Later Life

Average retiree debt rises by a fifth in 2021

Rozi Jones
28th July 2021
old oap elderly retired retirement pension woman bill debt
"It is concerning to see that the amount owed has increased by more than £3,000 in just twelve months."

Nearly one in three people are retiring in debt this year with an average £20,650 to pay off, new research from Key shows.

People expecting to retire this year are facing debts around a fifth higher than those who finished work last year – although the number of those in debt has remained steady at 32% in 2021 compared to 33% in 2020.

The average amount owed by people retiring in debt is £3,190 higher than in 2020 when the figure was £17,460.

The debt burden will will take a toll on retirement finances as people predict they will be over three years into retirement before being debt free. 11% do not know when they will be completely clear.

While fewer potential retirees had credit card debt (40% from 48% in 2020) and mortgage borrowing remained stable at 31%, borrowing on all other methods increased.

The number using their overdraft has increased from 10% to 17% as has the proportion relying on family and friends, from 8% in 2020 to 10%.

Use of hire purchase agreements (15%) and bank loans (14%) amongst those intend to retire in 2021 also increased.

Those in the North East are the most likely to retire in debt, at 48%, however they owe one of the lowest amounts of any region, having £8,958 of debt on average.

This is second only to Yorkshire and the Humber in terms of low average debt, where retirees owe just £6,389. Yorkshire also has one of the lowest proportions of people retiring in debt, with just a quarter retiring in the red.

The biggest average debts are in the East Midlands, at over £35,000, and London, the South East and South West which are all around £25,000.

Will Hale, CEO at Key, said: “While it is good to see that we have not seen a sharp rise in the number of potential retirees finishing work with debt, it is concerning to see that the amount owed has increased by more than £3,000 in just twelve months. This seems to suggest that those who are already in debt are finding it harder than ever to repay their borrowing and expect to be three-years into retirement before they can finally wipe the slate clean.

“Unfortunately, trying to repay debt from a fixed income while still maintaining a good standard of living can be extremely difficult and people are likely to struggle to achieve this ambition. Before their borrowing spirals out of control, they need to speak to a specialist later life adviser how will be able to help them make sustainable choices around how they manage what they owe.

”Modern equity release products allow customers to repay capital as well as interest so in the right circumstances they can help people to successfully manage their borrowing.”

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