Growing divide between older and younger workers on pensions

A new survey shows a growing division between older people who feel more positive about their pension in recent months and younger workers who feel more negative.


Retirement age couple smiling and looking at a laptop


The confidence of people over 55 in their ability to retire has risen slightly while it has fallen among younger people, according to a survey by PensionsBee.

Its latest Pension Confidence Index – which measures sentiment towards retirement – found an increase in pension confidence among over 55s in the final quarter of 2023, but a bigger increase in negative pension sentiment among adults yet to reach the age they can first access their pension over the same period.

There was a 7% increase in optimism about pensions among 55-64 year olds towards the end of last year, from 38% in September to 45% in December. Meanwhile, fewer said they felt pessimistic. There was a 9% drop from 55% to 47% over the same period. Over 65s were even more positive in December, with over half (53%) feeling confident about their pension, although this was a similar proportion to September.

Conversely, pension concerns intensified between September and December 2023 for those under 55, with 57% admitting “quite negative” and “very negative” emotions about their pension – a 6% increase in negative sentiment over the period.

Individuals aged 44-54 exhibited the highest levels (63%) of negative sentiment towards their retirement outlook and are the only age group to feel, on average, “less positive” (47%) about their pension compared to how they say they felt a year ago. This is a significant change from September 2023 when most (49%) 44-54 years olds felt “the same” about their pension compared to a year ago and only around a third (38%) felt “less positive”.

In general more than half (51%) of those surveyed continue to feel negative about their retirement outlook, while positive sentiment has decreased from 42% in September 2023 to 41% in December 2023, indicating a slight decline in overall pension confidence over the last three months.

The State Pension remains a key factor behind whether people of any age feel good or bad about their future. Despite the government maintaining the triple lock and announcing a State Pension rise in April, distrust in the government remains a top three reason for negative pension sentiment among over 55s.

For younger savers, concerns around the inability to afford contributions (29%) overtook worries about high retirement costs (27%) as their primary pension concern between September and December 2023.

Despite under 55s generally exhibiting negative sentiments, men were (42%) more likely to express positive feelings about their pension than their female (26%) counterparts. In the working-age demographic, male savers aged 18-25, are notable outliers, with 46% reporting being on track for retirement, a significant rise from 31% in September.

Gender disparity persists among over 55s, where over half (58%) of men noted positive pension sentiments compared to only 37% of women.

Working age renters (61%) were also more likely to harbour negative feelings about their pension than homeowners (52%). PensionBee says the vast majority (60%) of renting retirees express negative feelings about their pension in stark contrast to homeowners in the same age group who feel mostly positive (54%).

Fewer self-employed people noted concerns about their pension (falling from 61% in September to 56% in December), a similar level to their employed counterparts (54%), despite their exclusion from Auto-Enrolment.

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