Stagnant wages hitting pension pots and retirement plans

Time to retire

People face working two extra years to make up for shortfalls in pension contributions resulting from the failure of wage growth to keep pace with inflation over recent years, according to retirement specialist MGM Advantage.

Between 2009 and 2014 pay levels have fallen in real terms: figures from the Office for National Statistics show that someone earning £27,200 at the end of 2014 should have been on £33,700 if their pay had kept up with inflation.

And because salaries and wages have not grown over that time, neither have pension contributions. MGM Advantage calculates the lack of contribution growth will result in a 13% shortfall, which it could take two extra years of work to make up.

Andrew Tully, pensions technical director at MGM Advantage, points out that the real earnings gap will mean "many may have to work for longer than planned, or re-evaluate expectations of their retirement".

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Different thinking

However, research from the government's Older Workers Champion Ros Altmann shows that more than half of working over-50s - almost five million people - want to work beyond the age of 65.

"People are thinking differently about retirement. Planning to work longer is becoming a reality," comments Altmann.

Indeed, a survey commissioned by Friends Life from the Pension Policy Institute shows that by continuing in full-time work for an extra five years can boost weekly retirement income by a third.

The increase is achieved partly by deferring the state pension, which means an increase in annual state pension when you start taking it (amounting to 10.4% a year if you reach state pension age before April 2016, or 5.8% a year for everyone else).

In addition, it is assumed people will continue to pay into their pension and that those pension investments will continue to grow.

For people with the lowest 25% of private pension savings, this will lift the average weekly income from £156.90 to £208.80 - above the £200 average weekly cost of living for retirees. Those with the biggest pension pots would see an average uplift of 25% by working an extra five years.

Even an extra three years would boost retirement income by 20% for those with smaller pensions.

"It's really positive to see that people can make such a difference to their pension saving by working a relatively short amount of time beyond the state pension age," says Andy Curran, UK chief executive at Friends Life.

"People are taking the decision to work for longer and it's critical to understand the full impact this will have on retirement income."

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This article was written for our sister website Money Observer

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