Expectations around achieving key milestones revealed

  • British adults want to own their first car by age 21 and have their first child by 27
  • Majority of adults expect to have just two long-term relationships
  • First-time homeowners expect to borrow £106k for their first mortgage, significantly under the average first time mortgage of £133k
  • Having children named adults’ proudest achievement

29 August 2017: Great Expectations is the most appropriate descriptor for the ambitions of British adults, as they aim to own their first car at 21 years old, settle down at 23, and get onto the property ladder at 27.

What’s more, while achieving all this before reaching 30 might seem aspirational, new research also found that on average, Brits expect to become parents by the age of 27.

After canvassing over 2,000 adults, the research commissioned by comparethemarket.com – which aimed to size up just how much our expectations around key milestones match up to the reality – found that when it comes to matters of the heart, we’re impressively accurate in our predictions.

On average, the nation’s adults have had two long-term relationships, tied the knot at the age of 26 – also in line with expectations – whilst first-time parents welcomed their first child by the age of 27.

When it comes to aspirations around home ownership, most Brits expected to own their first property by the age of 27 – and achieved just that.

However, in contrast, Brits were less savvy when it came to predictions regarding their finances, with those polled consistently earning less and spending more than they thought they would be.

Although Brits aged between 30-39 years old expected to earn £28,000 by the time they were 30, the majority admitted that they actually earned an average of just over £24,500 by that age.

Likewise, those aged between 40-49 years old expected to earn just over £29,000 by the time they were 40 when, in reality, they earned just under £24,800 per year.

Similarly, Brits were worryingly off the mark when it came to the cost of running a car. Although the car-owners polled expected to spend a total of £950 a year to cover related expenses (i.e. petrol, MOT, car insurance, maintenance), they admitted to actually spending over £1,500 a year on average.

Perhaps experiencing some of these financial shortfalls are why Brits are so practical when it comes to what they would do if they won a million pounds. Buying a house topped the poll (23%), followed by paying off the mortgage and any outstanding debts (18%), going on holiday (13%), and sharing some of the winnings with friends and family (9%).  

Average life expectations
Shakila Hashmi

Shakila Hashmi

Head of Money


"If our findings are anything to go by, the Great British public clearly wants to have it all by the time they hit 30 years old, and it appears most achieve it with things like meeting ‘the one’ or buying a home. However, when it comes to money, the findings are a little more concerning. Whether it’s because we aim too high, or simply underestimate the cost of big-ticket expenses, these findings highlight just how many of us are missing the targets we set for ourselves when it comes to money.


“What’s worrying, for example, is that the majority of consumers are still off the mark when it comes to considering costs like running a car – especially in light of recent comments made by the Bank of England that consumers are becoming ‘dangerously complacent’ when it comes to mounting debt. There are numerous ways in which Brits should therefore aim to be as savvy as they can when it comes to keeping down everyday costs, like simply shopping around for the best deals.”

In addition to comparing our expectations and our achievements, the research also looked at what we’re most proud of and revealed that we’re clearly a family-orientated bunch with “having children” the most popular response (43%) by far, followed by graduating (14%) and getting married (6%).  

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