Most people save for retirement to try and ensure they have a comparable standard of living to that which they enjoy in their working lives.

How much to save is entirely subjective and circumstantial, even if the topic has been heavily researched and widely discussed.

There's been much less focus on when is the right time to start increasing contributions into your pension, however.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has looked into how pension saving might change over time for employees.

Auto-enrolment into workplace pensions is the norm for employees aged between 22 and state pension age, earning £10,000 or more a year.

That policy, however, does not extend to the self-employed who are left to sort out their own private pensions or alternative investments.

Key findings

The IFS said most people earn more as they get older and gain more experience. But for most parents, the costs associated with children see them delay the majority of their retirement saving until later on in life, such as when expenses fall after the children have left home.

Since the rollout of auto-enrolment in October 2012, employees are expected to save throughout their working lives, particularly with the incentive of getting employer contributions and tax relief.

Factoring in uncertainty about the future path of earnings would lead to more saving earlier in life. But the same pattern - that contributions would be expected to increase at older ages, particularly when children leave home - remains.

Graduates with student loans would be expected to increase retirement saving by the full amount of their previous loan repayments when loans are repaid or written off.

Defined-benefit pensions

Before auto-enrolment commenced, defined-benefit pension schemes were more prevalent than they are today. These are based on salary and the number of years worked for an employer.

The report highlights an important downside to defined-benefit pension arrangements. Contribution rates are set by the scheme rules and cannot be varied over working life to suit an individual's circumstances or the timing of their capacity to save.

This lack of flexibility is an often overlooked cost of public-sector pensions that the IFS said likely results in many young public-sector workers saving more for retirement than they would ideally like to at that stage in their lives.

The future of auto-enrolment

Rumours continue to circulate about auto-enrolment being extended to the self-employed, or the age at which an employee qualifies for a defined-contribution workplace pension being lowered from 22 to 18.

However, the IFS wants policymakers to carefully consider these life cycle factors when developing future policies to increase retirement saving, arguing that the focus should be on policies that increase retirement saving at the best times in people's lives.

Rowena Crawford, an associate director at IFS and one of the authors of the report, said:

"As policymakers consider how to increase retirement saving further, focus should be on policies that increase retirement saving at the best time in people's lives, rather than just increasing saving irrespective of their circumstances.

"Default minimum employee contributions into workplace pensions that rise with age are an obvious option.

"A smart, joined-up approach across government could also involve employee pension contributions rising when an individual's student loan repayments come to an end."

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