More people are saving into a workplace pension than have ever been before, with savers being presented with an increasingly wide range of options.

The Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) Retirement Living Standards were developed to help savers picture what kind of lifestyle they could have in retirement, to help them think practically about what they need to save in order to meet the living standard they want to meet in retirement.

Our latest insight article looks at the Retirement Living Standards and what they mean for savers, employers and advisers.

Pension saving has changed dramatically over the past decade, with savers taking more responsibility than ever when it comes to the choices they make when saving for retirement.

The UK Retirement Living Standards were developed to help people picture their future retirement and what that might cost.

Developed by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University for the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA), and launched in October 2019, they can act as a practical starting point on a saver’s journey in their engagement with their workplace pension.

The PLSA hopes the Standards will become a widely adopted industry standard with workplace pension providers using them in general information for their members, in annual benefit statements, or to develop personalised targets for their members’ pension planning.

The PLSA said it ultimately hopes that Standards will help workers save more for their retirement, and make sure they are making the most of the employer contributions on offer in their workplace pension.

In order to develop the standards, the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University conducted independent research with UK savers based on the Minimum Income Standard developed by the university for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The research showed that 77% of savers did not know how much they will need in retirement, and only 16% of savers could provide a figure.

Only 20% of those surveyed were confident they are saving enough for retirement, with 70% saying targets would help them save more.

Three quarters (74%) of those surveyed and shown the Retirement Livings Standards believed they would make it easier to plan for retirement.

The Retirement Living Standards describe three levels of expenditure to help savers understand how much money they will need to live the lifestyle they want to in retirement.

Inspired by the system used in Australia, the Standards provide a benchmark level of annual income to fund different standards of living in retirement.

Each standard is based around a basket of goods and services including housing expenses, food and drink, transport, holidays and leisure, clothing and personal, and helping others.

The standards show savers what life in retirement looks like at three different levels, minimum, moderate and comfortable.

The PLSA and researchers from Loughborough University set the moderate and comfortable standard with the help of focus groups.

Between them, the focus groups pulled together a list of the goods, services and activities that they believed to provide the three standards of living in retirement.

At a cost of £10,900 a year for a single person or £16,700 for a couple, the minimum living standard covers all essential needs plus some limited social participation.

The moderate lifestyle (£20,800 for singles and £30,600 for couples) provides more financial security and more flexibility. It provides savers with the opportunity for more of the things they may want to do such as international travel and eating out.

The comfortable lifestyle (£33,600 for singles and £49,700 for couples) enables retirees to enjoy luxuries such as beauty treatments and regular travel.

The Standards also include a higher level of monetary requirements for savers who wish to retire in London.

Chart 1: The Retirement Living Standards values for a couple household

By talking to savers about the building blocks of their lives, such as their car, their comforts and their social life, the PLSA said it helps engage savers with their pension by giving them a real sense of what they will be doing and how they could be spending their money when they finish work.

The building blocks for the standards, ie the list of goods services and activities the focus groups which helped to develop the standards believed to be important in retirement, are:


  • Household bills (e.g. water, council tax, insurance, electricity)
  • Telephone bills (landline and mobile) and line rental
  • Decorating and maintenance
  • Furniture, cleaning supplies, lightbulbs, cooking utensils, appliances (e.g. fridge, washing machine), garden supplies, towels, bedding, etc.
  • Gardener/cleaner/window cleaner (if applicable)
  • Funeral plan (if applicable)

Food & Drink

  • Eating out budget
  • Groceries
  • Beer and wine


  • Car (if applicable)
  • Railcard and train travel
  • Taxis

Holidays & Leisure

  • TV, DVD player, laptop, printer, speakers, CDs and stationery supplies
  • TV license and subscriptions
  • Internet
  • Activities
  • Holidays, spending money and passport

Clothing & Personal

  • Clothing and footwear budget
  • Cosmetics, toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving supplies, hair styling, beauty treatments (if applicable), suitcases, umbrellas
  • Dentist, opticians, podiatry, minor first aid (e.g. plasters, paracetamol)

Helping Others

  • Gifts for others
  • Helping others (if applicable)
  • Charitable donations

From these blocks the PLSA were able to calculate a cost for all of these items and work out what each living standard would cost a year.

The PLSA updates the standards on a regular basis based off factors including inflation and current living standards.