Questionnaire Survey: Every Tenth Pensioner Struggles with Low Income

Some of the pensioners reveal that they have had to cut down on necessities such as medication and health care. Approximately half of the pensioners struggle to some degree to cover regular expenses. On the other hand, half of the pensioners are fairly content with their income level.

According to a recent questionnaire survey conducted by the Finnish Centre for Pensions, nearly ten per cent of the pensioners in Finland struggle financially.

Worst off are the low-income, the disabled and single pensioners. They state that they have had to cut down on necessities such has health care, medication and food.

“Those in poor health have to spend more money on health care, which leaves them with less money for other necessities. It follows that the experience of livelihood of pensioners on a disability pension is clearly weaker than that of other pensioners,” researcher Liisa-Maria Palomäki explains.

Half of the pensioners experience some degree of difficulties in covering regular expenses. One third states that they have no money left after necessary expenses.

Nearly 3,000 respondents

The sample of the questionnaire survey was substantially large. The study is based on a questionnaire survey conducted in 2017. The survey was sent to 4,000 pensioners in Finland.

The respondents were aged between 55 and 85 years and had retired on an old-age, disability or partial disability pension. The response rate was exceptionally high: 73 per cent.

“The pensioners reported their everyday worries in the open-ended survey questions. The answers show that many adjust their consumption habits to meet their disposable income,” economist Kati Ahonen points out.

Half of the pensioners content with their income

The survey conducted by the Finnish Centre for Pensions also shows that half of the Finnish pensioners are fairly content with their income.

Two thirds of them have money left to spend after covering the necessities. Roughly 40 per cent of the pensioners are able to put aside some money. In addition, every fifth pensioner says they provide financial support to close relatives.

“Experience shows that it is easier to live on an average or high income, although some of the pensioners who are well off struggled while some of the low-income pensioners don’t,” Liisa-Maria Palomäki estimates.

Pensioners sharing a household were more satisfied with their income than those who live alone. The same can be said for those who were in good health.

Call for more studies on differences between income indicators and subjective pensioner experiences

The researchers at the Finnish Centre for Pensions are somewhat surprised of the results of the survey. The subjective economic well-being and the objective income indicators offer partly differing views of the economic well-being of pensioners.

“According to a study we published last year, the average income of pensioners has developed positively in the last two decades. The differences between the objective income indicators and people’s subjective experiences, and the underlying causes for these differences, have to be studied further,” Ahonen and Palomäki conclude.

1.5 million pensioners in Finland

  • There are roughly 1.5 million pensioners in Finland. Around 174,000 of them are low-income pensioners.
  • Low-income individuals are individuals with a disposable household income that is less than 60 per cent of the national median income.
  • The definition of a low-income individual is based on an EU recommendation. Statistics Finland uses the same definition as its primary indicator of a low-income individual.
  • In 2016, the income of a low-income single household was below €1,200.

Pensioners’ Perceived Economic Welfare in 2017 (Finnish Centre for Pensions, Studies 03/2018:)

More information

Kati Ahonen, Economist, phone +358 29 411 2539, kati.ahonen(at)
Liisa-Maria Palomäki, Researcher, phone +358 29 411 2150, liisa-maria.palomaki(at)