Gap is widening between rich and poor in retirement – North/South divide is evident. Better-off retirees heading for affluent suburbs, market and cathedral towns

London, UK, 8 May 2016 – Britons are living through a hugely varied set of circumstances when they reach retirement, with a growing wealth gap between different groups of people aged over 65 prompting significant changes to their outlook and lifestyles.

It’s widely known that the number of those at retirement age, and especially the very old, has grown substantially in the last few years[1], but Experian research has found that it is not only the number of elderly people that has expanded, but also the diversity of their experiences.

“Old age and retirement used to be a more homogenous group,” explained Richard Jenkings from Experian. “In the past people would go on holiday to the sea-side and then a lucky few would then retire to those same resorts. Today we still see this happening, but a rising trend is for better-off retirees to move not to the traditional sea-side resorts, but instead to pleasant, often historic, cathedral cities and quality market towns.

“Furthermore, our research shows that the elderly, affluent suburbanite is a now well established fixture in parts of the UK, particularly in the South East of England. These folks typically have significant amounts of disposable income and are looking to enjoy life to the full in their golden years.

“In general they will be in better health, have higher pensions and savings and be more active than most pensioners of similar age. As a consequence, their consumption of goods and services is likely to be higher than their less affluent peers.

“On the other hand, the more financially-limited elderly are more likely to remain in the areas where they already lived. Their limited resources will have significant influence for their mobility, health and patterns of care and consumption.”

Although retirement presents a varied set of circumstances for older people living in the UK, the power of the ‘grey pound’ is undeniable. It’s very possible that brands are missing a trick when trying to engage with this key consumer group. There is an increasingly tech savvy set of over 65 year olds, with a large amount of disposable income, demanding more from brands in terms of products and offers tailored to their needs.

In the travel and tourism industry, the over 65s now spend £1.3bn more on travel per year than they did ten years ago; whilst the under 35s spend around £920m less than they did a decade ago. According to recent figures[2] the industry received about £37bn from the ‘grey pound’ last year, but it is estimated the industry missed out on a further £16bn because it failed to properly target older customers.

“Understanding people and places – who is living where and what these places look like - is essential intelligence for commercial organisations and government bodies alike,” added Jenkings.

“Retailers and consumer brands can draw on this data to help them to identify the most appropriate locations for their stores, where to target particular services or marketing offers. It is also of value to the public sector, helping to target relevant services or campaigns at certain parts of the population.”

Want to enjoy your retirement? The ‘Smarties’ (Senior Market Town Retirees) have the answer

The emergence of the ‘Smarties’ is part of a rising trend of better-off retirees who, instead of staying in the family home or moving to the coast as they might have done in the past, are downsizing, freeing up assets and starting new lives in attractive towns and small cities across the UK.

This sizeable group now represents over 1.3million people in the UK.

As consumers they have a distinct set of needs with regard to a wide range of issues – downsizing house size and shopping for different groceries, normally from higher end convenient supermarkets that use smaller ‘local’ stores, being two examples.

Preferences held by these groups will shape the areas in which they settle, with the desire to downsize likely to impact younger groups moving up the property ladder, and shopping preferences shaping the local high street.”

Characterised mainly by the Mosaic Type Village Retirement, Experian has identified a group of people dubbed “Smarties”: traditionally couples and singles aged 65-plus, who have chosen to move to market towns for retirement.

An 800,000 strong group in the UK, they now live in locations with a more villagey feel, within thriving communities that are large enough to give them access to the local amenities they require for their everyday living and social needs.

This is contrary to stereotypes about older groups retiring to the seaside and to communities that are dominated by older people.

Other characteristics include:

  • Good health, higher pensions and savings, and more active than most pensioners of a similar age
  • Have downsized from family homes to spacious three or four bedroom properties
  • Having been well-educated and enjoying long careers in higher managerial and professional positions
  • Comfortably-off with no outstanding mortgage

Top 10 towns for ‘Smarties’:








Bury St Edmunds


Bangor (Gwynedd)

Other noteworthy retired populations in the UK:

‘Diamond Days’ (some of the UK’s most affluent retirees)

Retirees who have stepped down from high-earning roles to enjoy a comfortable retirement in large, mortgage-free houses, that were once home to their families. This group typically has a great deal of disposable income and likes to spend it. 

Other key features of this group include:

  • Affluent, older retired couples, no longer financially responsible for younger generations
  • High disposable income, desirable four or five bedroom homes, travel widely and clustered in the South East of England
  • A smaller group; there are around 520,000 people within this type in the UK

Top 10 towns for Diamond Days:




High Wycombe



Reigate& Redhill

St Albans



Focus On: ’Senior Security’ (those retiring to the seaside)

Senior Security are elderly singles and couples who are still living independently in comfortable homes that they own, and have often chosen to retire to the seaside.

Other key features of this group include:

  • Considerable equity in property – many own their homes outright and have chosen to remain in family homes after the children have left
  • More home oriented and risk adverse
  • Although they do use the internet, they are less likely to invest in new digital technology.
  • They amongst the most likely to have a pay as you go mobile phone.

Top 10 towns for Senior Security:

Bournemouth – Boscombe


Hempstead Valley


Bognor Regis



Blackpool – Central



Focus on: ‘Vintage Value’ (some of the poorest retired populations)

Elderly people who mostly live alone, either in social or private housing, often built with the elderly in mind.

Other key features of this group include:

  • Levels of independence vary, but with health needs growing and incomes declining, many requiring an increasing amount of support
  • Less confident with technology, with limited use of the internet, least likely to own a mobile phone
  • Often reliant on a state pension.
  • Amongst the most frequent visitors to fish and chip shops in the UK.

Top 10 towns for Vintage Value:





Methyr Tydfil


South Shields





[1] The ONS shows that one in six people in England and Wales were aged 65 and over in 2011, the highest percentage seen in any census (16.4%). The number of over 90s has grown from 13,000 in 1911 to 340,000 in 2001 and to 430,000 by 2011.

[2] Barclays Corporate Banking


Nick Jones

Head of PR, Marketing Services, Experian

07583 297082

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