More than half of those retiring in 2017 are doing so early, says survey

More than half of people retiring this year will be doing so earlier than expected, a survey shows.

Some 60% of those planning to give up work in 2017 are doing so earlier than their projected state pension age, or company pension scheme retirement date, Prudential found.

Many are willing to take a hit on their expected retirement income in exchange for giving up the daily grind - to the tune of £1,250 a year - according to the survey of 1,000 people intending to retire in 2017.

Those who are planning to work until their retirement date expect to retire on an income worth £18,900 each year, compared with the £17,650 expected by people retiring early.

Wales is the early retirement capital of the UK, Prudential found, with nearly three-quarters (71%) of those retiring this year planning to do so early. The South East of England was found to have the lowest levels of early retirement, with 53% of those retiring there in 2017 doing so early.

But this year's early retirees feel better prepared than those who are not stopping early.

Three-fifths (60%) of those taking early retirement said they are financially well-prepared, compared with 46% of those working towards their retirement date.

Those who plan to retire early are more likely to have sought professional financial advice and more likely to have savings put by for their retirement than those who plan to wait until their retirement date, the research found.

The pension freedoms launched in 2015 have given the over-55s much more flexibility over how they access their pension cash.

Many people approaching their retirement may also be relying to some extent on "gold plated" defined benefit pension (DB) schemes, such as final salary pensions, which guarantee a certain level of income to people when they give up work.

DB pension schemes have increasingly been phased out in favour of defined contribution (DC) schemes, where the burden of risk as to how much retirement income someone ends up with is placed on the pension saver.

Experts have recently warned those aged in their 30s and younger that they may eventually face the possibility of drawing their pension for the first time in their 70s.

And with many people now getting on the housing ladder later in life, having a mortgage still to pay off may prevent some from retiring early.

Vince Smith-Hughes, a retirement expert at Prudential, said many of this year's retirees will have benefited from generous final salary schemes - something which only a "handful" of those in future generations will have.

He said: "As a result, the retirees of the future who are hoping to retire early will need to start preparing well in advance, setting aside as much as they can afford as early as they can.

"Using the really useful free guidance on offer, notably from the Pensions Advisory Service and the government's Pension Wise service, can help people understand their options. Additionally, for many people, advice from a professional financial adviser can be extremely beneficial when it comes to helping plan their retirement at any stage of their working lives, and to find out what steps to take to achieve important financial goals."

Here are the percentages of people retiring this year who will be doing so early, according to Prudential (a breakdown for Northern Ireland is not included due to a small sample size):

:: Wales, 71%

:: London, 70%

:: Yorkshire and Humberside, 67%

:: East Midlands, 63%

:: West Midlands, 59%

:: South West, 59%

:: Scotland, 58%

:: North West England, 58%

:: Eastern England, 57%

:: North East England, 56%

:: South East England, 53%