Mid-Life Milestone Crisis! Brits dissatisfied with the achievement of Goals, as they expect to earn up to 79% more from the age of 30

  • Brits expect to earn £50,000 by 41, compared to the average of £33,509 for a 40-49 year old worker
  • 69% of Brits expect to earn £60,000 by 50, however less than a quarter of Brits actually do (24%)
  • Over a third of Brits (37%) believe their friends and family are in a better financial situation than themselves
  • Brits overestimate the age for key milestones such as marriage or retiring, leading to dissatisfaction with personal circumstances

TUESDAY 30TH JANUARY 2018 – LONDON, UK – As another new year gets underway, workers across the country will be setting goals to make both personal and professional progress. However, new research from leading job board totaljobs has revealed employees are likely to be disappointed in 2018 due to a clear disconnect between their expectations and the reality.

From achieving key professional and personal milestones, to their salary expectations, the research reveals British workers are expecting to have achieved too much, particularly from 30 onwards, leaving them deflated and disappointed.

With career progression (56%) and a pay rise (42%) the most commonly set professional goals for UK workers, the new research has revealed an astounding gap between expectation and reality, with Brits expecting to earn up to 79% more than the average salary from the age of 30.

A never-ending professional ladder?

A large factor in Brits’ unhappiness with their career goals is a perceived lack of achievement in hitting financial targets. It’s clear that climbing the professional ladder is working Brits’ top priority.

While over half (56%) wanted to achieve career progression in 2018, and a further 42% a pay rise, only a quarter (25%) of Brits placed the same importance on gaining respect from senior management, and 26% the respect from peers.

However, the inconsistency between expectation and reality is leading Brits to be disappointed with their financial goals. While the average age respondents expect people to earn £40,000 is 36, the average earnings for 30-39 year old workers is £30,267.[1]

This gap between expectation and reality only increases as we get older. Respondents expect to earn £50,000 by 41, £60,000 by 44 and even higher earnings by 46. However, the average earnings of 40-49 year olds are £33,509, for 50-59 year olds it is £31,624 and for 60+ it is £23,565.

It is also clear from the research that Brits, more than ever, are placing greater emphasis on professional success as a means to illustrate personal progress. Nearly two-thirds (61%) stated that a successful career was what personal development meant to them, more so than spending quality time with friends and family (59%) or having an active social life (32%).

The increased importance Brits are placing on financial improvement as the metric for professional success, coupled with the disparity between expected salary earnings and the reality is leading British workers to become dissatisfied and unfulfilled with their progression towards goals.

The other side of the fence

This gap between the financial reality and what we perceive to be true is further emphasised by our beliefs on how well our colleagues and friends fare in comparison.

A third (33%) believe their colleagues and friends do better in regards to salary, just under a third (30%) felt they did better in terms of a benefits package, and over two-thirds felt their friends and colleagues did better in terms of overall financial situation (37%) compared with just 15% who felt they were not.

The desire to impress and earn the respect of peers is apparent when looking at what professional success means to respondents. With nearly one in five (16%) stating it was the most important measure of professional success, it ranks just behind a pay rise (17%) and career progression (21%).

A distorted perception of how friends and colleagues fare in comparison is driving a great sense of fulfilment in reaching professional goals for British workers.

Missing milestones?

Adding to the issues caused by professional goals, the research also reveals Brits’ unhappiness with their progress is a perceived lack of achievement in hitting key personal milestones. While nearly three-quarters (73%) of Brits said they expected to be married by the age of 30, the average age for men to get married in the UK is 34, while for women it is 31.[2] This figure is even greater for same-sex couples, where the average age for marriage is 38 in men, and 35 for women.

Not only do unrealistic salary expectations lead Brits to be disappointed, but also the expected age to retire and enjoy life outside of work is likely to lead to much dissatisfaction. While the average age respondents believe people should retire is 63, the state age to retire is to increase to 66 by October 2020, and then from 66-67 between 2026 and 2028.[3]

Other key life achievements further highlight the disparity between expectation and reality that is fuelling the personal disappointment in achieving goals. For example, while three quarters (75%) of Brits expect to learn to drive by 21, the actual average age is 26.

What is telling is that while 64% of Brits stated they shared their personal goals with family, and nearly half (44%) shared them with friends, only 28% shared them with colleagues and 13% with a professional coach. The lack of an outside or professional opinion is adding to a distorted view of the ‘normal’ age to achieve personal milestones and subsequently a disappointment when they are inevitably not achieved.

David Clift, HR Director at totaljobs comments, “The new year is always an important time to set both personal and professional goals and ensure your career is heading in the right direction. However it is important for employees to be aware of what is realistic so that their goals are achievable and they are not left disappointed by a perceived lack of progress, which can cause even more demotivation.

We hope by identifying the gap that exists between the expectation and reality of milestones and goals, workers can set small and achievable targets for themselves in 2018 and ensure the new year is a successful one.”

– ENDS –

Read the analysis of our findings: https://www.totaljobs.com/insidejob/how-unrealistic-goal-setting-is-affecting-the-nations-well-being/

About totaljobs:

Totaljobs is one of UK’s leading job boards, attracting 12 million visits and 3 million applications from qualified jobseekers every month. 130,000 new candidates register with us each month who have an average of 170,000 jobs a month to choose from, posted by thousands of employers including Amazon, Sky, Virgin Media, DHL amongst many others.

We were formed in 1999 and we are part of Totaljobs Group Ltd, the largest and fastest growing UK job board company in the UK. Our head office is in London, and we also have offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and Glasgow.

In turn, Totaljobs Group Ltd is a significant division of StepStone Group, one of the largest job board companies in the world and a subsidiary of Axel Springer Digital Classifieds.

Visit the totaljobs website: www.totaljobs.com

References & Research 

[1] Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings

[2] Annual Survey of People, Population & Community

[3] Age UK 

Survey data:

Age Salary expected to achieve by age
22 £15,000
25 £20,000
28 £25,000
32 £30,000
36 £40,000
41 £50,000
44 £60,000
46 £60,000+


Age Average salary by age according to ONS figures
22-29 £22,734
30-39 £30,267
40-49 £33,509
50-59 £31,624
60+ £23,565