Financially - squeezed middle ages need extra £600 per month

Article date: 18 April 2012

But Brits vote 35 as the best age to be

View PDF of infographic Times of our Lives: Mind the Income Gap PDF (500KB)Weighed down with responsibility, fearful about financial pressures and job security – it’s no wonder today’s middle age groups of 35-54 year olds are the least optimistic about their future. But asked about the best time of their life and overall Brits voted for 35 as the age they would most like to be.

Aviva’s Times of our Lives report1, launched today, charts the goals, worries and wealth of UK adults from the age of 18 to 65+. It reveals that while net ‘wealth’ is steadily accumulated through life, rising to an average of £308,317 from the age of 65 for homeowners,² gross household income peaks by the age of 35 at £36,890, as does debt at £136,296.

Unsurprisingly this is the same age when financial concerns come to the fore, with nearly half (46%) of those in their late 30s and 40s most worried about the cost of running their home and also more worried - than all other age groups - about unexpected expenses such as car repairs or a boiler breakdown (33%), and being made redundant (23%).

It’s no wonder then that these ‘squeezed middle ages’ say they need an additional £600 net income per month to feel financially secure, equating to an annual gross increase in income of £10,762 for 35-44 year olds.³

The Times of our Lives report also reveals:

  • The value of home contents and personal possessions peaks at £37,893 between the ages of 55 and 64.4 
  • Cars and home insurance are the last thing Brits over 35 would cut back on while for the 18 to 34s it’s their mobile phones. 
  • Screens rule - with laptops, computers and televisions among the most important possessions across all ages.

The U-shaped optimism curve and the paradox of being 35

In terms of optimism, life is a U-shaped curve, with the youngest and oldest people the most optimistic about achieving their goals and people in mid-life the least. Twenty-nine per cent of 18-24 year olds say they think they will achieve all of their five-year goals and only 8% none, an overall optimism score of 21%. In contrast, the ‘squeezed middle age’ groups of 35-44s and 45-54s are the most pessimistic. They are most likely to say they won’t achieve any of their goals and least likely to say they will achieve them all and have overall optimism scores of 14% and 12% respectively.

But in later life optimism rises again, with 29% of over 65s optimistic about achieving their five-year goals and only 10% thinking they will achieve none.

However, contrasting with this picture of mid-life worry is the fact that the age of contentment is identified as 35. Most people want to be older when they are younger and younger when they are older. The age perceived as the ‘best age to be’ increases the older people get to a maximum of just 44 years among those aged 65+.

The age we think it’s best to be

Age right now 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+ All
Think the best age is 27 30 33 35 39 44 35

Simon Warsop, business development director at Aviva, comments: “At a time of significant economic upheaval and financial pressure, this research provides an insight into the effect this is having on Britons as they journey through the ages of life.

“The findings show that overall, family and health are the greatest lifetime priorities, but after health comes wealth, with financial pressures coming to the fore. And while 35 is the age most Brits say they want to be, increasingly the ‘squeezed middle ages’ are feeling the pinch – weighed down with responsibility and making ends meet – it’s no wonder these age groups feel the most pessimistic.

“Either side of middle age it’s pleasing to see today’s twenty-somethings are still striving and ambitious, while the baby boomers and those over 65 say they are most satisfied and content with their lot and currently the average homeowner’s net wealth peaks at 65 plus.”

Ideal milestones

Brits believe they should achieve all of their key goals in just twenty years, getting their first job at 18 and reaching the peak of their career by 39. They also believe that 25 is the ideal age to buy a first home - something that is likely to be difficult to achieve in the current climate. The national average first time buyer is aged 29.5 

And while a quarter of those already on the housing ladder would like to move home in the next 12 months, ambitions are thwarted by money issues with one in ten of those aged between 25 and 54 years saying they are unable to afford it.

The Ideal Age to Achieve Key Goals
18 – Get first job
20 – Buy first car
20 – Start investing or saving
21 – Move out of parents’ home
21 – Start saving for a pension
25 – Buy first house
27 – Get married or settle with partner
29 – Have first child
39 – Be at peak of career

Hearth, health and then wealth

Reflecting traditional values, family is voted the most important thing in people’s lives throughout adult life (from 72% when we are 18-24 to over 80% when 45-54), with health second and rising in importance as people get older. In contrast career is of far less importance and declines rapidly from a peak when people are 18-24 (important to 38%). However financial stability is valued highly throughout people’s lives and is rated as important by 36% of 18-24 year olds and 45% of 35-54 year olds.

Simon Warsop added: “As people journey through adulthood, it will be interesting to see if what they value, including their goals and aspirations, changes in the current economic climate - certainly making ends meet comes out as a real concern for people today and as a result, many expectations may remain unfulfilled.

“This research also highlights the value people place on their assets, whether it’s their home, car, belongings or finances.  It’s important, therefore, that people understand that those assets need to be properly protected throughout their lives so that if the unexpected happens, they’re covered.”

About the research:

1. Based on 2,024 UK adults interviewed by ICM between 10th and 13th February 2012.

2. The Times of our Lives Report has calculated net wealth at different ages of life by working out the value of people’s total assets (net income, savings and investments, contents sum insured, car value, property value) minus their total liabilities (unsecured debt and mortgage outstanding). See the full report for all calculations and sources.

Download the Times of our Lives Report PDF (3MB)

Download the Times of our Lives: Mind the Income Gap infographic PDF (500KB)

3. The Times of our Lives Report asked respondents how much extra income they feel they need to be financially secure and calculated what the equivalent annual gross increase in income would be. See the full report for details for all age groups.

4. Based on Aviva quote data from 2011.

5. Halifax research, September 2011: PDF (63KB)
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