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UK Adult Financial Wellbeing Survey 2021 Nation of Savers Report

Evidence type: Insight i


One of the Agendas for Change set out in the Money and Pensions Service’s UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing identifies building a regular saving habit as important for financial wellbeing because it helps to improve individuals’ and households financial confidence, security and resilience for unexpected life events and changes in circumstances.

The Strategy identified that 11.1m adults of working age defined as ‘struggling’ or ‘squeezed’ did not save regularly in 2018. Those who are ‘struggling’ are the least resilient financially, and those who are ‘squeezed’ are another high-risk segment with high rates of credit dependence, insufficient savings and later-life preparedness. The National Goal set out in the Strategy is to encourage 2 million more working-age adults in these segments to develop a habit of saving regularly by 2030.

The study

This report describes the results of analysis by the Money and Pensions Service of the 2021 UK-wide Adult Financial Wellbeing Survey to explore the links between financial wellbeing and regular saving among squeezed and struggling working-age adults (the Nation of Savers national goal).

The 2021 Adult Financial Wellbeing Survey was a survey by Critical Research of 10,306 adults (ages 18 and over) living in the UK. Data were collected using a mixed-mode approach between July and September 2021: mainly via online panels, with additional online survey completion via postal invites and paper survey completion via postal invites (postal invites returned a total response rate of 4.5%). Over-sampling of the devolved nations, quota sampling and stratified geodemographic profiling were undertaken and the final data were weighted to be representative of the UK adult population along geographic, demographic and socio-economic dimensions and internet usage.

Although the questionnaire was based largely on an established questionnaire (used previously in 2015 and 2018), small-scale questionnaire testing, scripting checks and a soft launch of the survey were nonetheless undertaken to check for correct routing, bases and levels of non-response.

Key findings

  • Savings held: Among all adults in the UK, 56% said they currently had savings in savings accounts, 36% in current accounts, 19% in investments, and 14% in cash or a money box. 15% had no savings at all.
  • Saving behaviour: 61% of all adults and 56% of working age adults in the ‘struggling’ or ‘squeezed’ segments said they saved money every month or most months.
    • 57% of all adults saved for a rainy day generally, and 44% for unexpected expenses or events.
    • Those not saving regularly were more likely to say: they were struggling to keep with bills and credit commitments (70% vs 37%); they feel anxious when it comes to thinking about money (46% vs 29%); and that their income had decreased a lot since the (Covid-19) pandemic (22% vs 10%).
    • Those not saving regularly were less likely to be satisfied with their financial situation (18% vs 44%) or their life nowadays (25% vs 44%)
  • Profile of regular savers: On average, regular savers are slightly older, have higher household incomes, are working full time, own their own home (including with a mortgage), have a support network and have better health than non-regular savers.
  • Links to financial behaviour and attitudes: On average, regular savers are better at planning and setting goals, are better at retirement planning and are slightly more debt-averse than non-regular savers.

Points to consider

  • Methodological strengths/weaknesses: While the report does not cite confidence intervals or statistical significance testing, further information provided by the authors confirms that all differences that are reported are statistically significant at the 95% level of confidence (p<.05).
    • Although the sample is expected to be large, the sample sizes available for the findings that relate to the Agenda for Change are not given.
    • The authors note in the technical report that non-internet users are under-sampled in the data and that people completing paper-based surveys may have had a different survey experience.
  • Generalisability/ transferability: The findings are likely to generalise well to contexts outside of the UK with similarly advanced economies and comparable social structures.
  • Relevance: Most of the results given in the report have a sample base of all adults rather than the subgroup that is defined by the Agenda for Change.
    • The study is likely to be of relevance to researchers, policy-makers and practitioners who are interested in the links between regular saving and financial wellbeing among working-age adults with limited financial resilience.

Key info

Client group
Year of publication
United Kingdom
Contact information

The Money and Pensions Service, 01159 659570

The Money and Pensions Service