• 37% of Gen Xers plan to work past the state pension age to plug a retirement income shortfall 
  • But, one in three (31%) are not confident they will be able to work for as long as they need
  • Gen X are concerned poor physical health (59%), poor mental health (31%) and age discrimination (31%) could prevent working in later life, limiting their retirement finances

One in three (31%) Generation X members (those born between 1965 and 1980) do not feel confident they will be able to work for as long as they need to fund their retirement needs, due to concerns around health and age.

With 57% of Gen Xers wanting to save more for retirement but struggling to do so, a quarter (25%) plan to work part-time past the state pension age (SPA) to plug an expected income short-fall in retirement, while 17% plan to work full-time. However, they have serious concerns about whether they will be able to continue working later in life. 

The findings, which, are contained in Slipping between the cracks, a report from the International Longevity Centre and supported by Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group1. They show why many people in Generation X continue to be “Generation Vexed”.

Barriers to working for longer

As many as 37% of all Gen Xers plan to work later in life to boost their retirement income, while for 25% this is their only plan. However, they have several concerns they fear will constrain their ability to do this:

  • 59% are worried poor physical health will restrict their ability to work
  • 31% are concerned poor mental health will impact them
  • 31% fear age discrimination will restrict their ability to retain or find another job
  • Other concerns include not having the right skills to adapt to the changing job market (19%) and a fear the economic impact of the pandemic will make it harder to remain in work (17%)

These concerns are perhaps understandable, especially as 36% of all Gen Xers, and one in three (33%) of those whose only plan for retirement is to work longer, also have a health problem or a disability.

Meanwhile, almost two-thirds (62%) of those who plan to work past the SPA to address an income shortfall in retirement are confident they’ll be able to do so – but they may find this is not always possible as a quarter (25%) of this group currently have a health problem or disability, and some (7%) expect to provide care to an adult in the next five years.

Andy Curran, CEO of Standard Life, part of Phoenix Group, said: “Many Gen-Xers feel they’ll never retire and expect to continue working to have an income in later life. Others want to work but fear discrimination or face health barriers. With many Gen Xers facing a challenging financial future, we believe that society and employers need to wake-up to the talent and experience of Gen X, and do more to support them. 

“Gen-Xers bring a wealth of diversity and expertise to the workforce and they should be celebrated and accommodated, not marginalised or face poverty in their later years.

“Flexible working and lifelong learning can help employees continue to stay in the workforce and save for longer while access to financial learning and wellbeing programmes can also help ensure everyone is equipped with the knowledge they need for later in life.”

Sophia Dimitriadis, Research Fellow at ILC and report author added: “With nearly 4 in 10 Gen Xers relying on working for longer to plug an income shortfall in retirement, it’s vital that we support them to do so. Providing more support to workers in poor health will likely make the biggest difference – followed by tackling age discrimination.

“Policy-makers need to make all jobs flexible by default so that employees can alter their work patterns to suit their needs (including health needs) and increase the awareness and use of Government Access to Work funds among workers with acquired disabilities.

“Government can also make it easier for employees to challenge age discrimination at work by allowing tribunals to consider cases of multiple types of discrimination. Finally, policy-makers need to offer workers aged 40+ targeted back-to-work support to ensure they aren’t left behind during the pandemic. This is especially important given that older unemployed workers are the most likely to leave the labour market for good.”



James Ikin
07946 056828
Darragh Leeson
Standard Life
07707 270001
Liam Hanson
+44 (0) 208 638 0832

Notes to editors

1 - All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 6,035 adults aged 40 to 55. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th - 24th November 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults aged 40-55. Calculations based on survey stats calculated by ILC. All references and methods are available in the full report, which can be downloaded here: https://ilcuk.org.uk/slipping-between-the-cracks/

About Standard Life 

  • Standard Life is a brand that has been trusted to look after peoples’ life savings for nearly 200 years
  • Today it proudly serves millions of customers who come to Standard Life directly, through advisers and through their employers’ pension scheme.
  • Standard Life is part of the Phoenix Group, the largest long-term savings and retirement business in the UK. We’re proud to be building on nearly 200 years of Standard Life heritage together
  • Our products include a variety of Pensions, Bonds and Retirement options to suit people’s needs, helping our customers to invest and save for their future. We’re proud to offer a leading range of sustainable and responsible investment options.
  • We support our customers on their journey to and through retirement with comprehensive, easy-to-understand guidance so they can invest in the right way for their needs, and plan a future they feel confident about.
  • The value of investments can go down as well as up, and may be worth less than originally invested. 

About ILC

  • The ILC is the UK’s specialist think tank on the impact of longevity on society, and what happens next. The International Longevity Centre UK was established in 1997 as one of the members of the International Longevity Centre Global Alliance, an international network on longevity.
  • Since our inception, we have published over 250 reports, organised over 300 events including the annual Future of Ageing conference. We work with central government, local government, the private sector, and professional and academic associations to provoke conversations and pioneer solutions for a society where everyone can thrive, regardless of age.

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