The hamster wheel and the treadmill: life at 60 is all about momentum

15 October

  • Nearly a third of 60 somethings still work; two in five work 36 plus hours per week
  • Health biggest worry – average 60-year old exceeds NHS guidelines with 3 hours exercise a week
  • One in five have annual income of £10k or less and one in 10 have £0 spare cash each month

The average 60 something prefers Antiques Roadshow over Bargain Hunt, listens to Fleetwood Mac more than Pink Floyd and enjoys Shirley Valentine more than Jaws, according to new research1 from Nationwide Building Society.

The study of 1,800 adults aged 60 to 69 found that they also have an average income of just under £21,000, work around 30 hours a week, take one holiday per year and worry the most about the health of themselves or their partner.

The study is the latest in a series of reports from Nationwide looking at the financial and social life of different age groups.

Helen Lederer, 62, the comedian, writer and actress, said: “Accepting that one is officially middle aged is always a challenge. But it can bring with it a wisdom and confidence that is a rather nice side effect as well as enabling less anxiety and more partying.”

Finances in your 60s

According to the Nationwide poll, the average income of a person in their sixties is around £21,000 (£20,956). However, life isn’t always rosy because there are sexagenarians who earn far less than that. Two in five (40%) have an annual income of £15,000 or less, while around one in five (19%) bring in £10,000 or less. The survey also shows a significant gender split, with men earning an average of £24,000 compared to just £18,465 for women.

The state pension is the most common source of money, with 53 per cent stating it as their main income source. Around two in five (38%) benefit from a private pension and a third (33%) have a work pension. However, two in five (40%) get their income through either full time, part time or by doing occasional work.

But when it comes to disposable income, 60-year olds have just £338 per month. This is, on average, used to fund one night in the pub, a restaurant meal, three trips to the gym and a couple of days out with family. This is presumably because when it comes to spending money, food and groceries (85%) and bills (78%) top the list for 60 somethings, followed by various insurances (60%) and household goods (57%).

For some, necessary monthly outgoings are leaving them with no spare cash as around one in ten (9%) admit to having £0 per month in disposable income, while more than a third (36%) say they have £100 or less to enjoy.

When it comes to the home, seven in ten 60-year olds still live in the house they purchased at the average age of 28 – although 60 per cent have completely paid off their mortgage. However, some 60 somethings don’t own their own home, with one in five (20%) renting.

The poll also reveals sexagenarians like to have a savings nest egg. And while the average 60-year old has squirreled away £5,672 in savings, more than one in ten (13%) have £100 or less saved away and nearly one in five (18%) have £500 or less in savings.

When it comes to debt, those in their sixties owe comparatively little, with an average amount of £3,335.60. This is spread across the following areas:

  • Personal Loan: £430.06
  • Overdraft: £112.02
  • Credit Card: £708.90
  • Payday Loan: £13.20
  • Mortgage: £1,545.79
  • Car Finance: £388.42
  • Care Home fees: £7.02
  • Other debt: £130.19

The survey shows that around three in 10 people in their sixties (29%) have considered downsizing their home to make life more affordable. This may be because while the majority (70%) live with their spouse or partner, just four per cent live with their children – so have no need for a larger property. Nearly a quarter of 60-year old Brits (24%) live alone.

Working in your 60s

According to the Nationwide survey, retirement appears to be the last thing on the mind for a good proportion of 60 somethings. In fact, only six in ten (61%) are retired, whereas three in ten (30%) are employed. Of those still in employment, they are working on average 29 hours per week. Some do much more than that, however, with two in five (40%) sexagenarians working 36 or more hours per week.

During those working hours, it appears that there is also a lack of flexibility for 60 something workers, with only 13% stating that their employer gives them enough flexibility to look after grandchildren and 11% to care for a relative. Less than half (46%) say they are usually given enough flexibility to attend medical appointments.

Despite the levels of experience offered by age, 60 something workers also feel a sense of injustice in the workplace. More than a quarter (27%) feeling that they are treated differently to younger colleagues.

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, Nationwide’s Head of Savings and Mortgage Policy, said:“60s is one of the most varied age groups as for many it covers the transition from employment and retirement. At a time when some would like life to start slowing down, our latest life-stages survey shows that this may actually be far from the truth. In fact, it appears that for many the hamster wheel is turning just as fast.”

Keeping fit in your 60s

The average sexagenarian spends three hours per week on keeping fit – more than the 150 minutes of physical activity that the NHS recommends2. In fact, more than one in five (21%) spend six or more hours per week working out. On the other hand, there are some people who choose a more sedentary lifestyle as more than a quarter of 60-year olds (28%) admit they spend zero hours per week on active pursuits and keeping fit.

As well as keeping fit, the research reveals how those in their 60s also want to look good, with more than one in five (21%) worried about how they look.

Worries and regrets in your 60s

Exercise might be a response to health fears, which top the list of worries for those aged 60 and over. Close to two thirds (62%) maintain their health is a concern and more than two in five (43%) are anxious about their partner’s health. This is unsurprising given the list of common ailments they experience, including back pain (51%), high blood pressure (33%) and sleep problems (32%), while more than a quarter (28%) get regular headaches.

But it’s not just health and appearance that worries 60-year olds; financial matters also feature prominently with saving money overall (39%) and helping children and grandchildren financially (32%) key concerns.

The top five regrets for 60-year olds are:

  • Wish I’d travelled more (36%)
  • Wish I’d saved more generally (30%)
  • Not doing enough exercise (24%)
  • Wish I’d saved more into a pension (22%)
  • Hadn’t lost touch with family and friends (21%)

However, one in four (25%) are very content with their life today and have no regrets.

Film, Television and Music in your 60s (see top 10 lists below)

When it comes to entertainment, television plays a big role, with 60 somethings watching 13 hours of television each week – sitting down to enjoy Antiques Roadshow, Midsomer Murders or Coronation Street. They will also watch old classics, such as Morecambe and Wise, while also taking in more contemporary programmes, like Strictly Come Dancing.

Classic films are also high on the agenda, with movies such as Jaws, Ben Hur and A Clockwork Orange appealing to people in this age category, with musicals, such as Singin’ in the Rain and Grease also featuring in the average 60-year old’s top ten favourite films.

When it comes to music, older artists, such as Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles and The Carpenters, feature highly on playlists, with the odd modern superstar – Adele – also featuring in their top 10 artists and bands.

And finally...

When it comes to getting around, the findings show those that do drive are most likely to travel around in a Ford Focus or Fiesta.

Incredibly, while just over one in ten (12%) are separated or divorced, 75% of 60-year olds are still in a relationship, the average length of which is 31 years.

In addition to their spouse, nearly a quarter of people live with a dog, with the same percentage having a cat.

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell continues: “Given that health is a major worry for a lot of 60 somethings, it’s good to see that a significant proportion are acting on those worries and exercising regularly during the week. It’s also no surprise to see money being high up on the list of worries, especially given their financial situation. It’s not just about the present either, as exercising more and saving more are also key regrets in a 60 something’s life. What is nice to see, though, is that there are people who have lived the life that they wanted and have reached 60 with no regrets”.

The average 60 something – stats at a glance

  • Annual income: £20,956
  • Overall debt: £3,335.60
  • Mortgage: £1,545.79
  • Credit card: £708.90
  • Personal loan: £430.06
  • Savings: £5,672
  • Monthly disposable income: £338
  • Car model: Ford
  • Favourite films: Grease, Shirley Valentine, Singin’ In The Rain, Jaws, Ben Hur
  • Favourite TV Shows: Antiques Roadshow, Strictly Come Dancing, Midsomer Murders, Morecambe And Wise, Sherlock
  • TV time per week: 13 hours
  • Favourite music: The Beatles, Abba, Fleetwood Mac, Rolling Stones, The Carpenters
  • Exercise per week: three hours
  • Biggest worries: health, partner’s health, money
  • Biggest regrets: wish I’d travelled more, wish I’d saved more, not doing enough exercise
  • Relationship: married – together for 31 years on average
  • Pet: cat or dog
  • Age buying first home: 28
  • Working hours per week: 29
  • Holidays per year: one
  • Health issues: back pain, sleep problems, high blood pressure

Top 10 music artists for 60 somethings

  1. The Beatles
  2. ABBA
  3. Fleetwood Mac
  4. Rolling Stones
  5. The Carpenters
  6. The Who
  7. Adele
  8. Elvis Presley
  9. Pink Floyd
  10. Bob Dylan

Top 10 films for 60 somethings

  1. Grease
  2. Shirley Valentine
  3. Singin’ in the Rain
  4. Jaws
  5. Ben Hur
  6. MASH
  7. Some Like It Hot
  8. Kramer vs. Kramer
  9. Alien
  10. A Clockwork Orange

Top 10 TV shows for 60 somethings

  1. Antiques Roadshow
  2. Strictly Come Dancing
  3. Midsomer Murders
  4. Morecambe and Wise
  5. Sherlock
  6. Coronation Street
  7. Bargain Hunt
  8. Homes under the Hammer
  9. Luther
  10. Holby City

Notes to Editors

The poll of 1,800 adults aged 60 to 69 was carried out for Nationwide by online market researchers,, and took place between 23 August 2016 and 21 September 2016.

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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