Supporting self-employed people to save for retirement

Three quarters of self-employed people think it’s important to save for retirement, and over half would welcome help to do so

  • 74% of self-employed people think it’s important to save for retirement
  • 50% aren’t confident about how they will fund their retirement
  • Only 24% say they currently contribute to a pension
  • Over half (55%) say they would welcome more guidance on how to best save for retirement
  • Over half (56%) like the idea of automatically diverting a proportion of their income to saving for retirement.

Nest Insight has today, Thursday 10 October, published the results of its initial exploratory research into how to support self-employed people to save for retirement.

Auto enrolment has proven to be very effective at helping traditional workers to start saving for retirement. But for the self-employed, the current auto enrolment framework isn’t suitable, as there is no employer to enrol them into a scheme. Nest Insight is working with the Department for Work and Pensions on a programme of research and trialling that draws on the insights and learning from automatic enrolment to explore and test different approaches to see what might work to enable increased long-term savings among self-employed people.

This first report, Supporting the self-employed to save for retirement (PDF), presents findings on:

  • the attitudes and behaviours of self-employed people around retirement saving
  • potential ways of communicating with them about planning and saving for later life
  • practical ways of enabling them to do so more easily.

The next stage of the research programme has already begun, with field-based trials underway to test the ideas developed in the exploratory stage. Nest Insight is also preparing two or more technology-based trials in partnership with providers of platforms used by self-employed people to manage their money, with initial findings due to be released next year.

Jo Phillips, Nest Insight head of research and innovation, comments:

“Although most self-employed people say they want to save for retirement, many struggle to do so in practice. Encouragingly most are open to help, guidance and encouragement to get on track with saving for later life.”

“We know that self-employed people are a highly diverse population and it will be tricky to find a one-size-fits-all approach. By asking self-employed workers what they want, we’ve taken a significant step forward to  discovering what those solutions might look like.”

“We know that control and adaptability to changing circumstances are really important for self-employed people, as is some element of access to their money in case of need’, often due to the varied pattern of their income. We’re currently exploring opportunities to build in simple and easy ways to save within the personal finance and accounting platforms they already use, and looking at how to communicate more effectively with self-employed people via the channels they’re turning to most frequently for financial guidance and advice.”

“We’re excited to have moved into the second phase of our research, using this information to help us test real, practical solutions tailored to the needs of self-employed people.”

 Guy Opperman, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, said:

“We want to boost the future prospects of millions of hard-working self-employed people, including younger and lower-paid workers, and that’s why we’re trialling various approaches which could help them plan ahead financially for later life.”

“Nest Insight’s extremely helpful report has informed the work in progress and I look forward to seeing the positive interventions that follow.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors

View the report here: Supporting self-employed people to save for retirement (PDF)

Key facts about the research

  • Research methods: the research combined a literature review, exploratory qualitative research and a quantitative survey of UK self-employed people.
  • Sample size: over 2000 self-employed people were surveyed.

 About Nest Insight

Nest Insight Logo

Nest Insight is a collaborative research unit set up by Nest Corporation to help understand and address the challenges facing Nest members and the new generation of defined contribution (DC) savers. For more information, visit or email

About Nest Insight’s programme partner

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for welfare, pensions and child maintenance policy. As the UK’s biggest public service department it administers the State Pension and a range of working age, disability and ill health benefits to around 20 million claimants and customers. For more information, visit:

About Nest Insight’s strategic partners

Invesco is an independent investment management firm dedicated to delivering an investment experience that helps people get more out of life. Invesco became a major strategic partner in July 2019, supporting Nest Insight’s programme of work through sponsorship, the contribution of its deep industry expertise and insights, and by helping the programme to reach a wider audience. For more information visit

Vanguard was founded with the purpose of taking a stand for all investors. In pursuit of this principle, Vanguard is proud to be have been the first strategic partner of Nest Insight, in its effort to help the UK public achieve the best chance of investment success, and a comfortable retirement. For more information visit