'More choice wanted' on pension age

People want more choice over when they receive their state pension - even if this means they end up being thousands of pounds worse off over the course of their retirement, a report has found.

A report has called for more flexibility on the date people take their state pensions
A report has called for more flexibility on the date people take their state pensions

PwC, which made the findings, argues that the notion of having a "one size fits all" state pension age should be ditched in favour of having a "state pension window" which would allow people to choose when they receive their state pension between a range of ages, and receive an adjusted amount for the life of their pension based on their chosen start date.

It says this idea would fit well with the recent wave of reforms announced by the Government which will give people more flexibility over their retirement.

Research conducted for the report among 2,000 people from across the UK found that one in four people would opt to retire earlier than a fixed state pension age, even if this meant receiving a reduced amount for the full life of their pension.

Nearly half (47%) of the people who want to receive their state pension earlier would be prepared to take a cut of more than £450 a year for the life of their state pension in exchange for being able to take it one year early, based on a single state pension value of £144 per week.

PwC found that the main reason people would choose to receive a lower state pension amount earlier is to allow them to reduce their hours or give up work. Common answers it came across were that people wanted to cut back their working hours to pursue other interests, spend more time with family or that their job was "too demanding" for them to carry on working to the qualifying pension age.

State pension age will increase for men and women to 66 by 2020, moving to age 67 by 2028.

Under current plans, the state pension age will be reviewed every five years, so that it keeps pace with how long people are living. People will spend around one third of their adult lives living past their state pension age.

The research also found that 19% of people want to defer their state pension to receive a higher amount for the full life of their pension. The main reason is to fund and pursue other interests and over a third said they need to carry on working past the state pension age to build up their savings.

Raj Mody, head of pensions at PwC, said: "We need to create a state pensions system which is fairer, more stable and sustainable in the long term. Scrapping the state pension age and replacing it with a state pension window will produce better outcomes for people, companies and the Government."

He continued: "It is clear a one size fits all state pension age does not work any more. A more flexible state pension system will place retirement decisions firmly back in the hands of workers and companies.

"The current policy of gradually increasing a single state pension age focuses on overall life expectancy, but doesn't take account of variations for different socio-economic groups and regions.

"Rather than prescribing when people can access their state pension, people should be allowed a degree of choice based on their individual circumstances."

The report follows radical changes recently announced for the way people will be able to take their workplace pension pots when they retire.

Chancellor George Osborne announced plans in the Budget to make it easier for people to cash in their pension pots, which will lead to fewer people buying an annuity when they retire.

Annuities give someone a guaranteed yearly income, but controversy about them has been growing in recent years due to concerns over plunging rates and people failing to shop around for the best deal.

Jon Andrews, head of HR consulting at PwC, said the proposed added flexibility to pensions in the report, titled One Size Fits None, " could easily see the rise of the part-time pensioner", with people gradually phasing in their retirement.

He said: "A state pension window gives people and companies much more control in their retirement planning and removes any nasty surprises."