Why some Gen Xers worry they won’t be able to work for long enough
Donna Walsh | June 25, 2021
Time to read: 4 minutes
Many Gen Xers – people born between 1965 and 1980 – plan to work for longer to make up shortfalls in their retirement savings. But some worry they won’t be able to do so, according to a report exploring Gen Xers’ attitudes towards savings and retirement.
More than a third (37%) of Gen Xers plan to work (part-time or full-time) past the State Pension age to address an income shortfall in retirement. For 25% of Gen Xers, this is their only plan.
Yet many Gen Xers fear they won’t be able to work for as long as they might like. Of this group, 59% fear that poor physical health will restrict their ability to work (see Figure 1). And 31% fear poor mental health.
More than a third (36%) of Gen Xers have an existing health problem or live with a disability. And 15% of Gen Xers said their health limits their ability or renders them unable to work. This sub-group is more than three times as likely to not have a pension compared to those in good health (34% vs. 10%).
These findings were part of the report, Slipping between the cracks? Retirement income prospects for Generation X – produced by the International Longevity Centre, with the support of Phoenix Group.
Q. What reduces your confidence in working for long enough to support yourself in retirement?
*All figures in the graph are denoted as a proportion of all Gen Xers surveyed who expect to retire and who are not confident they will be able to work for as long as needed (29% of all Gen Xers). Source: YouGov survey 13–24 November 2020.
Some Gen Xers are also concerned about being able to retain their job, or find a new one. And almost a third (31%) of Gen Xers who are not confident they’ll be able to work for as long as they need, worry that age discrimination will be a factor.
Workers aged over 50 are also less likely to receive workplace training, which puts them at a disadvantage, especially as new technologies are rapidly adopted.
Of Gen Xers that are not confident of being able to work for as long they need, 18% worry that caring responsibilities may be a barrier.
Gen Xer carers are significantly less likely than non-carers to work full-time (43% vs. 60%), and more likely to be out of work (36% vs. 22%).
Even after their care responsibilities have ended, their work might be affected. Gen Xers who had previously provided care were less likely to be employed full-time (48% vs. 61%). They were also more likely to be out of work (29% vs. 22%) than those without current or previous care responsibilities.
Carers are also significantly more likely to be in poor health than non-carers (51% vs. 34%), which can affect their ability to work.
Currently, 12% of Gen Xers care for a friend or relative at least once a week. This group may be considerably disadvantaged in retirement, with 56% worried about their lifestyle in retirement.
The proportion of people requiring care at older ages is projected to increase in the UK. More Gen Xers are likely to have caring responsibilities than previous generations, and they expect to be working during their peak caring years: 52 to 69. Yet around 20% of carers give up employment to fulfil caring responsibilities.
Clearly care responsibilities currently undermine some people’s desire to work more and to save more. And this trend is likely to increase – unless changes are introduced to provide carers with more support.
Employers can play an important role in this space. For example, flexible working/appropriate workplace adaptation, and suitable support could help many Gen Xers in poor health to stay employed for longer – and therefore save more for retirement.
Carers UK have suggested that introducing a right to paid carers’ leave – of 10 days of paid leave, with a longer period of unpaid leave of up to six months – could also help more carers to find and stay in work.
Both measures would also help employers to boost their workplace diversity and inclusion, build a sustainable workforce, and ensure they get the most from their entire workforce.
This article is part of a series of articles examining the pension savings challenges faced by Gen Xers in the UK. It is based on an independent ILC report, produced with the support of Phoenix Group, an ILC partner. Click here to read the full report.
The information here is based on our understanding in June 2021 and shouldn’t be taken as financial advice.
Investments can go down as well as up and may be worth less than was paid in.
 The report draws on analysis of a nationally representative YouGov survey of 6,035 Gen Xers, which was carried out over the period 13–24 November 2020. This analysis was supplemented with panel discussions and a qualitative survey with a smaller number of Gen Xers, which explored their attitudes and perspectives. Previously published data and literature was also drawn upon.