Pot luck on investment returns leaves savers playing "pensions roulette" in the years just before retirement, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has said.
Market volatility means defined contribution (DC) scheme members could lose up to £5,000 a year in later life if they happen to retire after a bad year of investment returns and annuity rates.
The TUC and Pensions Policy Institute (PPI) found that the annual income for a saver could vary by as much as £13,400 simply down to the year in which they retired.
The data is based on a median salary-earning male who has saved into his DC fund for 40 years with a contribution rate of 8% of earning, and uses historical annuity rates. The saver is in a default fund, which is invested 60% in equities and 40% in bonds.
The analysis found that such a saver retiring in 2017 could be £2,400 a year better off than an identical saver retiring in 2016 simply based on investment returns. The 2016 saver would also be £3,400 a year worse off than a 2015 retiree.
Between 2000 and 2017, the potential annual income from a single life annuity would have fallen by £11,000.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady called for collective DC (CDC) provision.
"Someone who has saved all their working life should not have to play roulette with their pension fund," she said. "But if their retirement lands on a bad year, market volatility could leave them with a much poorer standard of living for the rest of their life.
"Every saver should be enrolled into a well-governed scheme that is able to cushion members from the worst markets can throw at them. And it is time to implement plans that were passed into law two years ago for collective pensions, which can be less volatile and more efficient than traditional schemes."
For a median-earning woman, with an assumption that she will take a career break for caring responsibilities, the analysis also suggested yearly income could range from £2,289.04 to £8,325.20.
In most cases, the state pension income would "dwarf what she would get from a private pension, no matter how well markets turned out", the TUC added.
Shadow pensions minister Alex Cunningham last month told Labour party conference delegates the party would introduce rules allowing CDC schemes if elected.
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