Planning and Preparing for Later Life

A new, nationally representative survey of 2,655 40-75 year olds commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions.
Man sitting at a desk, at home, writing.
  • Authors:
    Sarah Butt
    Victoria Ratti
    Benjamin Swannell
    Eleanor Woolfe
  • Publishing date:
    28 June 2022

The question of whether and how people are planning for retirement is becoming ever more important as people live longer and have greater freedom over when and how they retire and take their pensions. 

Planning and Preparing for Later Life (PPLL) is a new, nationally representative survey of 2,655 40-75 year olds commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions to provide evidence on how far individuals are able to make well informed choices about retirement and whether they will be in a position to enjoy financial security when they retire.


  • Income adequacy in retirement. Whilst most people had started saving for retirement, nearly one in four (24%) of 40-75 year olds did not have a private pension and 16% had not yet started saving for retirement. Those that had started saving did not always know if what they had saved would give them the income they would need income in retirement. Only 23% of people not yet retired said they had a good idea of the income they would need in retirement.
  • How people had taken advantage of Pensions Freedoms to access their Defined Contribution (DC) pensions. Over half (56%) of 60-65 year olds with a DC pension had accessed at least one pension. Nearly three in ten people (29%) who had accessed a DC pension had not received information, advice or guidance from their pension provider, Pension Wise or a financial advisor. Most people (67%) chose to take a cash lump sum with some doing so to meet short-term income needs including covering living costs or paying off debts. Many people (59%) who accessed their DC pension before State Pension age (SPa) had no other private pension provision, making their decisions about how to access their pension particularly important.
  • People’s knowledge of recent changes to the State Pension. Although not everyone correctly identified their State Pension age (SPa), only 20% of people below SPa thought they would be able to draw their State Pension earlier than is the case. People who had used the Check your State Pension website were more likely to correctly identify their SPa. However, people for whom the State Pension was their only source of income in retirement were least likely to have used the site and were among the least knowledgeable.
  • What would make it easier for people to continue working later in life. Most people (62%) who had not yet retired expected to continue in paid work beyond their ideal retirement age. Key factors for helping them to work longer – and fund their retirement -  were the ability to work flexibly and the potential to work fewer hours as they approach retirement.
  • Experiences of planning for retirement among the self-employed. The self-employed were less likely to have started saving for retirement, less likely to have a pension (65%), and to be more reliant on sources of non-pension income to fund retirement. They expected to retire later than employees for financial reasons but also because they wanted to retire later, enjoying the flexibility their self-employment afforded and with a preference for remaining self-employed.


PPLL was conducted as a telephone survey with a nationally representative sample of 40 – 75 year olds in Great Britain who had previously taken part in the Family Resources Survey 2017-18 and agreed to be recontacted.

2655 interviews were conducted between November 2020 and February 2021.

External researchers

  • Rosie Gloster, Institute for Employment Studies
  • Lauren Wilkinson, Pensions Policy Institute