The Retired Prince

As Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, retires at 96 after 22,219 public engagements, we look at our Future of Retirement research series for HSBC and ask what people can expect of retirement today.

The Retired Prince

The author(s)

  • Sarah Corker Associate Director
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Prince Philip has officially retired at the ripe old age of 96. After 64 years of service and with 22,219 solo engagements under his belt, the Duke may find himself in a state of retirement shock.  His wife is still working and adult children and grandchildren have well and truly flown the nest, so what lies ahead for the longest serving royal consort in British history?

Well, he retires in an era where retirement is no longer seen as the final days of one’s life, but instead a new chapter of fun and exploration. Indeed, our research for HSBC shows that many think their lives will improve once they stop working – around two in five (39%) think they will have a better social life and 24% think they will have a better standard of living(1). Similar proportions of those that have retired report the same . So is life set to get even better for HRH?

At 96 he’s seen lots of changes over his lifetime and trends relating to retirement are no exception. Born on 10th June 1921, he started life in the Roaring Twenties, a time of great change. The UK was enjoying economic prosperity following the end of the First World War and social movements such as women’s suffrage took hold. But of course the world was also on the verge of an economic depression that would have catastrophic consequences. As too would the rise of new ideologies such as fascism and communism.  At this time life expectancy for men in the UK was 56 and ‘retirement’ as we know it did not exist.

In 1947 Philip marries Elizabeth, becoming husband to one of the worlds’ most recognisable women. The 1940s saw the birth of his first son and of the welfare state. The idea of support from cradle to grave was put forward in a report by William Beveridge where he identified giant evils that needed to be tackled in society: squalor, ignorance, disease, want and idleness. From this we gained the NHS, education for all – and also the state pension. The future looked good for young working people. Life expectancy at birth had now risen to 66 for men and they were eligible for a state pension from 65.

In 1986, Philip turns 65. A grandfather, he is now (in theory) eligible for the state pension. The nation is in the midst of Thatcherism – where many of the institutions established in the post-war era are coming under scrutiny. Capitalism and individualism meant that planning for retirement increasing fell on the individual rather than the state or employer. Moreover, medical advances meant people were living longer and so needed to support themselves longer after they stopped earning.  

Fast forward to 2017 and the Prince is stepping down from his public duties. Like many he went through a phase of semi-retirement – passing duties onto other family members. As he retires, the state retirement age continues to be pushed back and many find they are not in a position to live comfortably on their retirement savings. Millennials, the Wills and Kate generation, are particularly hard pressed – with many fearing they might never retire(2).

So what can a man who has lived through all this expect of his retirement today?

For many, retirement is an opportunity to spend more time with close family and friends. According to our work for HSBC’s Future of Retirement, around a quarter (26%) of people think their relationship with their spouse or partner will improve in retirement and 21% with regard to their children(1). However, with the Queen showing no sign of hanging up her robe just yet, Prince Philip may have to focus his attention on other ambitions.

Pre-retirees tend to have many different aspirations for retirement. Holidays and travel generally top the list. Though considering his wife has visited over 120 countries, this may not be a  priority.

Home improvements (30%), taking more exercise (27%) or learning a new skill/ hobby (26%) are also common aspirations(3). Though considering their home is set for a £369m renovation this is perhaps not on the top of his agenda either.

Charity work (24%) is also a popular aspiration(3), and as a patron, president or member of over 780 charities and organisations, he is no stranger to charity, so philanthropic pursuits are still likely to feature in Philip’s life. 

Retirement can be a time to focus on one’s health. With more time to spend on healthy living, retirees are more likely than pre-retirees to rate their health as good for their age. A recent study showed that 40% of retirees rate their health as good for their age, compared to just 31% of pre-retirees(1).

With some recent concerns about Prince Philip’s health, he may be feeling apprehensive about the impact this will have on his ability to enjoy retirement to the full. Common concerns about retirement include poor health impacting their mobility (37%) ability to care for themselves (36%), their comfort (35%) and mental well-being (31%)(1).  

Indeed, retirees are doing more than pre-retirees to reduce the risk of poor health in the future. Around three-quarters eat a healthy diet (76%) or read, do puzzles and generally keep their brain active (75%) compared to 62% and 42% of pre-retirees respectively(1).

Whatever lies in store for the Prince, he should be financially comfortable throughout his retirement. However, this may not be the case for many others who considering doing the same. Our research consistently shows that many people are not adequately saving and the state pension is unlikely to match what the Queen’s husband might receive.

Since marrying a member of the royal family isn’t a solution available to the vast majority of us, we need to look at other solutions. The key message about being prepared for future retirement remains – start saving early and save as much as you can.


  1. Reproduced with permission from The Future of Retirement Healthy new Beginnings, published in 2016 by HSBC Holdings plc.
  2. Reproduced with permission from The Future of Retirement Shifting Sands, published in 2017 by HSBC Holdings plc.
  3. Reproduced with permission from The Future of Retirement Choices for Later Life, published in 2015 by HSBC Holdings plc.

The author(s)

  • Sarah Corker Associate Director

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