Over 55s and retirement: experientialism or materialism?

Published  08 November 2022
   5 min read

The key to happiness in retirement: Over 55s value experiences over material possessions

  • New research from Royal London reveals that 72% of those aged 55+ are an experience-focused generation favouring holidays, days out and hobbies over material possessions such as houses, cars and expensive art
  • More than half (52%) cited spending time with family as the most important aim for retirement
  • The majority of over 55s (71%) said they were yet to achieve their life goals with money being the biggest barrier (40%), followed by family commitments (14%).

With the uncertainty following the pandemic and now the current cost of living crisis, many retirees and pre-retirees are now facing a change of plans for the future, with three in ten (30%) saying they are changing their retirement plans due to the current cost of living crisis.

However, new research from Royal London, the UK’s largest mutual life, pensions and investment company, found that along with that uncertainty, the 55+ generation are focused on making the most of their retirement, with seven in ten (72%) people valuing experiences such as travel, new hobbies and days out over material possessions.

What are people looking for in retirement?

Research shows that the 55+ age group have a clear focus on experientialism in retirement with 72% choosing this over purchasing material possessions.

As a nation, we become less materialistic the older we get, with 40% of respondents stating they most valued material possessions in their 20s, versus 15% feeling the same at 55+. As indicated in the infographic below, males were revealed to be more materialistic than women, 17% versus 13% respectively.

Do 55+ value experiences over material possessions? And what did they prefer when they were in their 20's?. This image is an infographic and has alternative text available if you are using a screen reader.

Do 55+ value experiences over material possessions?

72% of 55+ prefer experiences and 28% prefer material possessions

What did the 55+ prefer when they were in their 20s? 

47% most valued experiences in their 20s and 40% most valued material possessions in their 20s

From the Experientialism vs. Materialism Survey 2022

Royal London

When asked about life goals, the next generation of retirees is focused on creating lasting memories with family and living a healthy lifestyle. Spending time with family was the most important aim in retirement (52%), closely followed by relaxing (47%) and maintaining health and fitness (45%). Women place a higher importance on spending time with family than men (59% vs. 43%) while men placed an emphasis on relaxing as their highest priority.

What goals are most important for 55+ in retirement?. This image is an infographic and has alternative text available if you are using a screen reader.

What goals are most important for 55+ in retirement?

Family/friends 52%

Relax 47%

Health/fitness 45%

Travel 45%

Hobbies 37%

From the Experientialism vs. Materialism Survey 2022

Royal London

The biggest retirement worries and tips to overcome them

Staying healthy is the biggest concern as people head into retirement. The research revealed that more than half (52%) of respondents were concerned with their health, followed by being able to afford to live the lifestyle they want (39%) and having enough money to get by (38%). Another significant concern is loneliness, with one in ten (12%) worried about staying in touch with friends and family.

Biggest concern for retirement years. This image is an infographic and has alternative text available if you are using a screen reader.

Biggest concern for retirement years:

Staying fit/healthy - 52%

Money for lifestyle - 39%

Money to get by - 38%

Lack of experiences - 17%

Lack of purpose - 17%

From the Experientialism vs. Materialism Survey 2022

Royal London

Achieving those goals

While joining new clubs, volunteering and staying active are all positive steps to addressing wellness concerns in retirement, there are options to overcoming financial barriers to achieve life goals, for example, working part-time. 

Taking on part-time work to fund exciting new experiences is also an option with around six in ten (58%) saying they would consider working in retirement and two in five (40%) saying they would work if it enabled them to do more things they enjoyed.

Commenting on the findings, Gary Beyer, Protection Product Lead from Royal London said:

“It is clear to see that those aged 55 and over value experiences more than anything else, including material possessions. Being able to lead an active, healthy lifestyle, try new things and travel to new places, combined with spending more time with family is the key to retirement happiness.

“After a tough few years following the pandemic and now with the added pressures of the cost-of-living crisis, being able to achieve these life goals might seem more difficult, but there are options out there for people who want to make their dreams a reality.”

Notes to editors

  • The research surveyed 2,000 55+ general consumers – 1,000 retired/semi-retired and 1,000 planning to retire within the next 5 years.
  • The research was conducted in June 2022
  • For more information on the study, visit our article on materialism or experientialism

For further information please contact:

Meera Khanna, Senior PR Manager

About Royal London

Royal London is the largest mutual life insurance, pensions and investment company in the UK, with assets under management of £150 billion, 8.8 million policies in force and 4,262 employees. Figures quoted are as at 30 June 2022. Learn more at royallondon.com