More than half (51%) of homeowners aged 45 and oversee money invested in property as part of their financial plans for later life, according to a new report from the Equity Release Council.

The research shows older homeowners – particularly those aged 45 to 64, the retirees of tomorrow – are reassessing the traditional roles of property in retirement funding and inheritance.

The Council’s analysis shows net property wealth has passed £4 trillion – the equivalent to nearly £80,000 for every UK adult, with investment in property exceeding new mortgage debt every year since 2008. Three-quarters of the average home is now owned outright, and regular mortgage capital repayments alone have steadily increased from £30bn in 2007 to £50bn in 2018.

Older age groups are not just the biggest owners of property; they also depend the most on its contribution to their overall finances. Bricks and mortar accounts for 40p in every £1 of household wealth for those aged 65+, rising to 47p among the over-75s versus 35p across the nation.

Graph 1: The changing makeup of household finance in later life

The report suggests these shifting trends are driving a change in attitude among the over-45 homeowner population. Many are facing multiple financial challenges as they seek to live longer, healthier lives while balancing their needs with providing support for younger generations.

Homeowners aged 45+ see property as the most important contributing factor to their financial comfort in later life (68%), and over half (56%) feel they can benefit from its financial value while they still live there.

The retirees of tomorrow – those aged 45-64 – are less likely than their older counterparts to see property as something to leave behind as an inheritance. Instead, they are more likely to think of it as a multi-purpose financial tool that can support their own financial plans (55%), be used as a nest egg to meet unexpected expenses (49%) or help family members (25%).

Table 1: Attitudes to the role of property in later life among homeowners aged 45+

More than two fifths (44%) of over-45 homeowners feel taking out a mortgage or loan to access property wealth in later life is becoming a more common way to manage money, while 40% see it as a “reality” of ageing. Only 34% feel they have no need to consider this option either now or in future, including just 30% of those aged 45-64.

While there is significant intent to use – or at the very least consider – residential property as part of later life planning, current activity¹ suggests more needs to be done to encourage people to take proactive steps.

To address this, the Council has called for action spanning consumers and their families, industry, regulators and government², to support financial education, product development, consumer safeguards and policy planning. This includes establishing a cross-party Later Life Commission and a dedicated Minister for the Elderly (see notes to editors for more details).

David Burrowes, Chairman of the Equity Release Council said “The UK’s ageing population and changing retirement landscape means people are increasingly thinking of property as a multi-purpose financial asset – particularly those aged 45 to 64, the retirees of tomorrow. Property is often a person’s single largest asset and makes a significant contribution to homeowners’ personal finances as well as providing a place to live.”

“Changing attitudes to property are significant given the financial challenges facing our ageing population as they seek to live longer, healthier lives. Many people have made inadequate provision for their retirement and care needs, while others have younger family to support. Consequently, bricks and mortar have become a vital piece of the retirement funding jigsaw, to benefit people during their lifetime as well as their families.”

“Our calls to action are underpinned by the core belief that – while drawing on property is not right for every circumstance and should not distract from encouraging long-term saving – it should be on every homeowner’s checklist to consider in later life, now more than ever. We urge industry and policymakers to evolve their thinking to reflect that of older homeowners to support this emerging demand.”

Will Hale, CEO of Key said “For over-65s today, wealth is intrinsically linked to bricks and mortar with 40p in every pound that they own tied up in property.  Historically, people have seen their house as a home and potentially as an inheritance to pass on to the next generation but this report clearly highlights that not only is that perception changing but, given the increasing pressures on retirement finances, that it has to change.”

“With pension savings failing to keep up with the increase in longevity, the vast majority of people will need to carefully consider how they maximise all their assets in retirement. Whether they conclude they want to use property wealth to fund one-off purchases in later life, a source by which to top-up regular income or to provide a helping hand to the younger generation, ignoring 40% of their net worth just doesn’t make sense.”

“This report and its recommendations clearly highlight not only the potential benefits that housing equity can bring to older homeowners, their families and the nation as a whole but the size of the challenge that we are facing.”