BACK TO All Work

Reinventing Retirement

Pensions are 115 years old & no longer fit for purpose.

MA 22/23
Speculative design, Future Finance Lab, Pensions & Retirement Systems

Our project is aimed to envision the future of retirement to reconstruct pensions, grounding our design in the attitudes, behaviors, and needs of our younger generations (focus on Gen Z). Our focus on Gen Z is as an example “extreme” user or sharp divergence from the behavior of past generations. However, our solution should ultimately suit all “non-traditional workers.”

We imagine a world where people may confidently take ownership of their savings and saving benefits can be delivered flexibly.


We have collaborated with several thought leaders in the space including:

  • Aegon: as an industry expert, Aegon leaders have provided advisory, served in SME interviews, and participated in a co-creation workshop to shape concepts for solution.
  • Quietroom: as an expert in communication strategy for pensions, Quietroom has provided language advisory and will participate in a concept refinement session.
  • Sue Griffin: With deep experience in the industry, Sue has provided us with in-depth knowledge of pension systems and structures. Sue will participate in validation sessions.

The Problem & Context:

Gen Zs make up only 15% of the UK population but 25% of the retail spend. They are a generation with behaviours, attitudes, and values that are starkly different to what we have seen in past generations. They have different concepts of careers, different concepts of retirement, and yet, retirement structures have remained virtually unchanged for the last 115 years.

Gen Zs are:


  • Working multiple jobs at a time
  • Switching careers with frequency
  • Moving home with frequency, or living mobile
  • Seeking multiple rounds of education or up-skilling
  • Engaging with multiple partners


  • Driven by work that fuels their passion
  • Keen to live flexibly and to work for themselves


  • Focused on short-term financial planning
  • Unable to connect emotionally to their pension or long-term saving


£19.4 Billion Lost

1.6 million pension pots amounting to £19.4 B, have been “lost” due to consumers change of employment, address, name etc. GenZ’s “micro-stages” are reflective in the fact that they stay at each job for on average 2 years. A behaviour that threatens to worsen the problem of lost pensions by creating greater complexity in consolidation.

43% of GenZ are Freelancers

Almost half of GenZ consider themselves freelancers, who are therefore, not receiving a pension through auto-enrollment. The roll-out of auto-enrollment has increased participation in pensions 10 fold since 2012. As GenZ trends toward Gig working, without the benefit of auto-enrollment, we may see the total number of pension accounts & contributions decrease.

41% impulse buy every 2-3 weeks

GenZ find value in the now. They struggle to find attachment to long terms savings at an emotional level, and at the same time, are inundated with the immediacy of online shopping options through platforms like Instagram and TikTok. As GenZ trends toward impulse purchases, and digital friction for spending lessens - we may see long term / pension savings decrease.

Need Statement

New retirement structures are needed to support GenZ's values, attitudes, and behaviours.

Solution areas for exploration

Cultural Disruption:

You may have heard the old adage “Three things we don’t talk about at the dinner table: Money, Politics, and Religion.” As a sensitive topic, money isn’t often talked about. GenZ’s report little financial literacy and anxiety around learning it. If they are learning, its typically in reaction to a negative trigger and they are seeking advice on that specific topic from a close male relative.

We are exploring the use of play to create space and vulnerability to talk about sensitive issues like money. If we can create a culture that talks about money and saving, it might inspire more knowledge sharing, reduce anxiety, and promote behavioural “bench marking” (i.e. My brother is saving X% so I should too.)

Emotional Saving:

GenZs value the now. Many report difficulty connecting emotionally with their savings (“I would never call it my pension. It’s my company’s pension.”) Further, now more than ever, it is easy to spend. With digital functions like the Amazon “Buy Now” slider, Gen Z’s don’t have a moment to consider the utility of their purchase against future saving potential.

We are exploring the need for digital friction to reduce spending and increase saving - including AI generations of the GenZ’s future self, as well as emotional tracking across purchases. If we can understand which purchases bring people joy, and which cause feelings of guilt and regret, we can re-route regretful spending away from purchases and into a savings pool.

Flexible Retirement:

Many GenZs indicate that they might never fully retire.  They seek passion driven work and want to do it until they are no longer able. Gen Z’s envision a flexible life, one where they can take time off when they want or need, and that work will be a passion project to come back to.

We are exploring the structures required to allow for “mini-retirements” throughout an individuals life, supported by a new type of savings account, temporary bank card, and smart time off recommendations. Our solution considers the utility of pensions today, and the kinds of fixed funding (e.g. health spend before end of life) which can not be re-allocated to earlier phases of life.  We will encourage saving for investment return, while supporting those who want flexibility.


Thank you to our tutor, Kam Chana, for her advisory, support, and dedication to ensuring a successful project!

Thank you to our project partners Aegon, Quietroom, and Sue Griffin, for their time and expert advisory!

Thank you to those who participated in our interviews & workshops!

No items found.