Retirement Living Standards Awards

Retirement Living Standards: The Winners

Maggie Williams salutes three of the best at our inaugural ceremony.

The PLSA’s Retirement Living Standards are now accessible to more than 14 million savers through more than 50 different organisations.  

Our first Retirement Living Standards Awards, announced at our Annual Conference in October, celebrated best practice by schemes, providers and innovators.  The winners demonstrated how the Standards can be embedded throughout DC pensions practice, to help members better understand what they need to save for retirement, and how they can achieve those goals. There were two main categories:

  • Saver engagement, separately judged for schemes and providers – for entries judged to have communicated the standards most effectively through aspects such as ease of use, simplicity of message, visual representation, personalisation and demonstrated comprehension.
  • FinTech/Innovation – for the entry which most impresses the judges for its use of technology to integrate the standards into tools, calculators or personalise income targets.

The winners are:

Saver Engagement: Scheme
Winner: Railpen 

As one of the UK’s largest pension schemes, making sure that members have the best possible retirement outcomes is one of Railpen’s top priorities. 

Railpen integrated the Retirement Living Standards into member-friendly engagement campaigns across many different communication channels. Using both text and visuals, along with an easy-to-use online budget calculator, the scheme supports members by providing them with a personalised, tangible target that they can use to assess whether their savings are on track. 

Our judges also praised the extent to which Railpen made information as understandable and accessible as possible for members.  Rob Hugues, head of customer experience at Railpen said: “Being able to help members plan earlier and more effectively has been the most significant impact from adopting the standards. We have seen a huge increase in digital engagement over the last 12 months, with over 62,000 members now registered for online services.  The Retirement Living Standards have helped us articulate the type of income members may need in retirement, and through our other tools help them understand whether they are on-track.” 

Saver Engagement: Provider
Winner: Standard Life

Retirement Living Standards are now a design principle at Standard Life and are embedded in many aspects of its pensions offering, including annual benefit statements and Standard Life’s Retirement Income Tool.

That means that by next year over 3.5 million people will be using the standards. 

Standard Life has also introduced a Client Analytics service that will help employers and their advisers understand what living standard their employees are on track to achieve. “They can get a view across scheme members to see how many are on track for a minimum, moderate and comfortable outcome”, says Jenny Holt, Customer Savings and Investments Director, Standard Life. “It will then allow employers to identify what engagement strategies they can apply to improve outcomes in specific parts of the scheme.” 

Donna Walsh, head of workplace deployment and bid management at Standard Life said that making the standards an integral part of their pensions offering will be a continuing focus: “We’ll keep looking at opportunities and customer touchpoints to incorporate these.” 

Judges were impressed by Standard Life’s simple messaging for savers and the outstanding evidence of the benefits of using the standards. In particular, the Client Analytics tool attracted judges’ attention as a powerful feature for the future. 

FinTech / Innovation
Winner: Legal and General 

From personalised video pension statements and virtual reality, to a retirement planner and smartphone app, Legal and General have pushed the boundaries of innovation for pensions engagement. And, the Retirement Living Standards have been incorporated in many of these new ideas.

The PLSA’s judges were impressed with this broad use of fintech to help DC members work out their retirement needs. They also praised the way in which Legal and General aligned information about the standards across multiple tools, and had started to extend their use into other features, such as personalisation.  

Stuart Murphy, Co-Head of DC, Legal and General, said: “This is a great recognition of the hard work by our DC teams to integrate the Retirement Living Standards throughout our members’ savings and retirement journey. This includes designing a simple-to-use online calculator that incorporates the standards to help DC members more easily work out their retirement needs, and the launch of our virtual reality experience.”
“We’ve been able to make real the planning and visualisation for members as to what their spending needs are likely to be in retirement. Giving members something that they can associate with is so powerful.” 

Retirement Living Standards: 2021 refresh 

The Retirement Living Standards are regularly reviewed to ensure they continue to accurately reflect shifts in spending habits as well as prices on the shelves. 

More money for eating out, a higher personal grooming budget and a Netflix subscription are all included in the latest update to the standards, announced at our Annual Conference in October.  This is the first update since they were established two years ago.

The Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University independently develops and maintains the standards. To identify changes, researchers held 13 discussion groups across the UK with retirees and those approaching retirement (55+). 

Researchers used the findings to update the different baskets of goods and services that the standards describe and the Retirement Living Standards’ three levels – minimum, moderate and comfortable.  


The Minimum Retirement Living Standard is based on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard and covers all a retiree’s needs plus enough for some fun. 
The annual budget for the minimum standard has risen since 2019 by £700 to £10,900 for a single person and by £1,000 to £16,700 for a couple in 2021. An average 10% rise in transport costs (by road and railway, but not in a private vehicle) accounted for much of the increase. The minimum basket also now includes an increase in the budget for hairdressing, and includes Netflix.
Through a combination of the full state pension of £9,339 per year, and auto-enrolment in a workplace pension, this level should be very achievable for most people. 


The Moderate Retirement Living Standard, provides more financial security and more flexibility, in addition to the minimum lifestyle. For example, you could have a two-week holiday in Europe and eat out a few times a month.

The annual budget for the moderate standard has risen since 2019 by £600 to £20,800 for a single person and by £1,500 to £30,600 for a couple. Changes to eating out budgets, social activities, council tax and price inflation across leisure services and goods accounted for most of the increase.  

According to PLSA analysis, around half of single employees are on track to expect a lifestyle between minimum and moderate, and people in a couple who are able to share costs, will be higher in this range.


With the Comfortable Retirement Living Standard, retirees can expect to enjoy some luxuries like regular beauty treatments, theatre trips and three weeks holiday in Europe a year.

The annual comfortable standard budget has increased since 2019 by £600 to £33,600 for one person and £2,200 to £49,700 for a couple. This included a rise in the amount for additional food and drink for celebrations throughout the year, as well as higher personal grooming costs. The cost of annual maintenance and servicing of a burglar alarm was included in the comfortable standard for the first time.
About one in six single employees are projected to have an income between moderate and comfortable. Again, many more will achieve this level where they are in a couple and so able to share costs.

To find out more about the findings, see the Centre for Research in Social Policy’s report ‘Retirement living standards in the UK in 2021.’ Find out more about the Retirement Living Standards here.