More UK workers financially free by their fifties - but not for long

Aug 08 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Spiralling property prices and generally greater affluence have meant more and more working Britons achieving complete financial independence by their fifties, a decade earlier than their parents, new research has suggested.

But the future does not look nearly so bright for the generations coming through beneath them, the study by financial services company ING Direct has said.

What ING has dubbed "freedom day" Ė the day when people have shrugged off the financial shackles of a mortgage and supporting dependent children Ė is coming much older for the UK's 40 to 65-year-olds, said ING.

More and more Britons are reaching freedom day by the age of 50, enabling them to enjoy their remaining life to the full.

Their parents, by comparison, hit this longed-for goal at an average age of 60, by which point most of them had retired.

The ING study has suggested that 3.5 million, or 18 per cent, of 40-65 year olds considered themselves to have reached their freedom day.

These affluent mid-lifers held assets worth an average of £393,411 each, said the study.

Although a large proportion (45 per cent) said they would not give up work at this point, nearly a third chose to celebrate their financial freedom.

The most popular rewards were one-off holidays (43 per cent), new properties (14 per cent) and cherished items such as sports cars (5 per cent) and motorbikes (2 per cent).

They also took a refreshing attitude to their working lives, said ING.

A quarter switched back and forth between periods of different types of work, foreign travel and further education.

However, the economic conditions that propelled this lucky generation towards financial freedom are unlikely to continue, warned ING.

And without sound financial planning, future generations might not be as fortunate.

The big increases in property values that occurred between 1995-2005 were highly unlikely to be repeated over the next ten years, the financial services company warned.

Working aged Britons would experience financial pressure from kids who would stay living at home well into their twenties, and they would have to pay the price for an ageing population.

ING Direct chief executive Lindsay Sinclair said: "It's great to think that economic prosperity has introduced millions of Britons to a whole new way of life, a pre-retirement period where they can enjoy greater leisure time and pursue their dreams without having to give up work.

"However, the report highlights that future generations may not be as lucky. Two-thirds (60 per cent) of UK workers save no more than one month's salary a year and more than a third (35 per cent) save less than a week's," he added.

"These measures are likely to be inadequate in the face of diminishing returns from property and the increased financial demands placed on mid-lifers by their elderly dependents."

Sinclair continued: "In the case of those 40-65 year olds who have yet to achieve their freedom day, they have fewer savings, property assets and investments than their financially independent counterparts.

"The real lesson here is that you can't rely solely on increasing property prices to fund your future," he warned.

"Future generations need to bear this in mind, be realistic about their financial prospects and ensure that they have sufficient savings and investments in place to see them through to financial freedom as well," he concluded.