Do millennials face greater financial struggles than baby-boomers? Research reveals Brexit-like divide

9 October 2019

Just over half of people (51%) think that younger generations face bigger financial struggles than their predecessors.


This was one of the findings of the Great British Retirement Survey, a landmark piece of research in collaboration with our parent company interactive investor that gathered together both retirement experiences and expectations amongs 10,000 working and retired adults.

Retired respondents, in particular, were keen to share their views on the intergenerational divide, with many expressing sympathy for issues affecting younger generations including high property prices, student debt and declining occupational pension provision.

‘Young people won’t have the retirement we have’

As one respondent said: “They have awful pressure from a combination of repaying university costs, starting pension contributions, getting a deposit together for a first property, and relationship problems seem far more common these days and can prove expensive.”

Another said: “I do not believe that younger people will have the sort of retirement that my wife and I have had or for as long, as I don't think it will be affordable in the future. Younger people will have to work much longer and will not benefit from the final salary pension schemes.”

Final salary pensions and emotional well-being

In fact, separately our survey found a noticeable correlation between final salary pensions and emotional wellbeing in retirement.

Of those without a final salary pension, 31% say they will need to make adjustments to their lifestyle when they retire. This compares to just 19% of those with this type of pension which pays a guaranteed income for life.

Similarly, 57% of final salary pension holders say their lifestyle will improve when they retire, compared to 49% of those that don’t.

As the number of people with final salary pensions continues to dwindle, the harder individuals will need to save to have a sufficient income in retirement.

However, while there was undoubtedly sympathy for the struggles faced by younger adults, this was often countered with a view that while many baby boomers may be well off now they weren’t always so comfortable.

Likewise, there was a very significant belief that younger generations had higher lifestyle expectations, didn’t know how to save and frittered their money away.

‘I started working aged 12’

As one respondent said: “I started part-time home working at the age of 12, part-time in the economy at the age of 15, had part-time jobs through university, was working three jobs a day and doing part-time study from 1979 to 1981 and went almost two years without any income during the 1990s recession.

However, youngsters from poorer backgrounds have even less chance of getting on the housing ladder in the South East than I had.

“Furthermore, the peer pressure to conform to the idea of buying designer clothes, mobile phones, etc, was non-existent in my youth (I was brought up on a council housing estate where everybody was poor).

"When I had no money, I went without. There seems to be an expectation today that nobody should go without, but there seem to be fewer jobs for youngsters to pick up some extra money.”

However, sympathy for the financial plight of millennials and the younger generation z does seem to wane with age. For those respondents aged 76 and over only 44% believed that younger generations have a tougher time financially.

Avocado shaming

Among those respondents who didn’t think younger generations have it any harder there was a degree of ‘avocado-shaming’ – the recent trend of calling out younger people for frittering away money on perceived extravagances such as avocado on toast and flat whites instead of saving up for longer-term expenses.

There was also a strong sense that younger people have different spending priorities.

 “I don't think the younger generation take enough care with money. They spend today and don't worry about debt or tomorrow,” said one respondent.

Other comments included: “They do not pay 15% on mortgages as we did” and “they have so much money to spend on unnecessary tech items and do not save.” Another said: “I didn’t have enough money for tattoos or takeaways.”

Despite significant differences in opinion amongst the general population, government policy is shifting towards supporting younger generations.

In April this year, the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness called on government to provide better support to younger people in areas including employment and housing.

Lord True, chair of the committee says: "We found that intergenerational bonds are still strong, and the evidence suggested both young and older people recognise the contribution the other makes and the challenges they face.

"However, there is a risk that those connections could be undermined if the Government does not get a grip on key issues such as access to housing, secure employment and fairness in tax and benefits."

Many of the policy recommendations involved reducing spending on older generations to pay for additional support for the young.

This included removing the triple lock on state pension increases (replacing it with increases linked to average earnings) and limiting the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes to older pensioners.

In June, meanwhile, the BBC announced over 75s would no longer get free TV licences (unless they claim pension credit).


You are better off today

Most of the young today are better off than we were, i was born 1947 of a poor family, dad joined army under age at start of WW1 for 22 years and ended up i poor health, died when I was 13, I always worked hard but jobs had no works pensions, these articles always compare the better off from then with the poorer end of today. I see what the young of our family and friends families have today and they are well off compared, just that they want everything all of the time, we did without and struggled to get a one up one down back to back with outside loo, today they all want to start with a 4 bed detached, new home, new car, holidays, social life and every gadget going. If they made do with very little like we did they would have lots of money. i live off my old state pension, no GPC as I saved my money so lose out, I am lucky my dad never reached pension age after all he did for his country, a sick man killed himself working 7 day week as a farm stockman, had to work in those days as not the benefits you have today, people don't know how well off and lucky they are today.

Oh really?

Contax claims that he/she lives on his state pension yet I'd bet that he/she had free education, probably a lifetime of employment, probably has an employers pension (or the cushion of pension credits), managed to buy their own home (or get housing benefit) and started getting his state pension far earlier than youngsters today can even dream of.

Today we have student loans, zero hour contracts, a housing market that's completely unaffordable without parental help, money purchase pensions and a state pension with a retirement age that keeps getting put back.

But of course because I have a monthly phone contract it's all my own fault.

Never had it so good

Michael Palin: Ahh.. Very passable, this, very passable.

Graham Chapman: Nothing like a good glass of Chateau de Chassilier wine, ay Gessiah?

Terry Jones: You're right there Obediah.

Eric Idle: Who'd a thought thirty years ago we'd all be sittin' here drinking Chateau de Chassilier wine?

MP: Aye. In them days, we'd a' been glad to have the price of a cup o' tea.

GC: A cup ' COLD tea.

EI: Without milk or sugar.

TJ: OR tea!

MP: In a filthy, cracked cup.

EI: We never used to have a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper.

GC: The best WE could manage was to suck on a piece of damp cloth.

TJ: But you know, we were happy in those days, though we were poor.

MP: Aye. BECAUSE we were poor. My old Dad used to say to me, 'Money doesn't buy you happiness.'

EI: 'E was right. I was happier then and I had NOTHIN'. We used to live in this tiiiny old house, with greaaaaat big holes in the roof.

GC: House? You were lucky to have a HOUSE! We used to live in one room, all hundred and twenty-six of us, no furniture. Half the floor was missing; we were all huddled together in one corner for fear of FALLING!

TJ: You were lucky to have a ROOM! *We* used to have to live in a corridor!

MP: Ohhhh we used to DREAM of livin' in a corridor! Woulda' been a palace to us. We used to live in an old water tank on a rubbish tip. We got woken up every morning by having a load of rotting fish dumped all over us! House!? Hmph.

EI: Well when I say 'house' it was only a hole in the ground covered by a piece of tarpolin, but it was a house to US.

GC: We were evicted from *our* hole in the ground; we had to go and live in a lake!

TJ: You were lucky to have a LAKE! There were a hundred and sixty of us living in a small shoebox in the middle of the road.

MP: Cardboard box?

TJ: Aye.

MP: You were lucky. We lived for three months in a brown paper bag in a septic tank. We used to have to get up at six o'clock in the morning, clean the bag, eat a crust of stale bread, go to work down mill for fourteen hours a day week in-week out. When we got home, our Dad would thrash us to sleep with his belt!

GC: Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at three o'clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, go to work at the mill every day for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would beat us around the head and neck with a broken bottle, if we were LUCKY!

TJ: Well we had it tough. We used to have to get up out of the shoebox at twelve o'clock at night, and LICK the road clean with our tongues. We had half a handful of freezing cold gravel, worked twenty-four hours a day at the mill for fourpence every six years, and when we got home, our Dad would slice us in two with a bread knife.

EI: Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed, (pause for laughter), drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us, and dance about on our graves singing 'Hallelujah.'

MP: But you try and tell the young people today that... and they won't believe ya'.

ALL: Nope, nope..

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