By Thomas Edgington
Only one in three young people are putting funds into a pension
Half of UK adults aged between 20 and 60 are not putting aside any funds into a pension, a survey commissioned by the BBC suggests.
The survey of 1,358 people by Gfk NOP indicated the situation was worst among under-30s, with only about one in three or 36% putting anything into a scheme.
Affordability is the main barrier for young people, with many saying they are instead having to pay off debts.
Among 41 to 60-year-olds, 45% are not currently paying into a pension fund.
The report suggested a number of reasons for this, ranging from people who had been made redundant to women who had never joined a pension scheme because of leaving full-time work to have children.
'Too far away'
Tom Wainewright, 25, an architectural assistant living in east London, said starting a pension was way down his priority list.
"I haven't given a pension any thought," he said.
"At the moment I'm just trying to keep down a steady job. I was made redundant because of the recession and have had to take a pay cut."
Other young people said they had not started a pension because they did not know how to, or else felt retirement was too far away to be worth planning for.
Despite only 36% of respondents under 30 having a private pension, half of all those who took part in the survey said they were still confident they would be able to live a comfortable retirement.
Tom Wainewright says he can't afford to think of a pension at present
Ed Gardner, chief executive of UK retirement and savings at pension and insurance firm Metlife, said young people were wrong to assume this would inevitably be the case.
He points to the fact that more generous final salary pension schemes are continuing to close to new members, and that instead, younger people will have to rely upon defined contribution pension schemes, which generally provide less of a return.
"Unfortunately the tide has turned and younger people face even more challenges in saving for their retirement," said Mr Gardner.
Yet with the study saying that 45% of 41 to 60-year-olds also do not have a pension, the threat of having to work long into retirement is now a more immediate concern for many people in that age bracket.
That is the situation that Andrew Knowles, 44, and his wife Rachel, 43, may face.
Mr Knowles paid into several pension schemes over the years, but having been made redundant in January, and choosing to build his own business, his pension will not allow him to retire at 65.
His wife trained as a chartered accountant, but having had four daughters, she has not put anything into a pension.
Mr Knowles said he thinks the whole concept of retirement is changing and that people's working life will gradually wind down in their 70s, rather than just stopping at 65.
"I think the internet will offer a lot of opportunities for ad-hoc home based working [for people above working age]," he said.
"I'm disillusioned with the general financial system and pensions are part of that."
Mrs Knowles added: "We will be doing some kind of work well into our 70s.
"We accept that's where we are, because we haven't got the pension provision."
'Nowhere near enough'
According to Mr Gardner, people have to ask themselves how much money they will need to retire at 65 and then expect to live for 25 or 30 more years.
"What you will find is that many people are currently saving nowhere near enough," he said.
The government is trying to mitigate the impact of a potential pension "time bomb", through the introduction of Personal Accounts, due to be rolled out in 2012.
Personal Accounts will be a part of the government's pension reform programme. Employees will be automatically enrolled, contributing 4% of their salary. The employer will pay 3% and a further 1% will come from tax relief.