Irish Life Pension Report

The Difference in a Decade: Irish Life data shows potential pension gains with 10-year head start

Read the new pension report from Irish Life which shows Irish Life DC pension data and research findings.  

  • Irish Life pension data shows the current age starting a company pension plan is 37 with 11.4% contribution rate1 on average
  • Potential boost in retirement income of 50%-120% if people started pension 10 years earlier*
  • “Younger for longer” trend emerging; average age of getting married and having children are on the rise and big decisions like pensions are being deferred
  • Inertia is an issue - 29% say they just never get around to starting3

Irish Life has published a “Smarter Company Pensions” report, which looks at the expected retirement outcomes of more than 60,000 Defined Contribution (DC) members. With almost 2,000 pension schemes1 in operation, Irish Life manages company pensions for some of the country’s largest employers.

The report looks the two main pension issues of coverage (number of people with pension plans) and adequacy (the level of pension people can expect based on the amount they are saving). The data from the report shows that a typical DC member was earning a salary of €51,2501 and was contributing 11.4% of their salary to their pension savings, including their employers’ contributions 1.

Based on that level of contribution, the report revealed the average member is likely to receive a pension of €10,050 per year (or just over 19% of their salary in retirement1). This amount would be topped up by the State Pension, which currently stands at €12,651.60 per year, but it still represents a drop in income for most people once they retire.

The average starting age starting a DC pension was 37. This may be synonymous with the “younger for longer trend”, as data from the CSO shows that Irish people are having children, and getting married later in life; for example, the average age of people getting married in 1977 was 25 years, and has now moved to 35 years in 20172. However, according to Irish Life, while some life decisions are being deferred from peoples 20’s well into their 30’s, the benefits of starting a pension 10 years earlier would be significant.

“Within one generation we have seen some interesting societal changes”, Tony Lawless, Managing Director, Irish Life Corporate Business, said.People are delaying big life decisions and enjoying their young-adult lives for longer. People are starting their DC pension at age 37 – which might still seem young. But when it comes to pensions, the earlier people start the better.”

Irish Life also released data to highlight the impact of a person starting their pension 10 years earlier. The table below compares different retirement outcomes depending on the age they start saving into a pension; for example, if someone started a company pension plan at age 25, they could gain nearly 50% more in yearly retirement income, compared to starting at age 35*. The table also shows if a person started a pension at 45 years of age instead of age 55, they could more than double their yearly retirement income*.

Source: Irish Life Pension Report, 2018

“The biggest challenge is making pensions more appealing; our research found that 29% of people say they just never got around to starting a pension³. People need help and encouragement to get started with pensions; being automatically enrolled into a pension by an employer or by the Government represents a big Nudge. It removes the need to make a pension decision at an individual level, which turns pension inertia into a positive. Those who are auto-enrolled into a pension will see major benefits in the long run. Once people are signed up, it’s about helping them understand what level of pension they can expect at retirement and helping them to take control of that. We need to make it easier for people to take smarter steps for better outcomes at retirement”, Lawless said, commenting on the Irish Life Pension Report.

The full pension report is available for download.


*NOTE: The figures in the table assume a salary at age 25 of €35,000, 40% tax relief, investment growth of 4% per year, and salary increases of 2% per year. This worker would retire at 65, with an escalation of 1.5% p.a., an interest rate of 2% p.a., no spouse pension, and a 5-year guaranteed period. Annual income would be payable for life. This annuity rate is calculated in line with guidance from the Society of Actuaries in Ireland.

1Irish Life data of DC scheme members

2Central Statics Office: CSO Marriage statistics comparison - 1977 and 2017 ( and marriage ages -

3Research carried out by Coyne Research. 1,000 adults aged 18+ were interviewed online in December 2017

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