UK retirees vs the world

Posted on: 24 April 2014 by Olderiswiser Editorial

Figures released by the OECD and Eurostat provide a fascinating insight into retirement around the world, shedding light on different cultures’ and nationalities’ perceptions of growing older.

UK retirees vs the world

Although many UK citizens in their 40s and 50s are lamenting the fact that they’ll be unable to retire until they’re in their late 60s, spare a thought for the plight of the average Mexican man. The official age of retirement for a Mexican man is 65, but on average he’ll work until he’s 72.3 years old; a particularly worrisome figure as his life expectancy is 71.4.

This is in stark contrast to the experience of his French counterpart. Not only do French men retire amongst the earliest in Europe at 59.7 years old, but they also live amongst the longest - 78.7 years. This means they’ll spend 19 years as a retiree, whilst their poor Mexican equivalents will be working a year after they’ve died!

In the UK the average age of retirement is 63.5 (63.2 for women and 63.7 for men), but for many nationalities the difference between genders is far more pronounced. In the Czech Republic men will work on average 3.3 years longer than their female compatriots. In Luxembourg the dynamic is switched on its head, and industrious Luxembourgian ladies labour for two years longer than their husbands and brothers.

Of course, financial security is paramount to enjoying one’s retirement, and Dutch retirees seem to be the most prudent financial planners. Only 1.4 per cent of Dutch pensioners fall into the “financially at risk” category, meaning the vast majority will be financially secure throughout their autumn years.

Despite the Republic of Korea’s strong economy, almost half (45.6 per cent) of South Korean retirees are considered unable to support themselves into old age. To put this into perspective, figures from Germany and UK put old age poverty rates at 8.5 and 7 per cent, respectively.

At a time when many Brits in their 20s and 30s are forced to move back in with their parents whilst saving for their own home, in other nations there still exists a cultural trend for retirees to move in with their children in their older age. This exists most prevalently in Spain and Latvia, where 30 per cent of retirees live with their children. In the UK, Germany and the Netherlands only 8 per cent of retirees will live with their children.

We’ve ascertained that time spent in retirement and financial security vary wildly from country to country, but how does this affect how these retirees spend their time?

You may be buoyed to hear that British retirees are the culture vultures of Europe. The EU average for over 60s’ expenditure on recreational and cultural activities stands at 7.1 per cent, whilst British retirees spend 12.1 per cent of their income on such pursuits.

You may be less enthused to hear that we Brits have the least active retirees in Europe, spending (on average) only 13 minutes a day performing physical activities. This pales in comparison to the super active Spanish, who spend a whopping hour and 13 minutes a day staying active.

This isn’t to say our retirees are necessarily the laziest in the world, as not only do French retirees enjoy lengthy retirements, but they spend an average of 12 hours and 20 minutes a day eating and sleeping compared to our far more modest 10 and a half hours.

It may surprise you to hear that the Germans are the most adventurous of Europe’s retirees, spending the most time and money on holidays and vacations, whilst their Polish neigbours, perhaps held back by their larger proportion of poor retirees (11.5 per cent) spend the least on travel for leisure.

Seemingly conforming to social stereotypes, Irish retirees spend 4.8 per cent of their income on alcohol and tobacco. British expenditure is less than half of this, standing at 2.2 per cent. Despite their love of beer actually manifesting itself in the annual, world famous Oktoberfest, Germans spend the least on alcohol and tobacco. Only 1.4 per cent of a German retirees’ income is spent on the demon drink.

In a similar show of predictability it’s the Portuguese and Spanish who spend most of their income on dining out: 8.9 and 7.3 per cent, respectively. This trend is far less prevalent in Eastern Europe, and Latvians, Slovakians, Bulgarians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Polish and Romanian retirees all spend well under 2 per cent of their income in restaurants. As you might expect, these countries spend 35-50 per cent of their income on food and drink for the home.

Although many are bemoaning how the British pension system is in dire need of reform, these statistics reveal that (on a global scale at least) UK retirees are not having too hard a time of it, enjoying a level of financial comfort that many in other nations do not. We may not be as physically active as the Spanish or as financially secure as the Dutch but at least we don’t sleep as much as the French. That’s something.

If you’d like to scrutinize the findings for yourself you can find all the stats (and more) below.


About me

Jamie Waddell is a finance and lifestyle writer currently blogging at QROPS Review, a publication that helps people prepare for a retirement abroad.

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