Blog » What makes a happy retirement?

What makes a happy retirement?

July 26, 2023
The details provided in this article are for general information only and are in no way deemed to be financial advice. All of the material is correct as of the publication date, but could be out-of-date by the time you read the article.

This is a very subjective question of course. Each of us have unique dreams and goals for our retirement and those dreams are dependent on what makes us happy as individuals. But there are structures and processes which we can all use to secure and prepare for that safe and rosy future.

How retirement has changed

We prepare for every part of our lives – whether it is what book to read next, where we will go on holiday, or how we will pay for our children’s education. Retirement is no different, but over the last three decades its cultural significance has changed due to technological advances and social importance. As retirement has become more dynamically important within everyone’s lives, preparation has also become a necessity.

Being a pensioner used to be considered as just an end-of-life phase. A time perhaps when you had just enough money to get by and life was just about existing on the periphery of the real world. Now, in the 21st century, it is very much the third stage of life (after education and work) and should be just as much about learning and enjoyment as any other time in your life. The social and cultural changes have occurred because we can look ahead more clearly and prepare for future times; advancements in medical science means people live longer and illnesses in old age are easier to deal with. Better technologies and communications mean we are likely to be able to do the things we have always wanted to do. So now we just have to prepare for the opportunity.

Preparing for retirement

A future vision

Whereas we will all have different ideas as to what our retirement will look like, there are specific factors we all have to deal with. For instance, where will we be living? Are there hobbies we will want to spend more time on? If so, how will that happen? Who will we be with – will we want to be living nearer our wider family or away from the rat-race? Do we want to be able to explore geographically or try new sports or concepts? Or is retirement simply a time to get away from it all, relax and soak up the sun?

Man and woman riding bikes outside | What makes a happy retirement?

Having a clearer vision of how we want our retirement to look like allows us to prepare more precisely. This vision is likely to change over the years and as we get nearer to pensionable age, we are more likely to have a clearer idea as to what we really want. But keeping it front of mind and monitoring finances throughout our careers is essential.

Finances

Finances of course are central to a well-prepared retirement. If the money is not there when we retire, then our dreams will be out of reach too. Lack of income may well restrict basic creature comforts.

Even in the early 21st century, when the prospects for retirement appear to be so good, young people rarely take this period seriously – unfortunately, it is too distant and too vague a time in the future. So how can we secure finances for that long-term future?

  • Occupational pension. The government introduced the concept of an occupational pension to encourage UK citizens to save for the post-work years. Employers have to offer any UK workers earning over £10,000 per annum, a private pension.

A contribution to a private pension is taken from a salary, the employer also contributes and the employee receives tax relief. The most popular pension is the defined contribution pension (above) but there is also the defined benefit pension where pay-out is dependent on salary and years worked for a company.

  • Private pension Unlike a traditional occupational pension, an individual can decide which pension provider to go with and where to place his money. The individual decides on the size of the contribution per month and receives tax relief. Like the occupational pension it will complement the State Pension.
  • Starting a child’s pension This can bean ideal way to kick-start a child’s retirement savings as it will automatically become an adult pension fund when the child turns 18. Also, if you discuss it with your child, it can introduce the concept of saving for the long-term future, retirement, and the importance of money.
  • Monitoring the performance of pensions Throughout your life it is important to monitor your private pension as some funds will perform better than others. Read yearly reports and get in contact with pension providers (or Human Resources if it is an occupational pension) if you have queries or want to make changes.
  • State pension You will only receive the maximum state pension if you have contributed enough throughout your working life. To check how much you will receive Click here. Problems may occur through absences from work when you did not claim benefits. You can always make voluntary contributions to bring pay-out to the full amount.
  • A good regulated financial adviser The pension world can be a complex area so seeking out the advice of a financial regulated adviser is always useful.

Essentials

Happiness is not always found through fun and games alone. It sometimes comes from doing those things that need to be done. As much as you will be looking for relaxation and play there is also a need to feel validated. To continue to feel a part of the community perhaps or doing work for someone else that offers psychological rewards. As much as we may well look forward to the time when we can leave professional work behind (as a way of making an essential income), there are benefits from work which we all may find useful for a balanced lifestyle:

  • Charity work This can be a great way to do things you enjoy and have skills in and also helps the more vulnerable in the community.
  • Work for family Offering to pick up the grandchildren from school may seem a bind on one level but on another it keeps you active within the family!
  • Work around the house If you are a DIY expert then this one is definitely for you. You can take a new home and turn it into something really special for you and your significant other.
  • Work you enjoy doing Some individuals will really miss work when they retire. You do not have to give up work at retirement age – also you can consider enjoyable paid work for less hours or working for a different company (you can take your private pension when you like and you will still receive your State Pension).

Minimise financial obstacles

Some hurdles to keep an eye out for when considering your financial future are:

  • Inflation Your pension scheme will estimate (perhaps through different levels of risk) your likely pay-out when you retire. If you are considering how much money you will need, don’t forget to take inflation into account.
  • Don’t lose old pensions Withinany working career it is likely you will work for more than one employer. Don’t lose track of previous occupational funds as any money you have saved is vital for your retirement fund.
  • Use regulated financial advisers As stated above, a professional financial consultant can help you navigate the world of pensions. Over time they will get to know your specific needs and have knowledge of current regulations and effective pension providers. To learn more about a consultation at Pension Access, click here
  • Access to pension at 55 There is always the question of when you will retire. Currently in the UK, depending on the scheme, you can access your private pensions without being penalised from the age of 55. Releasing pension money early is not right for everyone as it will leave you worse off in retirement. The official retirement age (when you receive State Pension) continues to rise and is dependent upon your date of birth.

Conclusion

Retirement has been with us for a long time. The difference now in the 21st century is that if we prepare for it optimistically throughout our lives it can be far more than a “tag-on” at the end of our working days. By keeping it front of mind and preparing for it from an early age, we can structure a safe and happy time.

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