Why retirement doesn’t have to be a one-off event

5 min read 19 May 23

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The thought of retirement as a big, one-off life event can put people off making plans. Perhaps it’s time to think differently – and we’re already seeing a growing trend towards phased retirement.

What does retirement mean for most people? Is it a momentous, one-off event to look forward to, when everything will change, work will be finished and life can be funded, mainly, by pension savings? Or perhaps not much thought has been given to it, other than an end to the ‘9-to-5’ routine?

For some, the very idea of ‘retirement’ can seem daunting and is something they’re not quite ready ‘to do’ – and certainly not something they’ve made plans for.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be any of those things. Company and personal pensions are now the norm for most people and have helped to redefine what retirement can be.

While some people still look at it as a one-off event, making such a sudden life change doesn’t make sense for everyone, particularly as people are generally living longer and might be happy to continue to work for longer, either for the emotional or financial benefits it can provide.

The age at which men and women are eligible to claim their State Pension is also increasing (as at May 2023, it's currently 66 for both men and women, but is likely to rise) so it may be a financial necessity for some to continue to work, perhaps on a part-time basis. You can check your State Pension age at GOV.UK.

More people are now choosing to phase their retirement in slowly, perhaps cutting their hours or changing jobs to break in gently to a world less focused on work.

That could mean a number of things: working part-time and for longer because they still enjoy work and the social life around it; finding a different job that suits them better; or continuing to earn in order to top up their finances during a time of rising costs. Post-pandemic, remote jobs where people work from home have opened up a world of new job opportunities, too.

Even those who have already retired are starting to think differently about things, with around one in four retirees* returning to work in the past five years, driven by a mix of boredom and the need to boost their finances as the cost of living goes up, as our research with The Wisdom Council highlights.

Being able to make choices about retirement doesn’t just happen. It takes thought and preparation – and that can be a challenge. Phrases such as ‘retirement planning’ and ‘retirement goals’ might not engage people and can even be a barrier for some.

Perhaps it’s time to think differently and be more open to preparing for retirement, much in the same way we prepare for a house move or a holiday. People spend weeks looking at where to go on holiday every year – location, value for money, sightseeing, what to wear and how much money might be needed. But how much time do people spend planning their retirement? 

  • The key is to start early and keep saving into company pensions, with tax benefits and employer contributions. If you have a personal pension, you’ll still get tax relief. You may find it helpful to read this article, where some people approaching their retirement give advice on things they wish they’d done earlier.
  • Look at how your pensions are doing at least yearly, if not more often, and find out what you’re likely to have in all your pension pots by the time you’re heading towards some kind of retirement.
  • Take a look at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association’s Retirement Living Standards, based on independent research by Loughborough University, to see what kind of lifestyle you could have in retirement – and how much money you might need.
  • Or check our pension calculator to get an idea of how much you might need to build up in pension savings to afford the lifestyle you aspire to in retirement.
  • For those nearing retirement (whatever that might look like), writing down the things you need to do to prepare will help make things seem less daunting and easier to achieve. Do you want to keep working, get a better work-life balance or change jobs? Have a short and long-term plan in place to guide you and review and change those plans when, or if, you need to.
  • A financial adviser can help you plan when you’re saving and when you’re considering retiring at some point in the future, whether that’s 5, 10 or 20 years away. They’ll explain things, break it all down into a manageable plan and guide you towards the kind of future you have in mind. If you don’t have a financial adviser you can find one that’s right for you.

* The Great Retirement research carried out by The Wisdom Council in association with M&G

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