Nearly half (48%) of UK consumers have been classed as having an "ostrich mentality" as they significantly underprepare for their retirements, according to new data from Skipton Building Society.

The Skipton Building Society Retirement Tracker is a new piece of research by the society which monitors the retirement savings behaviours of over 6,000 UK consumers.

It groups consumers into five distinct "saving" categories according to household income, how much they are using to fund their retirement and retirement preparedness: Wise Owls, Squirrel Savers, Money Moles, Savings Snails or the Ostrich mentality.

Skipton's data shows that UK consumers are most likely to fall into the "Ostrich mentality" category when it comes to saving for their retirement, with this accounting for 48% of the total sample. This group is not saving for their retirement or that their savings are falling short, and don't have anything in addition to the State Pension.

The new report says that when asked why they weren't saving appropriately for the future, two-thirds (66%) of the Ostrich category admitted they choose not to save because they can't afford to. However, of those with savings that are currently falling short, 38% believe they'll be nowhere near their savings target by the time they retire.

"When looking at the UK as a whole, the Ostrich mentality is certainly widespread. More than half of non-retirees (51%) have not yet saved anything to fund their retirement and half (49%) have no idea how much they need. When it comes to saving, over a third (38%) of people surveyed said they can’t afford to save and 13% admit they choose not to," the report goes on.

"In comparison, just 6% of the people surveyed have been categorised as “Wise Owls” in the Tracker. This group tends to have a more sophisticated portfolio with a broad range of investments and savings. Nearly half (47%) of the group are saving to fund their retirement through a Cash ISA, over one third (37%) through a personal pension, 32% through stocks and shares investments. This group are the most likely to use cash savings to fund their retirement (55% of Wise Owls, compared to 41% of Squirrel Savers and 27% of Savings Snails)."

Across the rest of the UK, Skipton’s data shows that it is a mixed picture when it comes to retirement saver types. Only 6% of the sample are classed as Squirrel Savers, meaning that they are on track to meet or exceed their savings but have a less sophisticated portfolio in comparison to the Wise Owl group. The data shows that the majority (72%) of this group are relying more on their company pension to fund their retirement than other investment and savings options.

Jacqui Bateson, Senior Propositions Manager at Skipton Building Society said: “When it comes to personal finances, it’s easy to focus on the here and now, not the future. However, when it comes to planning for retirement you cannot bury your head in the sand and avoid the fact that you will need to save something on top of the state pension. Our new Retirement Tracker reveals that the UK is very much a nation of “ostriches” shying away from the reality of saving for their retirement.

“At Skipton, we’ve been helping people to lift their heads up and plan for their life ahead for 163 years and we want to help build the UK into a nation of Wise Owls and Squirrel Savers as much as we can.”

As part of the Retirement Tracker, Skipton Building Society has partnered with personal finance blogger Miss Thrifty to offer practical guidance and insight for different types of UK savers preparing for life ahead.

Here are some starting points to get more of us behaving like Squirrel Savers and Wise Owls than Savings Snails and Ostriches:

Find out how much money you will need to fund your retirement

Even though retirement may seem a way off, calculating just how much you need is the best way to begin tackling the issue. If you are unsure where to start, it creates a road map for your financial future.

Many people in the Ostrich group tend to overestimate how much they’ll need. Eight in 10 (82%) of this group haven’t sought any financial advice, and 64% have no idea how much it will take to fund their retirements. Those with their heads in the sand assume they’ll need an annual income of £24,224, compared to their Wise Owl counterparts who calculate they will need £15,678.

Set a savings target

The way to overcome this is to break down this sizeable goal into smaller, more achievable savings targets. I often find I’m more likely to achieve my goals if they seem realistic and reachable, and smaller annual or monthly targets help to do that. What about the 50/20/30 rule? This rule helps you to build a budget by using three spending categories. 50% of your income goes towards living expenses and essentials, 20% goes towards financial goals and savings, and 30% can be used for more flexible spending and non-essentials. This will put you ahead of the 51% of adults who aren’t saving anything towards their retirements, and the 49% of UK adults who have no idea how much they’ll need to save to fund their retirements.

Start now

More than a third of Savings Snails (35%) believe they’ll be quite far off from their savings targets by the time they retire, but small changes to spending habits could make your targets a reality. One way to start this is to review the outgoings listed on your bank statement, or keeping a spending diary. An audit of your personal finances will reveal many of the non-essential expenses eating into your savings. Some of the most common expenses people say they would definitely sacrifice in retirement include television packages (45%), gym memberships (45%) or non-essential insurance policies (40%). It could be worth taking a minute to consider whether there are any of these things you could afford to sacrifice before you retire.

It's never too late

When we asked retirees about the sacrifices they had made since retiring, some of the most common ones were going out less (33%) and spending less on clothing (33%). Spending less, however, doesn’t have to mean that you miss out. For example, take advantage of seasonal sales when buying clothes, so you don’t need to compromise on quality. When planning days and nights out time your cinema trips so that you see cheaper off-peak screenings, and check online for discount codes before making purchases. A range of businesses also offer deals specially tailored to retirees. Skipton’s research revealed that 16% of retirees make sure they visit venues and restaurants that offer pensioner discounts. Make sure to ask before paying full price.

Seek financial advice

If these different approaches to retirement teach us anything, they show that people are very different. That’s why it’s important to learn more about your options and find the method or product that suits you. Are you someone who likes a hands-on approach to saving, or do you prefer a more automated process? Almost a quarter of Wise Owls (24%) seek advice from independent advisors, and this group is most likely to believe they can reach their savings targets. The results speak for themselves: 100% of this group achieved or exceeded their targets when they retired.

Two heads are better than one

Financial advice doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Just over a fifth of Wise Owls (21%) use the internet for retirement advice. Another option is to reach out to relatives who have already retired, with 17% of Money Moles using this method. Get in touch with retired family members and find out what financial products they use, the sacrifices they’ve had to make since retiring, and how they went about their planning.