Britain suffers from 'Peter Pan' syndrome as 16 million people say they have delayed at least one major life step including marriage, having a baby or buying a home (1), according to a new report from protection and retirement specialist, LV=.
LV='s 'Delayed Lifestyle' report (2) looks at the long-term trends in Britons' key life stages - assessing how average ages have changed over the last few decades and forecasts these trends to the year 2025.
The report shows the average age for tying the knot for the first time is now 32 years for men and 30 years for women. This looks set to increase to 35 years for men and 34 for women by 2025 and has risen steadily since 1970 - when, on average, men got married at 24 and women at 22. Meanwhile, Britons have also put off starting a family - the average age of first time mothers is currently 28 years, increasing from 24 in 1970. This looks set to rise to 29 years by 2025.
LV='s report also looks at what age Britons are getting on the housing ladder and forecasts the average age of a first time buyer will be 41 years by the year 2025. This is a big leap from the 1980s when people bought their first house at 29 years old. With the majority taking a mortgage for a term of 25 years or more, this delay is likely to have a significant impact on people being able to pay their mortgage off before reaching retirement. The average age of a first time buyer in the UK today is 38 years.
Along with not being ready to settle down, high costs is the most common reason for people holding back on starting these life events. The research reveals 14.7 million people (30%) say they cannot afford to get married, have a child or buy a house (3).
"The cost of living is having an impact on when Brits are able to settle down, have children and buy a house. Many people are struggling to afford these major life steps and our report shows this is set to get worse in the years to come as the average age for marriage, starting a family and getting on the housing ladder are all set to increase.
"Faced with high property prices, high inflation, uncertainty over the movement of interest rates and a tough economic climate, it is not surprising Brits are developing "Peter Pan syndrome". However, people need to consider the long term financial impact of delaying major financial steps, particularly if it means they will still have high debts to pay when they are much older and approaching retirement."
LV='s report shows over half (55%) of 20 - 29 year olds are not yet married but expect to get hitched later in their life. However, with the average age of a groom set to be 35 years old and brides to be 34 years old by 2025 some of them could be in for a long wait.
Unsurprisingly the impact of rising costs has led to people postponing their marriage dreams with just under a fifth (19%) of those in their 20s saying they can't afford to get married and a further (14%) saying they have not yet enough saved to pay for a wedding. However, it is not just high costs which are holding people back from walking down the aisle - nearly one in three of those in their 20s (31%) say they are just not ready to get married and over a third (34%) are still looking for the right partner.
Up until the mid-90s, statistics show that people would marry first and then have children. For example, in the 1970s, mothers tended to have their first baby at age 24, about a year after they got married. However this is no longer the case. The average age for a first marriage for single women is now six years later (at 30 years old) and the average age of a first time mother is two years before that - at 28 years old. This shift occurred over time so that by 1995 more people started a family first and then married later (see graph 4 below). This gap is on the increase as women will, on average, get married five years after their first child by 2025.
Today, half of those in their 20s (50%) and a fifth of those in their 30s (19%) say they are putting off having children.
The most common reason is not having found the right partner (25%), followed by not being ready to settle down (19%) and not being able to afford to have children (14%).
Nearly half of those in their 20s and 30s (47%) say they cannot afford to buy a house on their current salary. In addition to this, among those who have not yet bought a property, 46% say they have been unable to because they cannot afford the deposit and 16% were unable to get a mortgage.
Of those who have bought a house but did so later than they expected, a quarter (26%) delayed buying because they did not have the money for a deposit and one in five (19%) were not ready to settle down (see table 5 below).
When looking at people's priorities in life, just 7% of people said that saving for retirement was a top priority for them. As the LV= report shows, with people struggling to afford the more immediate priorities of buying a home, getting married and starting a family it isn't surprising that so few prioritise saving for the future.
"With increasing financial pressures it seems some people feel like it is never going to be a right time to fulfil their goals. Seeking expert financial advice earlier on in life could help people plan better to meet these costs. It is also important to keep the bigger picture in mind and understand the impact that delaying saving for the future and getting financial protection in place may have on your long term financial position."
1. Current UK population 49,529,000 (2009 ONS predictions for 2011)
31.66% of all respondents selected at least one of "I bought my first property later than I thought I would", "I got married later than I thought I would" or "I had children later than I thought I would". 31.66% x 49,529,000 = 15.7 million.
2. Research commissioned by LV=, carried out by the Centre of Economics and Business Research and Opinium.
This report presents Cebr's analysis into the long term trends in the average age of first marriage,
first childbirth, and first time home buying. This analysis assesses how average ages have changed over time, and presents Cebr's estimates of how these trends could develop by the years 2020 and 2025.
All 2011 figures are taken from omnibus research carried out by Opinium Research on behalf of LV= as part of the Delayed Lifestyle campaign. LV= commissioned Opinium Research to carry out an online survey of 2,031 UK adults aged 18+ from 27th to 31st of May 2011. Results have been weighted to be nationally representative.
3. Current UK population 49,529,000 (2009 ONS predictions for 2011).
29.74% of all respondents selected at least one of "Can't afford to buy a property on their salary" or "Can / could not afford the deposit", "Can't afford to get married" or "Can't afford to have children". 29.74% x 49,529,000 = 14.7 million.
4. Average age of first time mothers vs marriage ages
(Source: Cebr Analysis, ONS)
5. Reasons for delaying buying a property
| Reason for not yet buying a property / buying one later than expected
||Have bought a house but did so later than expected|| Have not bought a property yet but would like to
| Cannot afford on salary
| Cannot afford deposit
| Other financial commitments took precedence
| Not ready to settle down
| Unable to get a mortgage
| Wanted to buy with someone / get married first
| Difficulty finding right house
| Waiting for prices to fall
(Source: Opinum research)