Retirement saving in the UK

Our Retirement saving in the UK series looks at the pension saving experiences of people who have been enrolled into Nest. With a sample that includes around a third of the UK working population, it’s one of the largest empirical studies of pension saving behaviours in the UK. 

As the auto enrolment landscape develops, we’ll be sharing new data stories throughout the year, shining a spotlight on specific challenges facing defined contribution pension savers, and on the trends we’re seeing in the data.

If you’re interested in collaborating with us in creating these unique data insights, please get in touch:

  • Examine the pension saving experiences of the new generation of savers created by auto enrolment to understand their needs and identify trends or changes in savings behaviours over time.
  • Understand how auto enrolment is working for low and moderate income savers.
  • Share the experiences of Nest and its membership so others around the world can benefit from the learnings.
  • Analysis of more than 12 million members and 1 million employers (as at May 2023) and over a decade of scheme operations. Many millions of data points are analysed in each Retirement saving in the UK research output, and as each year goes by millions more are added.
  • Analysis of bespoke Nest member surveys carried out by Nest either independently or in conjunction with research agencies with the aim of increasing understanding of how members interact with the Nest pension scheme and how they think and feel about topics such as saving, pensions and their wider financial lives. All of the surveys are conducted online and emailed to a random sample of the Nest membership. The results are weighted to ensure they are representative of the total Nest population.
  • Retirement saving in the UK analysis also contains information from official public sources, such as surveys by the Office for National Statistics.

Previous annual reports

Retirement saving in the UK 2022 (PDF), our fifth annual report, shares insights into the savings behaviours of over 11 million Nest members between April 2021 and March 2022 – a year that was once again dominated by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the turbulence during this time, the pensions auto enrolment system, as seen through the lens of Nest’s administrative data, remained stable. The great majority of Nest members continued to follow the default settings that they had been enrolled into and, as a result, overall levels of retirement savings continued to rise throughout these challenging times – supporting the objective of the UK’s workplace pension reforms, helping millions more people secure a better retirement.

Retirement saving in the UK 2021 (PDF), our fourth annual report, took stock of the last 10 years since the introduction of auto enrolment, painting a rich portrait of the lived experience of almost 10 million Nest members, many of whom are low and moderate income workers. This expanded report presents fascinating evidence about the evolution of auto enrolment and Nest’s membership, sharing analysis of Nest’s administrative data, as well as Nest’s own bespoke surveys of members and data from official organisations such as the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Following on from How the UK Saves, previously produced with Vanguard, our third annual report, Retirement saving in the UK 2020 (PDF), examined the savings behaviours of over 9.5 million Nest members between April 2019 and September 2020. During this time, the second and final planned increase in minimum auto enrolment pension contributions took place, increasing total contributions from 5% to 8% of band earnings, and the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a number of restrictions and national lockdowns which had a significant impact on the saving behaviours and financial wellbeing of people in the UK. In both cases, many observers predicted that significant numbers of people would stop saving for retirement, yet our data showed this not to be the case.

The story is one of continuity. Even through turbulent times, members continued to save in the same way, with millions believed to have benefited from the buffering effect of the UK government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). Nest also continued to provide a safe harbour for members’ retirement savings, with 5-year annualised returns performing above benchmarks (as at 30 September 2020).

We’re proud to have worked with leading experts at Vanguard’s Center for Investor Research to produce How the UK Saves, a series of annual reports and supplements examining the behaviours, demographics and likely retirement outcomes of millions of UK workers saving with Nest.

Vanguard has had great success using administrative data from large defined contribution arrangements to explore the experience of people saving in pension systems around the world. Other publications in the series include How America Saves and How Australia Saves. Visit to find out more.


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