Nearly one in eight workers (12%) across the world expect they will never be able to afford to retire fully, according to HSBC’s report, The Future of Retirement: Life after work?

As many as a fifth of people in some countries never expect to be able to give up work completely, with 19% of UK respondents and 18% of people in the US saying they expect to work indefinitely.

HSBC’s report,  which surveyed 16,000 people in 15 countries, found that people’s expectations of a work-free retirement dwindle as they enter old age, with a sixth of people (17%) between 55-64 years of age saying they expect they will have to continue working indefinitely.  This compares to 10% of 25-34 year-olds.

Simon Williams, Group Head of Wealth Management, HSBC, said: “Generating an adequate income in retirement remains a major challenge for most people, given the financial conditions created by the global economic downturn. Many people think they will never be able to retire fully while those who have already retired are worried they do not have enough money to live on.

“Today’s workers should prepare for retirement as early as possible to have some certainty for retirement.  Life is full of reasons to prioritise short term spending over longer term planning, but the sooner people start saving, the less likely they are to have to rely on working in retirement.”

The findings paint a particularly bleak picture for those living alone in retirement, with almost a quarter of widows (23%) and a fifth of those who are divorced or separated (20%) saying they don’t think they will ever retire.

HSBC’s study suggests that even those who have retired may not be able to achieve the retirement they want.  Almost half of the retired people surveyed (46%) who said they have been unable to realise their plans for retirement believed this was because they have less money to live on than they had expected.

38% of retired people said that financially, they had not prepared adequately or at all for a comfortable retirement, with 38% of those people only realising they were underprepared after retiring. 14% of those who did not prepare adequately or at all said they would have to go back to work to cover their financial shortfall.

However, while many retired people may have to work longer than they had planned, the findings also uncovered a significant proportion of people looking forward to working in later life: just over a quarter (27%) said they intended to start a business in retirement and 44% of those between 55-64 years of age said it  was an aspiration to continue working.

An online survey tool is available to allow individuals to see how they compare against the country findings, at

HSBC’s research identified four actions, which may help today’s retirement savers plan a better future for themselves:

Action 1. Don’t rush into retirement

There is a view among retired people that they might have been too hasty in giving up paid employment.  Nearly two-thirds (64%) who entered semi-retirement wished that they had stayed in full time employment longer.  This regret is largely for positive reasons, with many retired people seeing work as an important means of keeping the body and mind active.

Action 2. Don’t rely on one source of retirement income 

Current retirees have three different sources of retirement income on average, wisely choosing not to generate all of their income from one place.  Spreading their sources of retirement income and associated risks means that not all their eggs are in one basket. 

Action 3. Plan your retirement with family in mind

Rather than family ties loosening in future, the family will continue to be a major consideration in retirement planning, and may even grow in importance for the next generation.  While many people (40%) aspire to travel extensively during their retirement, nearly half (49%) of current workers expect to have some financial responsibilities towards others even when they are themselves retired.  This includes ongoing financial responsibilities for their adult children as well as supporting frail elderly parents.

Action 4. Be realistic about your retirement outgoings 

Many working people assume that their income needs will fall once they enter retirement. Yet 52% of people in retirement have seen no reduction in their outgoings, and 17% have seen their outgoings increase. Although people are familiar with the concept of increasing life expectancy, the consequent increase in later life medical and nursing care costs may not be well understood as people are still not doing enough to prepare themselves for these potential costs.