What is the average pension pot (UK)?

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Updated on
January 8, 2023

In a nutshell

The current average pension pot in the UK is much lower than it should be for a comfortable retirement. For those aged between 35-44 it’s £30,000. We recommend aiming for the official recommended pension pot figures to give yourself a comfortable living in retirement (all covered below).

Nutty

Concerned that you aren’t saving enough cash in your pension savings? Or maybe, like most of us, not sure how much you should actually have in your pension? Don’t worry, we’ll run through how much you need to have in your pension to get the retirement income you want. We’ll break it down by age too.

We’ll also run through how to increase your pension pot over time – it’s much easier than you might think, and super easy to get started if you haven’t already.

As a spoiler, check out PensionBee¹ for your pension – they’re 5* rated, super easy to use, have low fees and a great track record of growing pensions over time.

Average pension pot by age (UK)

Let’s dive straight into the numbers, here's the average of what people in the UK currently have in their pension savings (their pension pot):

Age Average pension pot
16-24 £2,700
25-34 £9,300
35-44 £30,000
45-54 £75,500
55-64 £107,300

Data: ONS (Pension wealth: wealth in Great Britain)

Was it what you were expecting?

To clarify, it's important to remember that this is the average pension size, so what the average person in the UK has in their pension, and not the recommended pension size to have a comfortable retirement.

The scary thing is the recommended pension size is much bigger! But don’t panic, if you follow our advice you can increase your pension by a significant amount. We'll cover all this below.

What is the average pension pot (UK)?

These amounts include the average of all pensions and includes defined benefit pension schemes and defined contribution pension schemes…

Defined benefit pension schemes are more common in government jobs, such as the NHS, and are where your pension is determined by how long you’ve worked there and what your salary is. 

A defined contribution pension scheme is what you’ll most likely have if you don’t work for the government. It's where you pay in a set amount each month automatically from your salary, and your employer adds cash too (3% when you pay in 5%).

Defined contribution pension

Average UK retirement income

The actual average retirement pension income in the UK is £361 per week, which works out as £18,772 per year, or £1,564 per month. (GOV.UK). That’s enough to get by, but not enough for a comfortable retirement. We’ve covered this in detail below.

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Recommended pension pot size

Here's where reality hits home! Retirement income (your pension) can be placed into 3 retirement living standards – minimum, moderate and comfortable:

  1. Minimum: this is everything you need to live, such as food and energy bills, with a small bit left to spend on yourself. It’s £41 per week for food and £410 for clothing per year. There’s no budget for a car or holiday abroad.
  2. Moderate: this covers all your essentials but with a little bit extra, such as a holiday in Europe and more per year for clothes (£730), and an increase in food budget to £47 per week.
  3. Comfortable: this is the budget to live comfortably (but not the high life). There’s £59 per week for food, and £1,200 per year for clothing. There’s also a bit more to spend on yourself, such as a 3 week holiday per year.

These are the official Retirement Living Standards set out by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association.

And here’s how much you’ll need each year in retirement:

UK (Excluding London)

Retirement standard Yearly income (one person) Yearly income (couple)
Minimum £10,900 £16,700
Moderate £20,800 £30,600
Comfortable £33,600 £49,700

London

Retirement standard Yearly income (one person) Yearly income (couple)
Minimum £13,200 £21,100
Moderate £24,500 £36,200
Comfortable £36,700 £51,500

Probably a lot more than you were expecting.

There’s one major thing to point out here. These figures assume that you won’t have any housing costs (it assumes you had a mortgage and it’s been paid off). If you think you’ll be renting or paying off your mortgage later in life, you’ll need to add these costs on top – and they can be a lot.

Plus, if you want those little extras in life, perhaps some expensive hobbies like golf, or multiple holidays, you’ll need to add those costs on top too. Retirement can be pretty expensive!

However, there's help at hand. You could be entitled to the State Pension, which is what you could get from the government when you retire…

Quick intro to the State Pension

Before we get ahead of ourselves, you’ll need to know what the State Pension is, as it plays a vital role in how much you’ll need to save for retirement.

The State Pension is what you’ll get from the government when you reach the official State Pension age, which is currently 66, but rising to 68 over time. To qualify, you’ll need to have paid National Insurance contributions for at least 10 years, but to get the full amount, 35 years.

Qualify for the State Pension

The full amount is £185.15 per week, which is £9,627.80 per year. It’s not a lot, and ideally you wouldn’t plan to live on just this, you would likely struggle. This supports your private pension, which we’ll cover below.

Full State Pension

How much you need in your pension pot

Let’s run through how you’ll need it in your pension pot to achieve those retirement standards.

Not including receiving the State Pension

Retirement standard Yearly income (one person) Total pension pot
Minimum £10,900 £284,668
Moderate £20,800 £538,282
Comfortable £33,600 £869,533

Retirement living standards

Including receiving the State Pension

And here’s what you’ll need in your pension with the State Pension removed (so, the amount you’ll need separate from the State Pension).

Retirement standard Yearly income (one person) Total pension pot (State Pension removed)
Minimum £10,900 £42,980
Moderate £20,800 £296,594
Comfortable £33,600 £627,844

Pretty scary isn’t it? But don’t worry, pension pots can grow very large over time. We’ll run through how to increase yours later on.

You can also learn lots more about this with our guide: how much do I need in my pension pot?

Minimum retirement standard

To put it another way, to get a yearly income of £10,900 in retirement, you’ll need to qualify for the State Pension (the government pension), and have an extra £42,980 saved in your own private pension (a pension in your own name, we’ll cover what private pensions are just below).

And if you won’t qualify for the State Pension, you’ll need a pension pot of £284,668.

To put it into perspective, this pension income is a lot less than the minimum wage, which is currently £19,760. It’s nearly 50% less in fact. You’ll likely struggle to maintain the same lifestyle you do if you’re currently working with just the minimum retirement standard. 

We recommend aiming for a bigger pension pot if you can – and plan to make the full 35 years of National Insurance contributions if possible.

Moderate retirement standard

With a moderate retirement standard, so a pension income of £20,800, which covers the essentials and a few of life’s small luxuries, but still not many, you’ll need to have saved a total of £296,594 in addition to the State Pension.

And if you’re not expecting to get the State Pension, you’ll need to have saved £538,282 in your pension pot.

Again, we’ll cover how to build up your pension pot below – these big numbers are from a lifetime of saving and your savings can really grow when saving into the right type of pension. We’ll run through how easy it is below.

Comfortable retirement standard

A comfortable retirement works out as £33,600 per year. That covers all the basics and then some, with more luxuries such as a longer holiday each year. However, it doesn’t mean your lifestyle isn’t going to be like the rich and famous, you’ll mostly likely be similar to your lifestyle when you’re working.

With the State Pension, you’ll need to save £627,844 alongside it. And if you’re not expecting to get the State Pension, you’ll need to have saved £869,533 in your pension pot. Yikes! 

This might seem out of reach, but it can be possible for you – trust us.

Average pension pot vs recommended pension pot

You’ve most likely worked out that the average UK pension pot is quite a bit lower than the recommended pension pot. And by quite a bit!

As a quick recap, the average pension pot at:

  • Age 40 is £30,000
  • Age 45 is £75,500
  • Age 50 is £75,500
  • Age 55 is £107,300
  • Age 60 is £107,300
  • Age 65 is £107,300

Let’s take the average UK pension pot for someone aged 64, which is £107,300.

If they qualify for the State Pension, which most people who have worked for most of their lives will have. Then, they would be just above the ‘minimum’ retirement standards bracket. They’d roughly have an income of £14,000 per year from their pension.

If they didn’t qualify for the State Pension, their income would be a lot less, around £4,000 per year. And would likely have to continue to work into retirement. As a reminder, minimum wage is currently £19,760 – so your retirement income would be a lot less.

To get a moderate retirement, an income of £20,800, you’d need to save a total of £296,594, and that’s if you were also getting the State Pension. That’s nearly 3x more than the average pension pot at 64 years old (£107,300).

And for a comfortable retirement, you’d need nearly 6x the average UK pension pot, with £627,844.

So, instead of asking 'What is the average pension pot?' You should be asking 'How much do I need to save to have the retirement I want?'

We’ll cover how to increase your pension pot and contributions below.

Types of pensions

We’ve mentioned a few different types of pensions (and the State Pension above), but if you’re not sure what all the different types of pensions are, don’t worry! That’s why Nuts About Money is here. Lets run through them:

Private pension

A private pension is a pension in your name and private to you (so not the government pension). You get to decide how much you pay into them, and you get to decide when you’d like to start taking your cash – as long as you’re over 55 (57 from 2028).

Here’s where it gets a bit more confusing, there’s different types of private pensions. You can have a workplace pension, and a personal pension. We’ll cover both below.

What is a Private pension?

Workplace pension

A workplace pension is a pension you’ll probably have if you are employed. Every employer has to set you up with a pension through the auto-enrolment scheme, and they have to contribute to your pension too!

If you contribute at least 5% of your salary to your pension, your employer will add 3% (by law). Pretty great right? It’s basically free money. This extra money can make a big difference to your overall retirement amount.

Workplace pension

Some kind employers might even increase this too, and match your contributions if you pay more in. Speak to your HR team (human resources) to find out more.

But not only that, with a workplace pension, your pension contributions are taken out of your salary before you pay any tax at all! Meaning your pension contributions are completely tax-free.

Workplace pension tax relief

The downside is it’s up to your employer which pension provider they want to use, you don’t get to choose – and often they’re not the best pensions out there, with high fees and a poor performance of growing your money.

And that brings us onto personal pensions, where you do get to choose!

Personal pension

A personal pension is one that you set up yourself (don’t worry, it’s easy, we cover it below). It’s often used in addition to a workplace pension, or if you’re self-employed, it’s your only option to save for retirement (it’s a great option though). If you are self-employed, we’ve got a useful guide to self-employed pensions.

With a personal pension, you get to choose which pension provider to use, so you can pick one of the best – one with low fees and a good record of growing money over time.

Not sure where to look? Check out PensionBee¹, they're 5* rated, easy to use, have low fees and a great track record of growing pensions over time. Here’s our PensionBee review to learn more. Alternatively, you can compare the best pension providers.

Workplace pensions and personal pensions

There's more good news, with a personal pension, you’ll get an automatic bonus of 25% of everything you pay into your pension from the government. Yep, we’re not joking! 

Personal pension

As saving into a pension is supposed to be tax-free, the government refunds the tax you’ve already paid on your income straight into your pension pot. If you pay higher-rate tax (40%) or additional rate tax (45%), you can also claim this back too (on your Self-Assessment tax return).

Personal pension tax relief

A personal pension can really boost your pension savings – and we highly recommend it. We’ll cover how to get started and set up your own below.

Self-invested personal pension (SIPP)

There’s also a self-invested personal pension, which is where you manage your own investments. Instead of the experts looking after your pension, you’ll be the one deciding which investments to make and when to buy and sell. These can often have lower fees as you aren't relying on experts.

Self-invested personal pension (SIPP)

We don’t recommend these for most people, but if this sounds like something you’d like to do, here’s where to learn more about self-invested personal pensions, and the best SIPP providers.

How to increase your pension pot

A bit worried you won’t have enough to retire with the lifestyle you want? You’re not alone. It's sensible to increase your pension savings if you can, and here’s how.

The answer is pretty simple – time!

Over time your pension pot grows bigger and bigger. But in order to really benefit, you need to increase your pension contributions each month, and by doing this, over time your money will compound, meaning it will grow much more than the actual total of your contributions.

Pension growth over time

How? Well, your pension earns money itself (from it being invested), and the money it makes, begins to make money too, and this snowballs over and over.

Your money is pooled together with other pension savers into a pension fund. And this money is then invested in things such as:

  • Stocks and shares: where you own part of a company, a share of a company.
  • Investment funds: groups of investments put into a single investment, such as a group of shares.
  • Bonds: loans to large companies or governments.
  • Property: normally commercial property that pays rent (an income).

The experts managing your pension (the pension fund), will use investment strategies to grow your pension in a safe and sensible way over time, all while being constantly monitored and the investments adjusted when needed.

And by doing this, small sums can become large over time, thanks to compound interest.

Let’s look at a quick example. Let’s say you have £500 to start with and after one year it has increased to £550, so 10%, you’ve made £50. The next year it also increases by 10%, but this time you are making 10% on £550, and so you’ve now made £60.50, and the next year you earn money on the £60.50, and this carries on over and over. It’s so powerful, Einstein called it the 8th wonder of the world, and he knows a thing or two about maths!

Given long enough, your monthly pension contributions can grow into a very large pension by the time you retire.

To use a real life example, if you earned the average salary of £33,000 per year, and have already managed to save a pension of £10,000, with a workplace pension, you’ll be adding 8% to your pension each year (5% from you, and 3% from your employer), which is £220 per month.

If your pension pot grew 7% per year on average, after 25 years, you’d have saved £235,470. Not bad right? And if you saved for another 10 years, you’d have £511,294. Wow!

After that, you’d actually be making more money from your pension, £35,791 per year, than your salary (£33,000). Pretty great right? 

Compounding interest pension pot

Now let’s run through how you can benefit from this yourself by how best to increase your pension contributions.

Increasing pension contributions

One of the key ingredients to pension wealth is increasing your monthly pension contributions and letting compound interest work its magic over time.

You’ve got 2 options when it comes to increasing your pension contributions, either increase your workplace pension contributions if you are employed, or use a personal pension.

We strongly recommend only adding more money to your workplace pension if your employer is willing to match your increased contributions (e.g. more free money from your employer). If they’re not willing to add more, you’re normally better off with a personal pension…

By opening a personal pension, and making contributions directly yourself (which are still tax-free just like a workplace pension), you’ll be in control of your pension destiny. 

You get to pick which pension provider you want to use, so you can pick one of the best ones out there, with low fees and a great track record of growing money over time – plus features like a mobile phone app with up-to-date information on your pension. They’re super easy to use and set up too.

Modern pension providers

And, you get to decide where your money is invested, for instance, you could pick a pension plan that only invests in socially responsible investments (e.g. no fossil fuels) – we're big fans of these here at Nuts About Money.

If you’re not sure where to find the best personal pensions, we’re here for you. We’ve reviewed the best pension providers in the UK, and here are the top ones:

The best personal pensions

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Best overall

PensionBee

PensionBee are leading the way with modernising pensions. The investment options are great for many pension savers, it’s an awesome app and website, which are both easy to use, and have tools and charts to show you how your money is growing – and importantly, how to hit your retirement goals.

It's easy to set up and get going, you can start a brand new pension, or simply transfer your existing pensions across.

You’ll pay one simple fee that decreases the more you save.

Fees: low (0.5% to 0.75%) for their core plans

Rating

PensionBee rated 5 stars

Our friends at PensionBee will contribute £50 to your pension when you open a PensionBee account.

Capital at risk.

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Expert advice

Moneyfarm

Moneyfarm is like a financial advisor on your phone (or website), their experts will work with you to determine the best investment strategy. It’s low cost, with an excellent investment track record and great customer service.

You’ll pay one simple fee that decreases the more you save.

Fees: low (0.35% to 0.75%)

Rating

Moneyfarm rated 5 stars

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Simple and easy

Penfold

Penfold is a great app to get you going, with simple pension fund options to choose from and awesome features on the app to view your money at any time. Plus simple tables and charts to work out how much you should be investing to hit your retirement goals.

You don’t need an existing pension to use it, but if you do have one, or a few, you can move those overs too.

Fees: low (0.75% or 0.88%)

Rating

Penfold rated 5 stars

Consolidating your pensions

With a personal pension, you can also combine all of your old pension pots into your new one, which is called consolidating your pension.

This is often a good idea to do, as:

  • You’ll never forget where they are (your pension provider often won’t get in contact, they’d rather you kept it there earning them fees).
  • You can track your total pension balance in one place, and always be up-to-date with how it is performing. Do you know how much all your pensions are worth right now?
  • Potentially save on fees – often a good pension provider (such as PensionBee¹), will reduce their fees if you have more saved with them.
  • Potentially grow your pension more – by moving your pension to a good provider with a good track record of growing money, it's often more likely to continue the good performance in the future too (most old workplace pension providers don’t have the best record and have high fees).

Consolidating your pension is easy to do too – if you move to a good pension provider, they’ll actually handle everything for you. All you need to do is let them know who your pension providers are. If you’re not sure, ask your old employer, they’ll let you know. It’s as simple as that!

How to consolidate pensions

Pension limits

You might now be thinking about paying as much as possible into your pension, which is a good thought, and highly recommended! But there are some limits to be aware of – although they’re pretty high:

There’s a limit on how much you can pay into your pension each year, which is the total of your income (e.g. salary), or £40,000, whichever is lower.

Pension annual allowance

There’s also a limit on how much you can withdraw from your pension in total before having to pay more tax. This is called the pension lifetime allowance, and is currently £1,073,100. If you withdraw more than this, you’ll have to pay more tax on your withdrawals.

Pension lifetime allowance

If you think you might hit these limits, it’s often a good idea to save the extra within a Stocks & Shares ISA, where your money can still grow tax-free. Learn more with our guide to Stocks and Shares ISAs.

What about retirement?

When it comes to retirement, you’ve got a few options to start taking your pension, and hopefully enjoy your retirement with a nice big pension pot.

At age 66 (rising to 68), you’ll be able to claim the State Pension. Although if you want to defer your State Pension, you can, and you’ll get bigger monthly payments when you do start taking it.

When it comes to your private pension, such as a workplace pension or personal pension, you’ll be able to start taking this from age 55 if you like (57 from 2028). And the first 25% of your pension is completely tax-free – so no tax to pay at all, and you can take this as a tax-free lump sum if you like (so all in go).

Accessing your tax-free money from your pension

With the remaining 75%, you may have to pay Income Tax on it – but it will depend on what your income is at the time, as you’ll still get your tax-free Personal Allowance, which is currently £12,570. Meaning you don't have to pay tax on the first £12,570 you make each tax year.

Personal allowance

However, when you start withdrawing your pension, the amount you can contribute to your pension will typically reduce to £4,000 per year (from the current limit of either your salary or £40,000, whichever is lower), so it’s often a good idea to keep building up your pension as much as possible until you’re truly ready to start taking your pension.

And finally, when you do retire, you can either use your pension pot to buy an annuity, which is a guaranteed monthly income for the rest of your life (or a set number of years), or simply keep your pension pot where it is and withdraw cash from it each month. Your pension provider will often run through your options at the time, and you can also get advice from a financial advisor – use Unbiased¹ to find the right one for you.

Let’s recap

We hope that wasn’t too complicated, or too depressing! To have a comfortable living in retirement, your pension pot is going to need to be pretty big – as much as £627,844 (not including the State Pension) to have a retirement income of £33,600 per year.

The good news is that it can grow very big over time, thanks to government help, experts growing your money and compound interest (the money you make, making more money) – but it does mean you need to be contributing to your pension regularly if you can. If you are close to retirement try and add as much as you can afford.

The main issue here is that the average UK pension pot is much smaller than the recommended pension that you’ll need – the UK is actually in a crisis when it comes to pensions. It’s best to ignore what other people are doing, and focus on the recommended pension pot figures.

The State Pension can go some way to help, especially contributing to the minimum retirement standard of living, but it’s up to you to build up the rest of your pension pot!

We recommend opening a personal pension. With this, you’re in control of your pension, you get to pick the best provider – one that’s easy to use, has low fees and a great track record of growing pensions over time.

If you’re not sure where to find the best pension provider for you, check out our best personal pensions – as a spoiler, PensionBee¹ comes out on top, they’re 5* rated, easy to use, have low fees and a great track record of growing pensions. And if you’re looking for a bit of expert help to get started, check out Moneyfarm¹ – they’ve got free advisors to help you.

All the best with saving, your future self will really thank you!

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Boost your pension pot with a personal pension – you’ll get a 25% bonus on everything you pay in too.

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This article was written by the team at Nuts About Money, and fact-checked by 2 independent reviewers. You’re in safe hands.

Best pension providers

Boost your pension pot with a personal pension – you’ll get a 25% bonus on everything you pay in too.

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