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Your retirement checklist by decade

12-Nov-2018

Time to read: 7 minutes

One thing retirement is not, is an age. Not anymore anyway. Gone are the days of being told to stop working one day and pick up your state pension the next. Today you have new pension freedoms to decide when and how you retire. But to get there in tip-top financial shape takes some planning.

You’ll find lots of helpful tips and information in this guide. But the one thing you won’t find is a magic savings goal. Telling you to save £X or Y% a month is not what this is about. However, telling you to save as much as you can afford absolutely is.

Your monthly budget is uniquely dependent on how you balance your work and life finances – which could be quite different to that of your family, your friends and those living down your street. What really counts is what you choose to do with the bit that’s spare every month. 

Here’s a decade-by-decade checklist of how you could get that spare bit to work smarter and harder for your future self.

 

Your 20s: the sensible starters’ decade

The 20s decade is the age of financial freedom. It’s the time when you step onto a career path and experience the power that comes with real earning (and spending) potential. At this stage, retirement will probably feel a long way off. But here’s the thing – the sooner you start saving for it the better. 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re full-time, part-time, self-employed or work flexibly here, there and everywhere in the so-called ‘gig’ economy. Your future self would feel quietly smug if you’re smart enough to get ahead of the game. 

 

What could I be doing?

  • Work out your monthly budget so you know what money you’ve got spare to save.
  • Ensure you’re automatically enrolled in your company’s pension scheme to make the most of any matching contributions (aka ‘free money’) that come from your employer.
  • Set up a savings or investing pot – you can start small and add more later but the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll start earning interest on your interest. 

 

The 20s mantra: watch that spending and save as much as you can.

 

Your 30s: the serious savers’ decade

The 30s decade is all about building on what you’ve started. And if you haven’t started yet, now is the time to do it. Hopefully you’ll be in the cheerful position of earning more because your salary has increased with your experience. Keep an eye on your outgoings – rent or mortgage expenses as well as spending on holidays and interests. Make sure they’re not taking a bigger bite out of your income than they need to. 

Your future self would sagely remind you to focus on your retirement savings and not dip into anything other than your emergency savings pot.  

 

What could I be doing?

  • Add an extra 1% to your pension pot every time you get a pay rise, and do it before you get your first paycheque, so you don’t feel the loss.
  • Maximise your ISA allowance – you can save up to £20,000 and your returns will be free from UK income tax and capital gains tax. As with all things tax-related, the value of these benefits will depend on your circumstances, and that tax rules could change in the future.
  • Embrace new technology and take a more active interest in your finances through things like budgeting apps, retirement planning apps and pension calculators

 

The 30s mantra: share the love of income increases with your pension pot.

 

Your 40s: the powerful players’ decade

The 40s decade is an age of big earning and spending potential. All being well, you could be at the peak of your career, or supercharging it by starting your own business or stepping out in another new direction. If you’re lucky, you’ve maybe even seen off a giant mortgage and kicked debts into touch. And if you’re not where you want to be, it’s not too late. But now is definitely the time to get serious about how you manage your money.

This financially powerful time is also a pivotal time as your family starts to grow up and away. Your future self would definitely thank you for taking stock and updating your financial plan.

 

What could I be doing?

  • Request a state pension forecast to see if you’re on track and work out how much extra you might need to put away every month. 
  • If you’re willing to take some risk, consider investments – such as shares or funds, or even property – as other future sources of income to enhance your pension pot. Bear in mind that all investments carry some risk and their value can fall below the amount that you originally invest.
  • Set up a separate savings or investments pot for your family’s future so you can help out with cars, colleges and the volunteering in Cambodia fund without damaging your pension pot. 

 

The 40s mantra: put in every penny you can or you’re not doing enough.

 

Your 50s: the financial-focus decade

The 50s decade is when those previously distant retirement goals start coming into sight – scarily fast. Looking after the financial welfare of your nearest and dearest is now no longer your first priority. This is catch-up time where you need to focus on boosting your savings. 

Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to coast now just because you’re nearly there. Especially if anything major in your life has changed, like financial and emotional downturns or career and relationship shifts. 

Your future self would certainly breathe easier knowing there was something in place to protect the pension pot you’re still working so hard for in case anything happens. 

 

What could I be doing?

  • Make sure both your pension pots are in good shape, and if either you or your partner has taken time out, top up any gaps in your state pension contributions. 
  • Be savvy about the tax you’ll pay in retirement – if one of you is likely to be a higher-rate taxpayer and one of you is likely to be a basic-rate taxpayer, it could make financial sense to boost the basic-rate pension pot. Again, this will depend on your circumstances – and remember that tax rules could change in the future.
  • Consider managing your own investments by consolidating any dormant pension schemes through a self-invested personal pension (SIPP) – although be aware the investment risk to your capital and of any exit fees involved.
  • Start thinking about estate planning and ways you might want to reduce your inheritance tax liability. The Money Advice Service offers a helpful guide to inheritance tax.

 

The 50s mantra: inject some extra rocket fuel into your savings plan. 

 

Your 60s: the live-life decade

The 60s decade is absolutely not an age where one life stops, and another begins. It’s a gradual transition, and one that you should be in control of. So if you don’t feel emotionally or financially ready to stop working, you don’t have to sweat it. 

Our research shows that 6 in 10 working age people expect to continue working during retirement.1 If you plan well, retirement can be a time of freedom and adventure where you can put your on-paper goals into action. 

Your future self may still not be ready to press the ‘go slow’ button, so this is still a time to think longer-term and to plan for a long, happy retirement.

 

What could I be doing?

  • Calculate whether your means meet your expectations by drawing up a budget - set out your household outgoings as well as more desirable expenses (from holidays and hobbies to christenings and Christmas).
  • Feel free to keep on working – even part-time or casual hours – if it means you’ll get the lifestyle you want in retirement. 
  • Consider buying an annuity under the new pension freedoms to cover your everyday essential costs, while leaving rest of your pension pot balance invested for later.

 

The 60s mantra: keep your finger firmly on the financial pulse. 

 

Go forth and share the wealth

Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you dish out your money to all and sundry. Instead, we’re thinking how great it would be if you shared the wealth of knowledge in this guide with someone who’s just starting out on their retirement journey. 

There’s a world of kids, grandkids and neighbour’s great grandkids out there whose future selves might appreciate the nudge…

 

1 Source: HSBC, The Future of Retirement: Bridging the gap, 2018

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