ireland (21%), although this response was popular in a variety of locations including the North East, Eastern and Wales (20%).
Big Mo, Eastenders:
Mo Harris is a retired rogue in EastEnders who gets by with a bit of dodgy dealing, procuring whatever she can from her mate Fat Elvis. In real life the 69-year star who plays Mo, Laila Morse, was reported to have filed for bankruptcy last year. 8% of people believed they would be following in Mo’s footsteps, surviving by ‘ducking and diving, doing what’s necessary to keep my head above water.’ 12% of those surveyed in the East Midlands selected this option, the highest figure.
The Dowager Countess of Grantham, Downton Abbey:
The matriarch figure who presides over Downton Abbey has sharp clothes and an even sharper wit. Indeed, the Dowager is able to live as she pleases in her luxurious retirement. However fast forward 100 years and only 5% of those surveyed were ‘looking forward’ to a retirement, having ‘enough money to do whatever I want’. Figures were fairly low across the board to this response, reaching highest in London and Yorkshire/Humberside (9%). Just 1% of those in the East Midlands anticipated such a prosperous future.
Uncle Albert, Only Fools and Horses:
Dependent on nephews “Del Boy” and Rodney, Uncle Albert was often treated as a hindrance in the flat in Nelson Mandela Towers. Just 3% of people surveyed believed that they would need to ‘rely significantly on my family or friends’ in retirement, of which the highest figures found in the North West (7%) and Uncle Albert’s very own city, London (6%).

Facing the reality of the pension problem:

When asked the total value of all savings and investments that people intend to use to fund their retirement excluding the value of the house they lived in, the average pension pot was found to be £74,500. Based on a 65 year old male purchasing a joint life annuity, escalating in line with RPI and reducing to 50% on death, this sum would equate to a retirement income of just £2,344.

Additionally, to demonstrate the savings necessary to achieve the UK average salary in the UK of £26,500 in retirement, respondents were also asked to estimate the total figure required. The average estimate for the size of pension pot was found to be £335,000 whereas the real figure is £930,000.

Changing perceptions of retirement mean that the arbitrary boundary of retiring at the state retirement age is disappearing. While 30% of people surveyed believed they will be financially comfortable or have enough money to do as they please, the overriding majority of our sample had lower expectations. For them, surviving on a state pension alone is an uncomfortable prospect.

The good news is that we are all living longer, but that requires financing. There are only two ways to address this; working longer or saving considerably more.  While for some continuing to work may be a positive lifestyle choice, for others this will simply be a financial necessity and more are waking up to this prospect. For those who want to enjoy a restful retirement, the only answer is to save and invest considerable sums during working life. However as our research shows, most people hugely underestimate the scale of pension that is needed.

*Research conducted online by Research Plus, 14th – 18th November 2013 among 2,078 adults aged 18 years or over.


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