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The cost of a ‘luxurious’ retirement? £42,000 a year, Which? reveals

Find out whether or not you're on target for a happy retirement

Couples need to generate an income of £42,000 a year to have a luxurious retirement that includes long-haul holidays and new cars, exclusive research by Which? has found – an amount that would require a pension pot in excess of half a million pounds. 

Even if you’re only looking to cover spending on essentials, our research suggests that couples still need a combined pension income of £18,000.

Which? has factored in the guaranteed income available from the state pension, along with the impact of tax, to help you find out what to target in retirement – and how much you really need to live comfortably in your years after work.


How much do you need in retirement?

Which? Money asked 6,400 retired readers how much they typically spend each month on a range of categories, from groceries to holidays.

Couples spend an average of £18,000 a year on day-to-day essentials, including food and drink, housing payments, transport, insurance, utility bills and clothing.

Spending rises to £27,000 when you include some leisure spending, such as short-haul breaks, regular recreational and leisure expenditure, alcohol, tobacco and charity donations.

An extra £15,000 a year goes on luxuries, such as long-haul holidays, a regular new car, health club memberships and expensive meals out – making a grand total of £42,000.

Single-person penalty

If you live on your own, there’s a greater challenge without the pension income and state pension contribution of a second person to help meet your savings targets.

On average, single people spend £13,000 for essentials, £20,000 for a comfortable retirement and £33,000 for some luxury.

Some things cost about the same for those on their own. Single-person households spend an average of 83% of the outlay of their two-person counterparts on housing and insurance, and 78% of their expenditure on utility bills.

Help from the state pension

There is some good news in that not all the money will need to come from your private pensions. Our figures assume that all those in our calculations are receiving the full basic state pension, which is worth £129.20 per week in 2019/20.

We also apply the full tax-free personal allowance (£12,500 in 2019/20) on income for both our couples and individuals – you pay tax on the pension income you receive in retirement, but the tax-free personal allowance will soften the blow.

When these factors are taken into account, couples need to produce gross annual private pension income of £4,560 (Essential), £14,060 (Comfortable) or £32,810 (Luxury).

The respective totals for those living alone are £6,280, £15,155 and £31,405.

A pot of at least £200,000 is the aim

We’ve calculated how much in total you’ll need in your fund to produce the desired annual private pension income via pension drawdown (leaving your pot invested and drawing an income from it) or an annuity (which sees you swapping your pension savings for a guaranteed income for life).

Two-person households need a pot of around £215,000 alongside their state pension to produce the annual income for a comfortable retirement (£27,000) via pension drawdown – or just under £300,000 through a joint-life annuity.

Nearly £70,000 in a drawdown plan should suffice to cover essentials, but to accommodate luxury spending, couples will require a shade over £500,000.

Again, those living alone face more of a challenge. To pay for just daily essentials you’ll need £96,000 in a pension drawdown plan, or £125,000 via a single-life annuity.

To have a comfortable retirement, you’ll need £232,000 in drawdown or £300,000 with an annuity, and for a luxurious retirement, you’ll need £481,000 in drawdown and £622,000 with an annuity.

Think ahead about your retirement

Jenny Ross, Which? Money editor, said: ‘If you haven’t given much thought to how you’ll fund your lifestyle when you retire, there is a risk that your plans may be scuppered when the reality of the budget available to you hits home.

‘While a pension pot worth £100,000 may seem substantial, for a retired couple both receiving the full basic state pension it would only fund the essentials if you purchased an annuity.

‘When planning for retirement, think about your income target and consider how the state pension will help you reach it. This will also help you calculate how much in total you’ll need in a pension pot to produce your desired pension income.’

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