Do you need £34,000/year to retire in 2023?

A recent article in the i newspaper [link at the end] tells readers a couple will need £34,000 a year to have a moderate retirement. The piece refers to former pensions minister Steve Webb and includes tips for making the most of your money. It suggest three levels of retirement income that you could aim to save for; basic; moderate and comfortable. Our budget of £27,000 a year fell somewhere between basic and moderate!

As I have written before, I thnk that everyone has different spending habits and priorities and no one person’s retirement will be the same as another but here was an article confidently prescribing the income you need for retirement. I wondered how they could be so precise.

The article states:

A moderate retirement – which gives you two weeks’ holiday in Europe and a long weekend every year, as well as money to maintain your home and £800 to spend annually on clothes – costs around £23,000 if you are single, and £34,000 if you are a couple (these figures assume you have paid off your mortgage). 

By Jessie Hewitson i News Money and Business Editor
March 4, 2023

Frustatingly, the article doesn’t give much detail about how a retirees money would be spent so it is hard to understand the working out. Regular blog readers will know that we have quite a lot more holidays than the two weeks and long weekend the piece allow for. Even with only £27,000/year to play with we are usually away for over three months each year! The article suggests we are doing the impossible.

The clothing allowance of £800 per year is mentioned and it is implied that this amount is per person, budgeting £1,600 for a retired couple to spend on clothes. For the last couple of years we have spent between £600 and £700 on clothes for the two of us, quite a significant saving. Maybe with a full breakdown I would be able to see where else we spend less than this average moderate retired couple.

For a while my mind wandered as I tried to imagine how one person would spend £800 on clothes. I found my imagination just isn’t that good and I sought help from the John Lewis website. Some browsing revealed that you could spend £100 on a pair of jeans, not much more than I would spend on a pair of hiking trousers. These jeans [like my hiking trousers] would no doubt last years so doesn’t really explain the £800 per person. Ramping things up, I began looking at winter coats, sorting them by the highest price. Apparently you can spend over £1,000 on a coat! That is expensive but surely for that price it would last a lifetime! All this pointless browsing just proves that everyone’s retirement is different. There will be people who enjoy buying and wearing expensive clothes but I am not one of them.

Our clothing policy is that things are replaced when they wear out. If something doesn’t get worn during a year it goes to the charity shop with the exception of my back-of-a-drawer guilt clothing. I admit I own a couple of items that I never [or hardly ever] wear. I still have the frock I wore at my graduation in 1995 even though I haven’t worn it for years. I was so proud of my achievement when I wore my cap and gown [and this dress] at the graduation ceremony. I earned my degree at the age of 35 and the dress is still tied in with those memories and I haven’t been able to give it away.

Anyway, I have digressed. Back to retirement. Given that the article budgets so much for clothing it would be good to scrutinise other spending lines to see if they stand up to scrutiny. Without the detail I can only guess that the holidays are more luxurious than ours, more expensive supermarkets are used for shopping and maybe decorators and new curtains are allowed for rather than DIY and second hand.

How much income you need in retirement is a common and legitimate question and despite my critique, the article does contain some useful advice for anyone planning their retirement so please read it. What it doesn’t say is that the only way to know how much YOU will need in retirement is to monitor your own spending, rather than relying on someone else’s estimate. Once you have a handle on how much you spend and what you buy, you can begin to estimate what you need. It might be £34,000 or it might be less or more. Only you will know if your own retirement essential is watching a new film at the cinema every week, gym membership, drinking a glass of high-quality wine every evening or maybe all or none of these things. Mapping out your spending and planning accordingly will help you have the retirement you want. You certainly don’t have to spend £800 a year on new clothes but if that is your priority then budget for it.

You can read the article here.

Author: Back on the Road Again Blog

I write two blogs, one about my travels in our campervan and living well and frugally and the second about the stories behind the people commemorated in memorial benches.

13 thoughts on “Do you need £34,000/year to retire in 2023?”

  1. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I would never dream of spending £100 on a pair jeans. Though with interest rates being what they are, that day may come sooner rather than later! Instead I favour decent quality outdoor gear, which I find both fashionable enough and long lasting.
    Of interest perhaps to the more fashionably attired, the other half has recently discovered Vinted. Here, she can buy pretty much new/unwanted clothing of the brands she likes and that she knows fit her at incredibly low prices. The vast majority of the clothes she has purchased to date still had the price labels etc attached; it blows my mind that there are people who are so wasteful with their money. Also, “one in, one out” is her policy, thus the older clothes that purchases have usurped are dropped off at the local charity shop.
    Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum(!), most of my clothes never even make it to the charity shop, simply because they are demoted to use for gardening (an activity which negates the need for a gym membership!) or DIY (don’t need to pay ££’s to a tradesperson to do something that YouTube shows me how to do). Once nearly threadbare, the clothes might even be requisitioned by a cat as a bed in the conservatory!
    Also, thanks to my other half’s interest in sewing, other items items may become refashioned by her sewing machine into useful bags of some description – useful for storing various thingymajigs and doohickeys in the campervan’s numerous nooks & crannies.
    Of course, spending on clothing is only a small sliver of the financial story. Being mindful with your money habits is key. Do not let the industries of marketing and advertising, whose sole purpose is to part you from your cash, sway you into buying something you are led to believe you want but, crucially, do not need. And, where you have a need, invest in quality items that will outlast their cheaper rivals.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good to hear your thoughts. I am with you on the outdoor gear, pretty much every item of clothing I own comes into that category! It is interesting and somewhat depressing how many unworn clothes you can buy on Vinted. I get some second hand hiking gear on Ebay but haven’t tried that site. We have old clothes that are demoted to gardening/DIY too. I haven’t repurposed into bags, anything too threadbear for the charity shop tends to get torn up for rags. Thanks for reading and carry on being mindful of your spending.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If you spend it on one thing, you can’t spend it on another!
    We too own mostly outdoor clothing and operate a 1 in 1 out policy. Mark and I own approximately 10 kg of clothing each.
    We do pay top dollar for quality, but that mostly pays us back in spades with its long life. I have only just replaced my 20-year-old hiking boots and Mark’s Haglofs trousers might outlast him!
    I shop in discount stores – Outdoor Action in Blackburn is one of my favourites. They get samples and end of lines, plus, all the staff are dedicated outdoor people who really know their stuff. I can’t darken their door without making a purchase (they are online too, Sports Pursuit is a great internet site too, where you can buy top brands for hugely discounted prices.
    We succeeded in retiring early by monitoring our spending and making a conscious choice to consider what was a ‘need’ or a ‘want’. On Radio 4 recently, I learned that between media, billboards, etc, each of us is exposed to more than 4,000 advertisements per day. That is a lot of pressure brainwashing us all into thinking we need more/bigger/better!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 4,000 adverts per day! Those must be the days I listen to those endless JustEat ads on Kerrang Radio!
      Of course, Outdoor Action was our go-to shop when we lived in Preston for all those years. I haven’t come across Sports Pursuit, I’ll take a look. We are somewhat distressed that one pair of the half dozen pairs of Lowe Alpine underwear of Anthony’s that we purchased back in 2008 when we first has fallen apart. They’ve stopped making this underwear and it was the best for comfort and quick drying but perhaps it lasted so long it didn’t make economic sense!
      Good to hear you think monitoring is the way to go too and yes, the need and want thing is important to remember. I certainly don’t need (or want) a £1,000 winter coat!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I find the idea of a £1000 winter coat rather obscene. I wouldn’t, even if I had that kind of money.
        It’s so annoying when you find a fabulous piece of clothing and they change or discontinue it. I’m lamenting the passing of the Royal Robbins Back Country Shorts – the most comfortable, stylish and quick-drying shorts ever.
        In a consumerist society, unfortunately, making quality items that last makes zero economic sense. Many manufacturers build obsolescence into their products – otherwise why would people keep buying them?
        We need to wake up to this!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. At an economic development meeting in Preston back in the 1990s I remember saying that basing the development of the city on shopping was unsustainable and we needed to be more creative and diverse. The officers looked at me and my fellow environmentalist collegue like we were nuts! Today Preston has the Preston Model – – having lost the chance to give a chunk of the city away for peanuts to a shopping arcade in the 2008 crash. Change is slow but it can come around and I like to think that maybe one day we will ditch fashion for quality clothing that lasts. I just get impatient that it might not happen in my lifetime!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I do need to update this, but I have a breakdown our costs here. In 2018, our budget touring full time with a van/caravan was £25,400.

    The Question that No-One Dares Ask – “What Does It Cost You to Tour Full Time?!”

    Now we tour in an overland truck, we mostly wild camp, so we don’t have site expenses, although we haven’t sold our van, Big Blue, yet, so we have double vehicle costs in terms of tax and insurance.
    For the first time this year, we skied from the truck and stayed in a sosta for 10 euros per night rather than renting an apartment. This substantially reduced our rental costs and saved us the cost of a second Channel crossing, since we stopped in Italy on our way back from the Balkans.


  4. Spending £800 a year on clothes for some would be a mere pittance. I grew up needing to be careful with money & have never lashed out much on clothes. I buy them to last & go for good quality outdoor & casual gear, which takes a long time to wear out. I’ve plenty of old favourites which are more classic than fashionable so don’t date. The last time I spent what I considered to be a lot on an outfit was for my son’s wedding, nearly 18 years ago. I still have the dress & have worn it a fair bit for formal occasions. I’m not ready to part with it yet!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Joyce and did you really comment at 03.00 in the morning! I hope you are okay. I don’t think I would know a fashion statement if it wrapped itself around my head! I might be able to describe my wardrobe as classic but scruffy-casual might sum it up better, with the exception of that almost 30-year old graduation frock!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. This is really helpful. I have opened the Retirement Living Standards pdf and can see plenty of differences with our own spending! We certainly don’t spend £145 a week on food or £48/ week (despite rising costs) on what it calls fuel but seems to be gas and electric. Spending is such an individual thing.


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