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The key to ageing better - planning, preparation and positivity

Planning for retirement is crucial to enjoying a happy, healthy later life, research shows.

With the rising state pension age making it harder for people to plan for later life, our Communications Officer, Niall Ryan, calls for employers to do more to support older workers as they approach retirement age. 

Recently, there have been numerous articles focusing on the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement, which promotes living frugally to retire much earlier than you might in a traditional working life. It essentially requires followers to stash huge amounts of cash in their twenties and thirties, which they then live off for the rest of their lives.

Evidence shows that planning and preparing is important if we are to have the kind of later life that we want. This means saving for our retirement and making sure our income will be enough to sustain the kind of life we want to lead as we approach later life. The FIRE movement focuses on people who haven’t yet reached mid-life, but its main principles seem to chime with this approach.

Given my reasonable aversion to hardship, I’m pretty sure the FIRE movement won’t spark any changes in my approach to working life. However, these articles have got me thinking.

When will I retire? And when that time comes, will I even want to?

Ages away: the impact of state pension age increases

This year marks the start of further state pension age increases, with both men and women’s pension age increasing to 66 by October 2020, and to 68 by April 2028.

The government’s handy check your State Pension age website is useful and frightening in equal measure. It tells me ‘You’ll reach State Pension age on 9 August 2053 (aged 68)’, immediately followed byThe State Pension age is under review and may change in the future’. Call me pessimistic, but I don’t think the age at which State Pensions are paid out is likely to get earlier.

On the face of it, this seems unjust. But as we are all living longer (1 in 3 babies born today will live to be 100), it seems only realistic to expect we will continue working for longer. Perhaps the solution isn’t to desperately try to escape the world of work, but for employers to improve work for us as we age.

Evidence shows that positive views of ageing and retirement, and being in control of the decision to retire, are associated with sensible, proactive retirement planning.
Failing to plan: how much can we really prepare for retirement?

It is impossible for me to extensively plan for my retirement. By 2053, the entire landscape of work, and life, in the UK might be completely different. Maybe we will all be working 4-day weeks? Maybe self-driving cars will be affordable and commonplace? Maybe the UK will be bitterly divided following an in-out referendum on its participation in Eurovision? Who knows.

However, other factors are clearer. I know I will need enough money to live on, friends to rely on and a suitable home to live in. Planning for these things – including saving into a pension, taking actions to improve my health and figuring out if my home might need adaptations in the future - will make it more likely that I’ll have a good retirement. It seems to me this unearned gift of longer lives, combined with the equally unwanted penalty of a rising state pension age, has created a greater need to plan and prepare for the future than ever before.

Evidence shows that positive views of ageing and retirement, and being in control of the decision to retire, are associated with sensible, proactive retirement planning. People with positive perceptions of ageing are also much more likely to make healthy life choices. So isn’t the answer just to relax and think positively?

The sad reality, though, is that there are huge inequalities in being able to prepare for retirement. Being from a BAME background, being a woman, being in poor health or coming from a poor background mean you’re much less likely to be able to be able to prepare for your retirement, and that retirement is likely to come earlier for you than your richer neighbours. 

Keep on keeping on: staying in fulfilling work for longer

After all this planning, there’s also no guarantee that when the time comes I’ll even want to retire. Surprisingly, the most common reason given by people aged 60+ for working past state pension age was that they enjoyed work (68%) (ELSA, 2018).

But a lack of support in the workplace means many over 50s are exiting the labour market prematurely, often due to health conditions.

At the Centre for Ageing Better, we believe employers can play a major role in helping people stay in work for as long as they want to and retire securely when they do. Employers can and should ensure everyone has the health support they need, improve readiness for retirement and offer guidance on planning and preparation.

Right now, too many people are at risk of missing out on the benefits of living longer – but with the right support, a healthy and fulfilling later life can be available to all of us.   

Planning and preparing for later life

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Niall Ryan
Communications Officer