When will YOU retire? The average is long before state pension age at 59, poll claims… but older workers reckon they’ll put it off to 64 and the Queen worked until 96!

Elizabeth II was Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms from 6 February 1952 until her death on 8 September 2022. She was queen regnant of 32 different sovereign states in the course of her reign, and served as monarch of 15 of them at the time of her death.[a] Her reign of 70 years and 214 days is the longest of any British monarch and the longest recorded of any female head of state. Her eldest son Prince, now King Charles lll has started his reign at the age of 73 when most of us would have expected to be long retired.

So when should we ordinary folk retire or at least slow down? Working to 96 seems a little too much of a stretch and the queen was indeed properly working when she officially asked Liz Truss to  become the UK’s new prime minister at her Scottish Castle, Balmoral, where she was asked to form a government after the resignation of Boris Johnson. This only two days before her death. 

SunLife asked 1000 people over 50 to complete an online survey that discussed the financial and emotional costs of retirement, looking at wider concerns that may feature and offering practical tips. Of the sample 29% were retired, 23% in full-time work, 11% working part-time or semi-retired, 8% unemployed and 3% self-employed.

Marketing director Ian Atkinson said: ‘A significant proportion of people feel they retired too early, with many missing the social interaction and sense of purpose from being in employment.

‘Our findings show that the average age for retirement is 59, but the preferred age for those still working is 64 – suggesting many people over 50 want to continue working for longer.

‘While it’s interesting to see that many retirees tend to have slightly more disposable cash than those still working, the majority still wish they had started saving for retirement earlier.’

What were the priorities for retirement? Holidays feature strongly for all, but those retired find gardening, socialising with friends and family are top priorities

More than half of those both retired and not yet retired were prioritising travel and holidays with over half of those retired saying gardening came second. Encouragingly 80% of  those who had already retired said that life has got better since they retired with ‘having more time’ and less stress being important reasons.

Since retiring, 41% of people have changed their spending habits. The biggest areas where people spent less since retiring were fuel, clothes, holidays and transport costs being the highest but many were also spending less on nights out and ordering takeaways etc. However over 50% of people who’ve spent more money since retiring have spent this on holidays, grandchildren, children and home improvements.

Almost 4 in 10 miss working, but the majority seem happy to have left it behind with those who did miss it stating memories, social interaction, and a sense of purpose were reasons.

Whilst most think they retired at the right time, 18% said they retired too early.

The average age for retirement was 59.

For those who weren’t retired, the average preferred retirement age was 64.

Coronavirus did not substantially disrupt plans for retirement for most people but a significant number of people are known to have taken early retirement or were made redundant and haven’t sought further employ.

Financial income: expectations vs reality

People who were retired had a little more disposable income per month than those not yet retired, despite lower monthly incomes. Not surprisingly state or private pensions are the top sources of income for those retired but drawdown of savings and investments also supplement income in retirement.

Fortunately the vast majority,7/10 have the same standard of living as they did before retiring though 1/10 have seen a fall but only 12% of people approaching retirement said they definitely had enough money for their retirement. Disturbingly a quarter of people reported that they hadn’t given any thought to financing their retirement with 75% of people approaching retirement saying they expected the state to finance their retirement.

Those approaching retirement had mixed expectations about their standard of living in the coming years. A minority, 14% expect higher, 40% expect to have the same standard of living as they have now but 33% of people are expecting to have a worse standard of living, the rest 13% don’t know.

Two thirds of people approaching retirement say they were confident about their ability to manage their finances during retirement but a third were worried about leaving their job when they retire.

Top tips for retirement

A range of practical hints and tips were given by those who are retired to help others prepare for retirement:

Enjoy retirement

80% said that life has become better since they retired. They have more time and the freedom to do what they want.

Start saving from a young age
Save money when you can, and try not to ‘fritter money away’ on small things.

Don’t retire too early
The average age of retirement was 59, and although 76% felt they retired at the right time one in five (18%) said they retired too early. Few felt they retired too late.

Plan for the future
Paying for support and long-term care is a worry for many, particularly if their partner needed long-term residential care. Only 9% of those who are retired felt they could definitely afford this.

End of life planning
Many have not yet planned their funeral yet. Of those who are retired only 36% have made any plans for their funeral.


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