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Half a million ‘silver entrepreneurs’ are working for themselves over retirement age


While the gig economy has dominated headlines about the self-employed, a huge engine of growth in this population is being kept in the shadows. Over half a million ‘silver entrepreneurs’ are now working for themselves beyond retirement age, according to new research from Old Mutual Wealth and the Pensions Policy Institute.  

Changing work practices mean one in ten  of the UK’s five million self-employed now employ themselves beyond state pension age. That’s 347,000 men and 173,000 women (520,000 in total). The practice has increased in recent years, with the number of self-employed over state pension age increasing by over 20% since 2013, up from 432,000.

The new research also reveals that more than 1 million more people have become self-employed since the 2008 financial crisis, with the Baby Boomer generation (those aged 50-69) seeing the fastest growth. They now account for 1.9 million of the UK’S 4.8 million self-employed, suggesting the amount of self-employed people working beyond retirement age will continue to grow.

In his review of modern working practices, Matthew Taylor, acknowledged that the surge in self-employment in recent years could be in part driven by the greater participation from older workers. However, despite acknowledging this trend, he falls short of discussing why this trend exists and recommending how policy should change to reflect this trend.  

Previous research shows some don’t feel ready to stop working or enjoy the social benefits. However, others feel they need to keep working for financial reasons, because they can’t afford to retire. These people could be turning to self-employment as  they search for a flexible source of income or it may not have been a choice. Some may have struggled to find other opportunities given their age.

The government need to ensure older workers aren’t driven into self-employment as a last resort.

Jon GreerJon Greer, head of retirement policy says the figures highlight that the self-employed are key to the forthcoming review of auto-enrolment policy:

“Our approach to work and retirement is changing. Many people are now choosing to phase-out their career and combine work and retirement, rather than simply dropping out of the workforce altogether and going straight into full-time retirement. This trend extends to the self-employed, with silver entrepreneurs now numbering around half a million.

“We’re working longer for all sorts of reasons. Because we value the health benefits, don’t feel ready to finish working or because rising life expectancy means we need to save more.

“But we can’t ignore the fact that some people are working longer because they can’t afford to retire. That is why the forthcoming auto-enrolment review is crucial. The government need to ensure that today’s 30, 40 and 50 years old self-employed are saving into a pension so that they can choose when to retire, whether in their 60s, 70s or beyond.”

“And it should go hand in hand with the government’s longer working lives strategy, which is designed to help alleviate some of the risks and costs of an ageing society. The government needs to ensure that the strategy also takes into account the growing self-employed population, who are also extending their time in work, according to this data.”

Simon McVicker, IPSE Director of Policy, commented:

“We are delighted that Old Mutual and the Pensions Policy Institute are investigating means of equipping the self-employed with long-term saving provisions.

 “Self-employment is experiencing an unprecedented boom, with a particular growth in those aged 60 and above. Working in later life should always be a choice though, unfortunately, some people continue working because they don’t have the financial provisions in place to retire.  

 “It is imperative that we develop some long-term solutions so that today’s young people have greater financial security in older age. Reports like this are a great contribution to that discussion.”

A new report, Policies for increasing long-term saving of the self-employed is available here

For more information contact

Michael GlenisterOld Mutual Wealth020 7778 963807469
Kathleen GallagherOld Mutual Wealth023 8072 629307990

Notes to editors:

About Quilter plc:

Quilter plc is a leading wealth management business in the UK and internationally, helping to create prosperity for the generations of today and tomorrow.

Quilter plc oversees £118.1 billion in customer investments (as at 30 September 2018).

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Wealth Platforms includes the Old Mutual Wealth UK Platform; Old Mutual International, including AAM Advisory in Singapore; and the Old Mutual Wealth Heritage life assurance business.

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