Call Me a Retiree, Not a Pensioner

New research conducted for the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) has found an overwhelmingly negative reaction towards the word ‘pensioner’ from both those who are yet to retire and those who already have. 

The Communicating with customers approaching retirement qualitative research study actually held 18 discussion groups with a cross section of people who were within five years of state pension age, those who were already on state pension and those who had deferred taking their state pension.

The aim of the research was to gain an understanding of both the process and expectations of retiring and an understanding of being retired for those who have already done so.  Perhaps not surprisingly, it found a clear difference of views of retirement between those who are already retired and those who have not yet done so. 

For many who were still working, and those who enjoyed working, there was apprehension and a reluctance to retire which the researchers from Ipsos Mori, described as being “a fear of the unknown”.  The ‘fear’ being based on the individuals not knowing how long they would live and how much money they would need to save. 

Those who had already retired from full time employment, admitted that they had the same apprehensions prior to retirement but that retired life was much better than they had anticipated.  Those who had been able to gradually reduce their hours prior to retirement found it much easier to adjust to retired life.

Amongst those who had been forced to stop working before reaching state pension age through circumstances beyond their control, such as ill health, many already described themselves as being semi-retired or actually retired due to the belief that they would never return to paid employment.

But irrespective of current status, the study found this overwhelming negativity towards the word ‘pensioner’ and consequently, they say, very few of the people in their discussion groups identified with it, as it was felt to only apply to people older than they were.  On the other hand, the word ‘retired’ was viewed more positively, as it suggested comfort and rest, rather than having to survive on a restricted income.

When it came to communication and interactions with the DWP,  most of the partcipants in the study wanted:

  • Ideally annual forecasts sent to them on the potential state pension they would receive.
  • Not to receive ‘lifestyle’ type information through the post from the DWP/Pension, Disability and Carers Service as this could be seen as patronising.
  • Face-to-face interaction when making their claim for state pension – rather than doing this over the telephone or via internet, neither of which was regarded as ‘safe’ due to fears about possible identity theft.

The researchers recommend that messages around retirement and pensions are straightforward and more carefully branded. The sort of information that participants wanted to receive was formal, based around numbers and sent at a time when most needed.

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