Retirement should be a celebration, when you can finally say goodbye to the daily grind and spend all day, every day doing exactly as you please. But that can only happen if you have taken your retirement planning seriously, and have sufficient funds stashed away to live comfortably and do the things that you love.
I see clients all the time who have big retirement plans but without the funds to turn their dreams into reality. Below are the most common mistakes people make which result in them being woefully unprepared for retirement. Make sure you don’t make the same ones.
1. Putting off saving altogether
If you haven’t started saving, it’s never too late to start but don’t delay any longer. It is obvious that the more time you have to save, the more you will manage to put away but the other factor to consider is the effect of compound interest on your savings. And compound interest is much more effective over a long timeframe. Take a look at these figures from Scottish Widows which show how much needs to be saved each month to receive an annual pension of £23,000 at different ages. The difference is largely due to compound interest:
Age | Savings required per month
25 | £293
35 | £443
45 | £724
55 | £1,445
Action plan: Work out how much you can afford to save each month and start investing it immediately. Setting up an automatic transfer puts the money earmarked for your pension out of temptation’s way. There are hundreds of investment options available to you so take some advice on which are best suited to your situation. And definitely don’t just leave the money languishing in the bank.
2. Relying on a state pension
Once upon a time it may have been possible to live comfortably on a state pension but with an ageing population and government funds increasingly stretched it certainly isn’t the case now. A UK state pension, for example, is currently £164.35 a week or £8,546.20 a year. You may be able to struggle by on that but a comfortable retirement? Forget it. And who knows at what age you will start to receive it. At present the state pension age is 65 but it’s going up and up and will rise to 67 by 2028. Beyond that, who knows?
Action plan: UK expats living abroad might want to consider topping up NI contributions while they are abroad to remain eligible for a state pension. Whether it is worth it will depend on your personal situation.
3. Underestimating your retirement needs
We all have different requirements with regard to the standard of living we want in life but however you envisage your retirement the chances are that you will need a bigger pot than you think to finance it. UK retirees now have the choice between purchasing an annuity and drawing down income from investments and what is best for you will depend on your circumstances. But to give an example, a single life annuity of £100,000 will only pay around £5,000 per year. That’s not a lot of money to play with and illustrates how you want to be aiming significantly higher when it comes to retirement saving.
Action plan: If you’re flummoxed by the figures, and many people are, it is probably time to consult a financial adviser who can help you get to grips with what you might need in retirement, what you already have saved and how to bridge any gap.
4. Relying on property as a pension plan
A property can work as part of a pension plan but relying solely on equity in a property to fund your retirement is an extremely risky strategy, and not one that I would recommend. Property prices are volatile and if a crash coincides with your retirement, you could be in trouble. Many homeowners plan to free up equity by downsizing when they retire but that too has its problems and can be costly.
Action plan: Reduce your risk by aiming for a diversified portfolio of investments putting your money into a variety of different assets (shares, bonds, cash and property), diversifying further within each asset class if possible.
5. Losing pensions
Ridiculous as it may sound, literally thousands of people have pensions which they have completely forgotten about or lost track of. It’s not all that surprising given the demise of the job for life which defined former generations. If you have forgotten about a pension, you might lose out on money you have invested altogether, and if you have a vague notion that you have some money stashed away it is unlikely that money is performing at its best.
Action plan: talk to your financial adviser about consolidating neglected pension plans and if you think you may have forgotten about any, you can check the Pensions Tracing Service in the UK. You may be in for a nice surprise!
One of life’s ironies is that the time when we should ideally start saving for retirement early on in our careers is the time when it is least likely to be high on our priority list. When you are in your twenties, your sixties seem so remote. By the time you reach your forties, when mortality comes into focus for most of us, if you haven’t started saving you’ve lost 20 years during which your money could have been earning compound interest and growing. Whatever age you are, the time to start saving is NOW!
For help getting your retirement planning on the right track, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chartered Financial Planner
It is my fundamental belief that financial planning makes life better. I enjoy helping my clients work towards their financial goals to give them freedom and choice.