Midlife MOT: what is it and who can get one?

The government has launched an online midlife MOT to help older workers with financial planning, health guidance and career skills. But how does it work, who can get one and would you pass it?

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The government has expanded its midlife MOT scheme to help older workers aged 45 to 65 get a handle on their finances and plan for a more comfortable retirement.

Midlife MOTs were previously only available in-person at Jobcentres. An online version with interactive tools has now been launched, meaning older people across the UK can benefit from a free digital MOT, regardless of their wealth or income.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says the website will help people review their skills and identify job opportunities, as well as “better preparing them for later life and their retirement”.

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The expansion of the midlife MOT was announced by chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his spring Budget

Guy Opperman, minister for employment, said: “We are all living longer, and planning for later life is essential but knowing where to start can be daunting. Our digital Midlife MOT is open to everyone and easy to access, and will give people the tools to make informed decisions – on their personal finances, their health and on their careers.”

What does the midlife MOT involve?

The online midlife MOT covers three areas: work, health and money. The website signposts to key organisations and charities, including the NHS, Mind, MoneyHelper, Citizens Advice and the DWP.

In terms of the money MOT, there are various resources to read and financial tools to use. For example, MoneyHelper has a five-minute midlife MOT. It asks questions about your finances, covering topics like your savings, pensions, insurance, your goals and whether you’re aware you could claim benefits or know how to guard against scams.

A personalised midlife MOT report is produced at the end, which you can download as a PDF. It aims to help people understand what to prioritise to improve their financial position, from now to retirement.

For example, the report may include links to MoneyHelper’s interactive budget planner, articles about how to make a will, how to check your state pension on gov.uk and the pros and cons of paying off your mortgage

The money MOT also contains links to other support and resources, such as the Find a retirement adviser directory on MoneyHelper, how to get National Insurance credits if you are a parent, grandparent or other adult caring for a child, how to calculate your ideal retirement income, and getting help with debt. In addition, there's a lot of useful information about the state pension, from checking your state pension age to getting a state pension forecast. 

The government says it will continually review the midlife MOT to make sure it is as interactive and tailored as possible. This summer it will publish content that is specific to people living in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Who can get a midlife MOT?

Midlife MOTs are aimed at people aged 45 to 65, but in reality you can get one at any age. You may like to use it at any earlier age if you have concerns regarding finding a job, or your health or finances. If you’re thinking of retiring early, it could be useful to do an MOT before you’re 45 to make sure you’re on track and prepared for retirement.

While anyone can access the free online midlife MOT, some people can also take an in-person MOT at their local Jobcentre in England. The number of people who can access an in-person midlife MOT via their local Jobcentre is set to rise from 8,000 to 40,000 a year, as part of the government’s initiative to help older workers find and move into work as well as helping those already in work understand what support is available. The in-person midlife MOT is open to eligible Universal Credit claimants aged 50 or over.

How to perform your own midlife MOT

As well as doing the official midlife MOT, you can also perform your own by checking your finances and thinking ahead to the future. And don’t just do it as a one-off event. According to Fidelity, you should schedule once-a-year check-ups to keep your plans on track. Here are three tips to help focus your thoughts during the MOT: 

  • Look at your cash. How much do you have, and what interest rate is it earning? Aim to have savings worth three to six months of essential costs in an easy-access account as a “rainy-day fund” in case of emergencies (such as a sudden fall in your income, or an unexpected, big expense). If you have a large amount of savings, consider paying some of this into a pension as you’ll benefit from tax relief. Also, be proactive and move your money to get a better interest rate (remember, base rate is now 5%). But beware of the savings tax trap, as you may find you have to pay tax on your interest. 
  • Think about your retirement targets. When do you want to retire, how much income do you think you’ll need and do you know how much you’ll need to save to achieve that? Once you’ve answered those questions (and there are plenty of free online tools to help you work these things out), you can begin to take steps towards meeting your goals. 
  • Do you have a plan for what happens when you’re gone? It’s not the nicest topic to think about, but it is an essential part of financial planning. Drawing up a will means your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. And it’s worth thinking about inheritance tax too. Money saved inside a pension can generally be passed on without inheritance tax applying. Don’t forget to leave instructions for how you’d like any benefits from your pension to be distributed. You can do this via an “expression of wish” form from your pension provider. 

Where are midlife MOTs available?

As well as the government’s tools, several pension providers have launched their own MOT for customers in the past, and some employers offer them to their staff.

Phoenix Group, the savings and retirement business, says it has been piloting its own version of a midlife MOT and will roll it out to its workforce in the coming months. 

Aviva has a “Mid Life MOT” app, which provides users with a free check-up on their work, wealth and wellbeing. It is open to everyone (you don’t need to be an Aviva customer or employee), and designed for those aged 45 to 60. 

Meanwhile, there are lots of free calculators online that can help you plan for retirement. For example, the investment firm Fidelity offers a retirement goal tool, and then a calculator to see if you’re saving enough to achieve your goal. The pensions firm PensionBee has a pension calculator so you can work out how much income your pension is likely to generate in retirement.

If you live in Devon, Cornwall, the North East or East Anglia, and are working and in your 40s or 50s, you may also benefit from a midlife MOT as part of a pilot that the DWP is running with private sector suppliers.

Don’t forget that Pension Wise is still available too, which allows those aged 50 or over with a defined contribution pension like a personal pension or workplace scheme to get a free 60-minute appointment with a pensions specialist where you can discuss topics like how to take money from your pension in retirement and get impartial guidance. 

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Ruth Emery
Contributing editor

Ruth is an award-winning financial journalist with more than 15 years' experience of working on national newspapers, websites and specialist magazines.

She is passionate about helping people feel more confident about their finances. She was previously editor of Times Money Mentor, and prior to that was deputy Money editor at The Sunday Times. 

A multi-award winning journalist, Ruth started her career on a pensions magazine at the FT Group, and has also worked at Money Observer and Money Advice Service. 

Outside of work, she is a mum to two young children, while also serving as a magistrate and an NHS volunteer.