Abstracts: June 15th, 2009

This report commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions charts a way to help in developing messages to influence the way people think about when and how they should retire from paid work. The aim is to encourage people to stay in work up to and beyond State Pension age.

The research found that views of people about retirement fall into two groups. One group sees retirement as a bright, fulfilling and probably active phase of life offering new opportunities and the freedom and flexibility. This represents, for many, the modern retirement standard. It’s what they aspire to – and feel entitled to expect. The other group see retirement as a darker time of decline and possibly privation, characterised by failing powers and limited resources, an intermission between work and death. Many fear that in practice their own retirement may be narrowly constrained by finance and perhaps health.

The report recommends that the Department should seek to build up a retirement culture which gives people more sense of positive options and more interest in planning how and when it will happen. Working longer may well be part of that process for many – but it should only be seen as part of a wider pattern which is still evolving.

But the report warns that none of this can change the fact that many people are a long way from where they would like to be in relation to retirement finance, and many seem likely to experience profound disappointments and difficulties in relation to their retirement. Inadequate retirement finance will be one of the main engines of extension in working life, but that will be a source of public resentment rather than satisfaction. Helping people to understand their situation and minimise their problems should be a positive part of the communications strategy.

Extending Working Life: Changing The Culture is available from the DWP