Regrets, I’ve had a few: insufficient savings, travelling and exercise main gripes of 40-something Brits

  • Shared love of retro classics – from Guns N’ Roses to Grease
  • Top money worries are savings, pension pots and supporting family
  • Pub nights shunned in favour of cosy evenings watching television
  • Almost half are anxious or stressed and two in five struggle to sleep

The average 40 something enjoys retro-classics Star Wars and Grease, earns around £25,000 a year and wishes they’d saved, travelled and exercised more, a new study has found.

A survey of 2,000 Brits aged 40 to 49 found that the milestone is characterised by two distinct groups - those living a traditional family lifestyle and the ‘young at heart’ singletons. The Nationwide Savings poll looks at a number of different aspects, ranging from wealth, health and life decisions to missed opportunities and favourite pastimes, films and music.

The research reveals the average 40-year-old prefers to spend a night in front of the telly than down the pub, likes to escape on holiday once a year and enjoys two family outings a month. But despite a modest social life, three in ten (30%) worry about how they look.

Just over half of 40 somethings are married or in a civil partnership and have been with their partner for 12 years on average. However, one in seven is single and/or lives alone. Some 70 per cent of those in their fourth decade have teenage kids, while 64 per cent have pets.

When it comes to regrets, more than a third (36%) wish they’d travelled more, while four in ten (42%) wish they’d put away more money and over a quarter (27%) wish they had kept themselves in better shape. The findings also show that 16 per cent wish they had better qualifications and more than one in ten (13%) thought they’d own their own home by now.

And it seems people in their forties have plenty to worry about too, particularly when it comes to their finances. According to the poll, they earn an average of £24,638 a year (men getting £28,460 on average, compared to £21,629 for women) and although 43 per cent fear their pension won’t be enough when they retire, nearly a third (30%) worry about being able to support their children, and one in five are concerned about looking after parents or grandparents (21%).

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, Nationwide’s Head of Savings Policy said: “Given our 40s are when we statistically reach middle age it is perhaps unsurprising that this transition from youth to maturity finds many with a foot firmly in both camps.  At a time when we could be considered in our prime, our research suggests that some Brits are finding their 40s quite tough. Their message to the younger generations would be to spend more time looking after your finances and your fitness – avoid that squeezed middle in both senses!”

Film, television and music at 40 (see separate section below):
When it comes to relaxing, drama is the TV genre of choice for a frequent night in front of the telly, but retro comedy wins out, with Only Fools and Horses deemed the most popular show, followed by Blackadder and Fawlty Towers. 

Additionally, 40 something music tastes also have a retro feel, with Queen and Abba topping the charts, followed by Adele, David Bowie and Guns N’ Roses.

On the film front, 1980s big franchises and musicals reign supreme, with Star Wars, Grease and Back to the Future taking the top slots, followed by Indiana Jones and Terminator.

Finances at 40:
After decades of work, the average 40 something earns just under £25,000 (£24,638) a year, has squirrelled away £8,665 in savings, owes £1,626 on their credit card and almost £700 (£681) to ‘the Bank of Mum and Dad’. The survey shows that men earn an average of £28,460, compared to £21,629 for women.

And when all the monthly outgoings have been tallied, the average 40 something reckons they have £291 left in disposable income, with most of their money going on bills, groceries and mortgage or rent payments, rather than a buzzing social life. 

Money pressures may have dictated some important life choices, too. Fifteen per cent put off pursuing further training or education, while 18 per cent put off moving home and eight per cent put off getting married solely as a result of financial pressures.

One in three feels pressure to stay in a job they don’t like for the financial stability (29%), while a fifth thought they would be in a better paid job by now (22%). One in ten decided not to have children due to the expense involved (10%), while a quarter delayed their plans to go travelling (26%).

Despite money worries, 13 per cent of 40 somethings have completely paid off their mortgage, while one in seven (15%) believe that they are currently living in their ‘forever home’, where they intend to stay for the rest of their lives. More than one in ten thought they would own their own property by the time they were in their 40s (13%). And while just over half (52%) are paying a mortgage, in excess of a quarter (28%) still rent.

Health at 40: 
Health also becomes a greater concern as we reach middle age, according to the poll. In a list of ailments, more than half (58%) have experienced back pain, 52 per cent have suffered headaches and migraines and nearly half (47%) have endured stress or anxiety. A further 41 per cent have suffered from sleep-related issues and 15 per cent have felt an effect on their mental health.

When it comes to getting into shape, more than a quarter of 40 somethings (27%) regret not doing enough exercise, with 53 per cent admitting they don’t do any exercise in a typical month.

Despite this, 30 per cent of those aged between 40 and 49 are conscious of their body image and how they look, with a clear gender split of concern between men and women (40% v 17%).

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell added: “It is clear from these results that by the time we reach our forties most of us are feeling under pressure and in the zone where sorting out our life really matters. It’s perhaps no wonder so many of us seek refuge and escapism in old classics such as Star Wars and Grease!

“Whether it’s striving to progress in your career, setting up the family home or planning the trip of a lifetime, starting and maintaining good management of finances remains as important as ever.’’
Star Wars 
Back to the Future 
Indiana Jones 
Top Gun
Pulp Fiction
Toy Story
The Lord of the Rings

David Bowie 
Guns N’ Roses 
Duran Duran 
The Beatles 
Robbie Williams 
Ed Sheeran 

Only Fools and Horses
Fawlty Towers
Britain's Got Talent
Coronation Street
Game of Thrones
The Big Bang Theory
Strictly Come Dancing
The Apprentice

Notes to Editors

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