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Nearly half of Brits (42%) are more concerned about enjoying their life now than their future long term savings

Nearly half (42%) of Brits are more concerned about enjoying their life now, rather than worrying about their future long term savings according to a major new study by Willis Towers Watson and Nottingham University Business School. It revealed the six persona types of the British population when it comes to saving for their pensions.

‘The Saving Psyche of the UK’ research report, published by Willis Towers Watson and Nottingham University Business School, is a comprehensive UK wide study of the approach and behaviour to retirement saving of almost 2,000 workers. It revealed the complex motivations and drivers behind each of the key personas that make up the UK’s savings psyche.

The research showed that given the choice, over a third of people (35%) would rather have a good standard of living today than save for retirement. With 37% of respondents sharing that they find it more satisfying to spend money than to save it for the long-term. What’s more, when it comes to the biggest motivations for saving money, more people are focusing on short term saving for holidays (55%) than putting money aside for retirement (47%). Despite this, saving is a high priority for many (40%) and 63% make sure that they have money saved for a rainy day.

Jo Kite, managing director of LifeSight UK, Willis Towers Watson’s master trust, stated: “There’s no overriding reason why people save or don’t save. Each individual has specific characteristics, traits and behaviours that are common to a particular persona. Our report highlights the need for employers to truly understand their workforce and create a relevant engagement strategy to incentivise saving for each persona within the company to help improve their overall long term financial wellbeing.”

The six saving persona types found in the report highlight the vast range of saving attitudes in the UK. Almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents stated that they want a level of flexibility in their pension options, illustrating the need for employers and the pensions industry to tailor communication in order to increase employee engagement.

The saving habits of the six groups are:

  • Apathetic savers (27%) lack knowledge about financial decisions and have average to low financial knowledge and understanding. Employees that fall into this category are unlikely to have the motivation to make a choice.
  • Suburban savers (19%) are practical planners, who save the highest proportion of monthly savings. They are likely to have a solid knowledge of financial services, shop around for the best deal and not worry about money. This group has a strong tendency towards financial security, and as such will favour traditional savings programmes.
  • Financial worriers (14%) fret about short and long term finances and agonise over making financial decisions. They are more likely to be renters and spend much of their money on living expenses. As they approach saving with a ‘mental accounting’ approach, savings vehicles with a clear and specific purpose are well suited to their needs.
  • Short term savers (15%) worry about their financial future, are likely to be part of their pension scheme and will review multiple products before making a financial decision. Saving for holidays and short term emergencies are their top motivations. Because they can spot a deal, streamlined choice followed by nudging will help effective decision making.
  • You only live once (YOLO) (15%) tend to be younger with high level of wealth, but are not good at saving as they are materialistic and live in moment. Despite this, saving is still important to them but less likely to be directed to retirement planning. Traditional saving methods may work, but these should be coupled with behavioural approaches like nudging and specific guidance.
  • Risk takers (14%) never experience debt or financial problems and are good at savings, they live for now whilst taking care of their future. This group is confident, likely to take informed risk and will want to save more. As they self-identify as ‘well-informed’ savers, traditional marketing and communication likely to be effective.


James Devlin, Professor of Financial Decision Making at the Centre for Risk, Banking and Financial Services at Nottingham University Business School added: “There are a lot of aspects of behavioural economics which could help the pensions industry engage with savers more effectively. A “one size fits all” approach is unlikely to be successful as different methods and messages will appeal to the different persona types identified. For instance, Risk takers will respond very differently to information and choices involving risk than more conservative savers such as YOLO’s. But even for YOLO’s, taking some risk is probably appropriate, particularly in the early years of saving. Careful design and presentation of default options can help to guide savers to appropriate decisions. Short Term savers need help in thinking for the long term. Encouraging them to think in terms of separate “pots” of money, a “mental accounting” approach as behavioural economists would call it, may encourage Short term savers to put a little more aside for the longer term.”

Kite continued: “Our research shows that half of respondents do worry about their financial future, but yet are doing little about it. Employees have widely varying incomes and priorities, and as such engage with information and saving options differently. For example, drive to save for retirement varies significantly with age. A minority of Gen Z (16%) and Gen Y (35%) are motivated to save for their pension compared to 46% of Gen X and 70% of Baby Boomers. A clear message that employers should do more than just offer pensions to engage all of their workforce in savings and benefits. The personalities identified in our research can offer guidance to help businesses enhance employee confidence when making financial decisions and deliver improved financial outcomes. Tailoring saving offerings, simple choice frameworks and communication to employees is key. Small changes, such as providing corporate ISA’s or nudging the contributions, could be enough to prompt more of the workforce onto a savings path.”