Planning your retirement involves practical, emotional and financial preparation. And for many the choices available and the decisions to be made on the financial aspects can feel complex and overwhelming. We have some simple ways to help you prepare, one step at a time. And please believe us when we say that it’s never too early to start your retirement prep – and it’s never too late either.
Before we get started, maybe you can take some inspiration from the Quietly Saving blogger*, nicknamed Weenie. Weenie was 44 when she started to really focus on saving for retirement. She’s now 51 and is planning to retire in just a few years’ time.
“I’m aiming for 2024 or 2025 and I’ve got a figure in mind,” she explains. “To calculate it, I estimated what annual income I would need to live on comfortably in retirement. I based this on my current expenses and also took advice from guides to what an 'average retiree' needs (about £20k a year). I factored in when and how much I would receive from my pensions (including the State Pension). I have been concentrating on building up funds to cover me from when I stop working full time or retire early, to when I start claiming my final salary pension and my State Pension.”
Weenie is planning to stop work completely in her mid-50s so she can focus on her interests and hobbies and maybe spend time travelling and volunteering. She explains how she’s been able to increase her savings: “One, I’ve changed my mindset and habits – I used to go shopping as a habit but once I changed to buying only things I needed, this reduced my spending a lot. I haven’t sacrificed anything from my life – I go on holidays, I have a gym membership, I socialise with friends (pre-Covid anyway!).
"Two, I looked at all my bills and got rid of subscriptions I wasn't using, and I make sure that I'm on the best utility offers, switching when it’s time. And three, whenever I get a bit of extra money, like a bonus from work, I put that towards my investments.”
She's saving in her current employer's pension scheme, as well as a Stocks & Shares ISA and a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) – all of which are investments, so their value can go down as well as up and you can get back less than was paid in.
“If you haven’t enrolled in your employer's pension scheme, consider doing so, or you’ll miss out on your employer's contributions (a minimum 3% of your qualifying earnings),” she says.
If you too like the sound of retiring early with an income you think you could live off, here’s how to get started.
Start thinking about "when"
Do you have an age in mind at which you want to retire?
It will help to know when you’ll be entitled to claim your State Pension as that forms part of most people’s retirement plans.
Be sure to update the retirement date you have on any pension plans with the provider whenever it changes. If you’ve moved jobs a few times you may have more than one pension to keep up to date.
And bear in mind that the age at which you can access money from a modern, flexible pension plan is currently 55 but the government has indicated it plans to increase this to 57 in 2028.
Being clear about your retirement date and then working out the size of savings pot you’d need before you’d be comfortable leaving work behind can be really motivating.
Work out what you'll need
How much money will you need to live on when you retire? Will your mortgage and other debts be paid off? Will you or can you live a modest life? Do you plan to travel and spend some of your hard-earned savings? The answers to these and many other questions are very important when it comes to working out what you’ll need by way of an income every year.
We have a handy pension calculator. And these Retirement Living Standards published by the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association give a picture of what a typical lifestyle costs – from getting by to enjoying some luxuries and financial freedom.
Know where you are now
It’s really helpful to have an accurate picture of where your pension savings are right now. You can contact your pension provider to get an update on how your plan is doing. Most modern pension plans let you create an online account so you can check if your savings are on track any time of the day (or night). Register or log on to see how your Standard Life pension plan is doing.
Track down some lost pots
Could you have a ‘lost’ pension? If you had a previous job (or jobs) that came with a pension plan, then there could be a pot of pension money waiting you. Our article about tracking down lost pension plans and what to think about when bringing pensions together can help.
Making the best use of your pension pot
If you’re getting close to retirement, it’s time to start investigating how to make the best use of the savings in your pension pot. Will you take out your money in lump sums? Will you leave money invested during your retirement and take it flexibly as and when you need it (drawdown)? If you do that, what will you invest in? Will you convert it into a guaranteed income for life (annuity)?
Check with your provider that your pension plan offers the options that you want. You can get free impartial guidance over the phone, or face to face, with Pension Wise at pensionwise.gov.uk or call 0800 138 3944. It's important to shop around and compare providers to find the best deal for you. Your pension provider may not offer the option you want or other providers may be able to offer you a better deal. Find out more about shopping around at Pension Wise.
Making the right decisions can make a difference to how much you have to live on in retirement.
You can read more about this in Taking money from your pension savings soon? What you need to know.
Or a chat with a professional financial adviser could put you on the right track, although there’s likely to be a cost for this. If you don’t have an adviser already, you can find one at unbiased.co.uk.
Still some way to go?
If your pension savings are smaller than you’d like and retirement still feels a long way off, don’t despair. The important thing is to face reality and make new plans now. Burying your head in the sand is not a good option.
For example, can you find a way to save more? There’s so much helpful information online about saving, cutting costs and making extra income. Can you delay your retirement, or switch to part-time working after your retirement date until your pension pot is big enough? Is downsizing your property an option? Or how about renting out a room?
The sooner you start to think about how you can retire comfortably, the sooner you’ll be able to make it happen.
Why not get started by trying our retirement tool?
*Weenie blogs at QuietlySaving.co.uk
The information here is based on our understanding in October 2020 and shouldn’t be taken as financial advice. We recommend you get appropriate guidance or advice before making any decisions about your pension. An adviser is likely to charge a fee.
Please remember that the value of investments, including pensions and Stocks & Shares ISAs, can go down as well as up and could well be worth less than what was paid in.
The links provided to external sites are for general information purposes only. Standard Life accepts no responsibility for information contained in the site or for the site not being available at all times.
Tax rules and legislation can change. Tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances.