What over 50’s get up to while waiting for their partner to retire


Volunteering on a chicken farm, restoring old cars, and keeping a paddle steamer running are just some of the things that retired over 50s have got up to while they wait for their partner to give up work, according to new research from Saga Investment Services.

The investment and retirement planning specialist surveyed married and cohabiting over 50’s to uncover how long people wait for their partner to join them in retirement and how they spent their time.

Fewer than one in 10 (7%) couples retired at the same time. There was a gap of a year for just over one in seven (13%) and a two year wait for almost a quarter (22%) of couples. However, a third (32%) waited between three and five years for their partner to retire, while three in 10 (30%) waited more than five years.

Half of survey respondents said that one partner wanting to work for longer was the biggest reason for a gap in retirement dates, while less than a third (31%) said that they couldn’t afford to retire at the same. A similar number said that they had to wait to reach state pension age before retiring, meaning one partner retired sooner.

But these retirement ‘gappers’ weren’t beset by boredom while they waited for their partner to join them in their new workless life. While one in 10 (10%) said they felt lonely on their solo retirement journey, the great majority (57%) were liberated by the time off they had whilst waiting for a partner to retire. Relatively few (12%) contributed financially to speed up the retirement process for their partner.

Overall, the great majority (83%) said they either took up a hobby or volunteered during this period. Saga Investment Services drilled down even further to find out specifically how they spent their time, interviewing more than 160 retired over 50s about what they got up to while they awaited their partner’s retirement. Of this group:

  • 37% were consumed with DIY and housework
  • 25% spent their time gardening
  • 17% looked after grandchildren
  • 13% spent their time exercising
  • 12% volunteered
  • 7% spent time with their four-legged friends, with some getting a puppy at retirement
  • 6% looked after elderly relatives
  • 5% spent time on the internet or beefing up their computer skills

This group of retirees found innovative ways to spend their time. One volunteered at a chicken factory, while a small number joined choirs. Maintaining law and order by becoming magistrates was also reported, while some said they spent time playing computer games.

Saga also asked couples who had not yet retired whether they believed they would have a retirement ‘gap’. On average, they expected there to be a six year gap. The majority (50%) said they cannot afford to retire at the same time, while a third (33%) said that they are waiting for their state pension age to retire, which differs from their partners.

Commenting on the findings, Gareth Shaw, head of consumer affairs at Saga Investment Services, said:

“It’s not surprising so many people find themselves retiring without their partner joining them on their new journey after work. While these gaps are caused by historic gulf between state pension ages and earnings differences between genders, our findings suggest that the desire to carry on working is also a motivating factor.

“Given that so many retirees face years waiting for their partner to retire, funding the activities to fill their time could require some additional spending. It’s vital, therefore, to make sure that people have their retirement savings working as hard as possible so that they can enjoy themselves while they wait and have enough so that both they and their partner can eventually enjoy an active retirement together.

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