£300,000 pension pot: how to get there in your 20s, 30s and 40s

Pension specialist Helen Morrissey explains what you’ll need for a comfortable retirement and what to do if you’ve left it late to start saving.

Figures released in 2018 by Aegon stated that someone earning the average wage (£27,000 at the time) would need to build a pension pot in the region of £300,000 to sustain their standard of living in retirement.

But, at the same time, average defined contribution pension pots amount was around £50,000, so many people were way short of where they needed to be.

Since 2012, employers have been auto enrolling employees aged 22 and over into a workplace pension, meaning millions of people are saving and benefiting from an employer contribution.

The current default contribution rates stand at 8% (of which 5% is paid by the employee and at least 3% by the employer), but this is unlikely to be enough to generate a decent income in retirement.

We’ve put together some figures to give you some idea of the kind of money you need to contribute to your pension if you want to maintain your standard of living in retirement.

For the purposes of our figures, we have taken someone earning the average wage (now £29,000) who wishes to retire at State Pension age on an income of approximately two thirds of their salary, which is around £19,000.

We’ve taken into account the full State Pension of approximately £9,110, so the remaining pot would need to generate an income of around £10,000 per year.

Find out more about the 2020/2021 State Pension and how much it pays.

Starting a pension pot in your 20s

The earlier you start, the easier it will be to accumulate a decent pension pot for retirement.

According to Royal London figures, if someone aged 25 wanted to retire on the basis outlined above, they would have to make contributions of approximately 16% (equivalent to £380 per month) to their pension. This assumes an annual investment growth rate of 4.2% per year.

This may seem like a lot of money but remember that if you contribute to a workplace scheme then your employer will also contribute.

You will also receive a top up from the UK Government, which means that for every £80 a basic rate taxpayer contributes to a pension, the Government will contribute £20 to top it up to £100.

So, in reality, the amount of money you are paying into the pension is a lot less than 16%.

We’ve also assumed an investment growth rate of 4.2%, which is in the mid-range.

As you have many years to go before retirement, your adviser will suggest you invest in a diverse range of assets that have the potential to deliver more return over time than this.

Starting a pension pot in your 30s

Delaying starting a pension by 10 years will have a major impact on how much you need to put away every month.

Royal London’s calculations show someone aged 35 would need to save a whopping 22% or £540 per month.

Again, it’s worth checking how much your employer is willing to contribute as that will make a difference. You may also find that your adviser recommends you invest in riskier assets to try and generate better returns.

But there are other things you can do to improve your position. The figures we generated are based on retiring at age 68 yet many people are choosing to work after this date, even on a part-time basis. Any extra money you can make will make a difference.

It’s also worth looking at what other assets you have.

When we talk about retirement, it is tempting to just view it in terms of pensions, but other savings can be used. If you have ISAs or other investments, they can all be used to supplement your retirement income.

Finally, don't make the mistake of assuming that you can rely on your partner's pension or your home: here's why.

How to accumulate a £300,000 pension pot (image: Shutterstock)

Starting a pension pot in your 40s

If you haven’t started saving into a pension by your 40s, it can be tempting to think you have left it too late.

Don’t despair – you still have many years to go before your retirement and can still accumulate a decent level of assets.

Figures from Royal London show that someone who starts saving into a pension at age 45 would need to put away 38% of their pay. That’s equivalent to £930 per month.

This is an enormous amount of money but remember that you can opt to work for longer to give yourself more time to save.

It’s also worth looking at any pensions you might have accumulated in past jobs to see how much they might contribute towards your overall total.

The amount of risk you take in your investment portfolio is extremely important as it is tempting to invest in risky assets, which have the potential to deliver higher returns.

Unfortunately, such assets can be very volatile and if they fall in value, you might find yourself with a gap in your retirement planning that is hard to plug.

Top things to consider

Take advantage of employer contributions

Many employers will contribute much more than the auto-enrolment minimums mentioned above.

Some employers will even match your contributions up to a certain level, which can have a massive impact on how much goes into your pension.

Don’t set and forget pension contribution levels

Increase them regularly – when you have a pay rise, for example.

Don’t take too much or too little investment risk

Investing in riskier assets can pay off with high investment returns.

But these stocks may also fall in value, leaving you with a gap in your pension funding, which you may not have time to fill.

Similarly investing in low returning assets won’t generate the returns you need to meet your goals.

Consider your lifestyle

We’ve chosen the £300,000 figure here as a good amount to aim for but if you earn less than the average wage, you won’t need to save as much.

Similarly, if you want to do a lot of things in retirement, you may need to save much more. It’s worth speaking to an adviser to work out what your goals are and how you can get there.

Helen Morrissey is a personal finance specialist at Royal London. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of loveMONEY.

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