More of us are living longer – so let’s make the most of it

Elle Tucker

What’s your enduring memory of your grandparents? Looking back, the chances are they were always old to you and seemed to be winding down, even though they were probably only middle aged.

How times have changed: actors Daniel Craig and Gillian Anderson turn 50 this year, Michelle Obama has edged into her sixth decade, and they continue to juggle careers, family and success.

They might be well known, but they’re reflecting how many of us now live. At 50, we’re still in our prime and far from winding down. Never mind being on the home straight, we could be just halfway there, as more and more people hit triple figures.

Live long and prosper

We’re all living longer – and it looks like we’ll keep doing so. Predictions show average life expectancy will increase globally by 2030, according to a study published by The Lancet.

The average life expectancy for women at birth will exceed 85 years in many countries, compared to 2015 when global average life expectancy at birth was 71.4 years, according to the World Health Organization. And these are averages: 112+ year olds are not as rare as they used to be, especially in Japan, which has one of the highest levels of life expectancy.

What’s it got to do with money?

You might be wondering what life expectancy has to do with money. The answer is – plenty.

People often live longer than they think they will, according to recent research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies – and that means there’s a bit more to think about.

The report shows people underestimate their chances of reaching 75, 80 and 85, on average. It’s a growing trend, because these days, instead of retiring at 65 and living for another five years on average (as often used to be the case), someone could choose to retire at a still-young 55 and live for another 30 years or more.

And that means the idea of how we live – including retirement – is evolving rapidly. We want to be happy and healthy for sure, and have money to help us live life to the full.

Emma Maslin, personal finance blogger at The Money Whisperer, explains that “retirement has long been characterised as a stage of life we move into when we stop working. Will the black and white phases of working life, then retirement remain so clearly defined when we start to live for longer? I think there will increasingly be varying shades of grey. For some, when they reach a certain age, there may be a move to part-time employment.”

Be happy, whatever that looks like

Those shades of grey are already here for many people and are due, as well as living longer, to pension freedoms which give many access to their life savings from 55.

People have more choices now. They can keep working and keep saving, or use their savings to do different things: go self-employed, part-time, study, fund their children’s or grandchildren’s education or travel the world, if that’s what they want and as long as the life savings they have accumulated are enough.

The good news is many of us are already taking steps to help make that happen.

More than nine million people are saving into their workplace pension in the UK, which has opened up saving to people from all walks of life through a pension set up by their employer, and into which the employer pays.

More people are now saving – and for younger people, decades of saving could add up to a decent pot of savings.

Just how much is a question many people ask but it depends on many things, and what kind of life you have in mind.

There are ways and means of getting a clear idea of how much you might need to save, including our pension calculator, or the one on the Money Advice Service website.

Do talk it through with your adviser if you have one. If you don’t, you can find one on

After all, there is a lot to look forward to.


Elle Tucker is a freelance journalist

A pension is an investment and its value can go down as well as up and may be worth less than was paid in. The information here is based on our understanding in June 2018 and shouldn’t be taken as financial advice. Personal circumstances also have an impact on tax treatment.