/ Money

How do your generation’s finances compare with others?

Do you think your generation is better or worse off than people of other ages? Our guest, the Financial Conduct Authority, wants to hear your thoughts.

This is a guest post by Chris Woolard. All views expressed are Chris’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

We hear a lot that baby boomers are sitting on property wealth, but also that some are desperately worried about how to pay for care needs in later life.

Meanwhile, we hear that young people are struggling to get on the housing ladder, or alternatively that they should be saving more. 

As the regulator charged with looking after peoples’ financial interests, our job at the FCA is to cut through this noise. We want to understand people’s real experiences of money and financial services.

That’s why we launched our Financial Lives survey to look at how people across the UK use their money. This told us, for example, that the State Pension is the main source of income for 49% of over 65s, and that 18-24 years olds are the age group least satisfied with their financial circumstances.

That’s why we’re launching a discussion on what different generations need from financial services.

Varying levels of wealth

Our research suggests that the familiar tale of young vs old doesn’t tell the full story. Levels of wealth vary considerably between generations, but people of all ages have money challenges.

Many baby boomers have benefited from rising property prices and defined benefit pensions. But they still face challenges in planning for when they’re no longer working.

People have more choice than ever before about how to use their pension savings, but this freedom means making more complicated decisions. And many worry about how to pay for later-life care: in some cases, 15 months in a care home could cost more than £50,000.

In reality, very few people will be hit by charges this high – but it’s hard to predict who will and who won’t have to pay, which can be a real source of uncertainty and anxiety.

Meanwhile, millennials are struggling to build up their wealth. Rising house prices, insecure employment and higher student debt all have an impact. Some of this group will inherit money from their parents or grandparents which might help with a house deposit or, later, their savings.

But the fact remains that for many, house ownership still feels out of reach. In 1993, a first-time buyer in the UK could expect to pay 2.4 times their average salary. In 2018, it’s more than 5 times their average salary – and almost 10 times in London.

Generation X

When we talk about baby boomers and millennials, we often forget the middle generation. Many people from “Generation X” have also benefited from rising house prices – but they have low levels of savings and high levels of debt.

They struggle to put aside money for their pension, or even for short term emergencies. For example, our analysis showed that the total wealth of someone aged 40 to 50 in 2016 was approximately £28,000 lower than those of the same age 10 years earlier. This means they can be ill-equipped to cope with sudden financial shocks, such as a job loss.

Whichever generation you’re from, we want to know how you feel about money. What works for you, and what doesn’t.

What’s concerning you, your parents, and your children? Do you have the right financial products for your needs? Could firms be doing more? Your answers will help inform how we regulate financial services in the future.

So tell us your views below – we’re listening to you today to decide what we do tomorrow.

This was a guest post by Chris Woolard. All views expressed were Chris’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.


One huge difference between my mum (a baby boomer) and me (a generation X) is the state of our pensions. My mum got her teacher’s pension from a long career as a primary school teacher. I am on my 5th work place pension and still have another 25 years to go until retirement! My finances feel a lot more complicated than hers does!

As a youngster, things were tough. That was to be expected – bottom rung of the promotion ladder, no savings built up and a constant battle between getting things one wanted and paying bills one didn’t. Through working life I made choices. The mortgage prevented expensive holidays and cars under five years old, which I serviced to save garage costs and ran until they fell apart. Latterly I added to my pension and paid off the mortgage early, so that when I retired I was roughly able to carry on living as I had been. The house, might be worth a great deal more than it was, but I have to live somewhere and replacing it would be just as costly as keeping it. I don’t regard this as an asset that I can capitalise on and the only way it becomes an asset is when it is sold to provide for old-age care or it becomes part of my estate when I die. I have been prudent with finances and continue to budget for needs and small luxuries. By doing that I lead a comfortable life, but not one that allows me to spend, spend, spend. Looking back I have to say I was lucky, and unlucky. My mortgage attracted fifteen percent interest, most today are much less than this. Savings interest rates are derisory and I have seen my income fall dramatically for several years in a row. However, I got a grant for college and didn’t leave with that much debt to clear. My pension was worth the percentage I paid for it over my working life. Now college students are punished for getting educated, housing is far more expensive in relation to salary than mine was back then and things generally cost more, while youngsters earn less. As a youngster, one shouldn’t expect to have everything just like that, but the hope of getting these things in the future with a little restraint in the present, has vanished. I had that hope and got there, it is unfair that is not the case today.

I am 89 and my wife is 87. I have an excellent local government pension and my wife a small teacher’s pension. We both also have DWP pensions. We have five children all of whom have homes of their own, and eleven grandchildren. My wife and I also have free London Freedom passes allowing us free travel on buses, trains, trams, the tube in the London area, free medical prescriptions, winter fuel allowances and free TV licences. We have no mortgage and we don’t have to pay DWP contributions. We sold our family home three years ago and bought a retirement flat resulting in a significant ‘profit’, half of which we invested and distributed the other half between our children.

We consider that we are very well-off indeed, and we are very sorry for young people who find it impossible to buy a home of their own, particularly in London. When we bought our first house it cost about two-and-a-half times my salary. Today a similar house would cost a similar young person in a similar job to what I had about twenty-five times his salary.

We think it grossly unfair that we should be so well-off and the younger generation so hard pressed. The least that could be done to help right this imbalance would be to tax the value of the benefits we enjoy, such as free travel, winter fuel allowances, free TV licences, and so on.

B C Thomas says:
7 June 2019

You ask questions on subjects of which I have no knowledge,
so it is impossible to answer. There appears to be no option to express

One of the latest events to dramatically effect the outlay of thousands of elderly people is the “blending” of Social Care and Health Care, this has resulted in large numbers of people being moved from Health care funding into social care funding.
The resultant of this move is that SOCIAL FUNDING is means tested whereas as HEALTH Funding is not.
If the person moved have assets over a stipulated sum (at the moment approx. Twenty eight thousand) they will NOT be entitled to social care funding HEALTH funding on the other hand is free and not means tested..
I have never had anyone explain to me how this system was allowed to evolve and why when tested in law it was found illegal bu still goes on