The shocking cost of a 50 or 60-something’s drinking habit

50-something expensive drinking habits

When we think of big drinkers in the UK, we usually think of 20-somethings, falling out of nightclubs, and ending up on the front pages of newspapers as examples of 'Broken Britain'. However, the real picture of Britain's biggest drinkers is very different. They are quiet, sensible people, in their 50s and 60s.

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The figures have been revealed by Tilney's Cost of Tomorrow report. It found that the UK's near-retirees spend around £1.87 billion on wine bought in shops every year. That's proportionally more than any other age group.

Between the ages of 50 and 64, households spend £265 a year on wine brought home, more than double the £114 spent annually by under-30s and considerably more than the £203 spent by 30-49-year-olds.

UK pensioners also contribute considerably to the wine economy, with households aged 65 and over spending £1.47 billion on wine bought in shops every year.

Across a lifetime, the average household will spend £12,600 on wine brought home - and wine is just part of the story. We will also spend £6,400 on beers and ciders to drink at home, and £5,800 on spirits.

Then of course is the alcohol we drink when we're out and about. Over a lifetime, the average UK household will also spend £23,209 on alcohol bought outside the home – bringing the total alcohol cost to £48,200.

Is this a waste?

£48,200 could buy us an awful lot instead. It would go towards a much more luxurious retirement, and even if you spent it on an annuity, it would add thousands to your annual income. Alternatively, you could splash out on the car of your dreams, or a relatively modest holiday home.

How much pension income could you get?

Before anyone gets too miserable about the amount they are blowing on alcohol, however, it's important to put it into perspective. £48,000 is also the sum we typically spend on commuting throughout the course of our working life. And while there's a reasonable chance that some of our alcohol consumption has been relatively pleasurable (assuming we drink responsibly), the same cannot be said for a typical commute.

But what do you think? Does this seem like a waste of money, or money well spent? Let us know in the comments.

How we spend our pensions
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How we spend our pensions

Figures from Saga show that the over 50s now account for the majority of money spent by Brits on travel and tourism. They have the time to spare, the money, and they are healthy enough to take on the world.

A poll from Abta found that in the wake of pension freedoms, 35% of people were considering cashing in at least part of their pension to travel. A separate study by Senior Railcard found that pensioners take an average of three holidays a year, plus two weekends away, and 17 day trips.

Research from Senior Railcard found that retirees eat out an average of three times a month. However, one in ten do so more than twice a week, and one in three people said that one of the first things they did when they retired was to go out for lunch with their friends.

Of course, just because retirees want to enjoy themselves, it doesn't mean they are happy to throw money away. The vast majority are keen to eat at lunchtimes, when a fixed lunch menu tends to be cheaper, and canny retirees are skilled at tracking down pensioner special offers too.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that on average nearly a fifth of the money spent by people aged 65-74 is on leisure. This includes everything from the cinema and theatre to golfing and gardening. They spent more on this than on food, energy bills and transport.

A report by Canada Life found that retirees are spending £4,279 a year on having fun - that’s more than £1,000 more than they spend on boring essentials, and is a 74% increase over the past ten years. It went on to predict that this trend was set to continue, and that pension freedoms would encourage people to spoil themselves a bit more in retirement

Pensioner property wealth is now over £850 billion, and all these family homes don’t look after themselves. The Senior Railcard survey put home renovations in the top 20 activities people got stuck into on retirement, and figures from ABTA found that almost a third of people who were considering raiding their pension pots under the new pension freedoms planned to spend the cash on their home. This seems like an eminently sensible investment - looking after what is undoubtedly their most valuable asset.

Unsurprisingly, while some pensioners are very well off indeed, others are struggling with debt. Figures from Key Retirement found that the average retiree has £34,000 of debt.

Most of this is mortgage borrowing - in many cases driven up by the number of people who unwittingly signed up to an interest-only mortgage. However, credit cards, overdrafts, and loans are also common. It’s why so many pensioners have used pension freedoms to access enough cash to pay their debts.

The day to day basics are swallowing up their fair share of pensioner cash too. On average, people aged 65-74 spend a third of their weekly income on essentials like food and bills - which is hardly living the high life.
The bank of gran and grandad has become an increasingly vital source of cash for families. According to Key Retirement, of those who release equity from their property, 21% of them use the cash to treat their children and grandchildren. This includes an average of £33,350 to help children get onto the property ladder, £6,000 to buy them a new car, £11,000 on family weddings, and £24,780 giving grandchildren a helping hand.

While retirees are quite rightly spending what they need to enjoy retirement, they are hardly all throwing caution to the wind, buying flash cars and spending the kids' inheritance.

Most expect to have something left over to pass onto their family after their death. Some 69% expect to leave property in their wills, and 75% expect to leave cash - according to - because while baby boomers know how to have fun - they also know how to save for the future.


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