What I wish I’d known about retirement

3 minutes

As we climb the career ladder, we're told it's never too early to think about our retirement plan – even if it feels like a lifetime away.

To help them kick-start their future-proofing journey, three millennials ask retirees for their guidance on pension planning.

  • Advance financial planning is the key to a comfortable retirement
  • Decide what you want out of your retirement, then plan the necessary funds
  • Don't leave it too late – contributing early can make a big difference to your final pot

Spend time with family and friends in your retirement

For many people, retirement is the pinnacle of their working lives – the just reward for a lifetime of labour. But, for others, freedom from the shackles of a work routine can often come as quite a shock to those who have worked for the best part of fifty years.

Retirement can take a lot of planning, and not only financially – we also need to think about what we're going to do with all our new-found free time.

We spoke to millennials Rose (@rose_dykins), Charlotte (@cmsportsmassage) and Chris (@AZODiMUSiC) who had some questions for retirees Patricia, Bob and Joan about their experience of retirement and pensions, and how they planned for it.

Chris: ‘What's the best thing about retirement?’

‘Not working is really great!’ grins Joan, 70, from Staffordshire, who has been retired for ten years. ‘I get to spend more time with my family and friends, and I can travel and go on lots more holidays.’

‘It's lovely having more time for my family and my three grandchildren,’ says Patricia, 71, from Norfolk, who fully retired three years ago.

‘The best thing for me is escaping all the work-related stress and the 'must-work' conditioning we're all drawn into,’ explains Bob, 71, from the West Midlands, who has been retired for nine years. ‘And I'm finally getting time to explore hobbies rather than just work.’

Rose: ‘Is there anything you miss about working?’

‘I do miss being part of a working community,’ says Patricia. ‘If you have a choice about retiring, you do need to think about it very carefully. Make sure you plan what you're going to do to fill up your time. It's important to have a reason to get up in the morning.’‘I do some volunteering now and then to raise money for the premature baby charity, Bliss,’ says Patricia. ‘Charity shops always want volunteers and if you still want to work and earn a few quid, there are plenty of part-time roles that are suitable for retirees.’

Charlotte: What advice can you give to us millennials about planning for a pension?

‘Start as early as you can,’ advises Bob. ‘Don't leave it too late. If you start contributing at the start of your career, it really does make all the difference.’

‘As soon as you start your working life, check that your employer offers a pension plan. Check it out before signing up and make sure it's with a reputable firm,’ advises Patricia. ‘Even if it's only a small pension at the start, you can always top it up when you can afford it. Every little helps.’

‘I've heard some awful stories on the TV about people being ripped off,’ says Joan. ‘So please do think about it carefully, do lots of research and get professional advice before you commit.’

Chris: Did you take a lump sum from your pension pot?

‘Yes, I did, and it felt like the right decision at the time,’ says Bob. ‘But it's not for everyone and every situation is different.’ 

‘My husband did and we invested it in a motorhome,’ says Patricia. ‘So it was worth it for us.’ 

Rose: Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

‘When I was retirement planning, I would have liked to have added more to my voluntary contribution to increase my final pension,’ says Bob. ‘Although I have both a state and a work pension, it would have made a big difference.’

Charlotte: What advice would you give to those planning their retirement?

‘Try to think about what you will want to do in your retirement and what your likely outgoings will be, and then make a plan to secure the necessary income/savings pot,’ suggests Bob.

‘Do lots of research and talk to the professionals,’ recommends Patricia. ‘There's so much information out there, so don't be afraid to ask advice from IFAs about the best way to plan financially for your retirement.’

Rose: Money aside, are you happier now you've left work?

‘Oh yes,’ agree all three.

‘Retirement has given me the opportunity to spend more time with my family and see my five grandchildren grow up, which is priceless,’ enthuses Bob.

Planning for retirement is not a one-size-fits-all package. We all have different needs and ideas of how we want to spend life's final trimester and sensible financial planning well in advance will help us make the most of it. Retirement funds and pensions may not be the first thing millennials will want to spend their hard-earned money on, but by starting early, their diligence will pay handsomely in their twilight years.