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BLOG: It’s free money, take it

Written by:
04/02/2013
Tahmina Mannan on the importance of not burying your head in the sand when it comes to retirement planning.
BLOG: It’s free money, take it

You don’t have to look at longevity statistics or news headlines to be told  we’re all getting older.

For the first time, we are seeing more than three generations of people living in or nearing retirement in the same family.

The number of people aged 65 and over has exceeded the number of 15 year olds and estimates from the Office for National Statistics suggest that by 2050, the number of teens will stay the same but the number of over 65s will shockingly double.

Make no old bones about it, (sorry!), the strain on the public purse will be severe. Add to this the social consequences of where we’re heading, the picture looks pretty dire.

According to the latest World Economic Forum’s Global Risk outlook report, income disparity will be the biggest threat to global security in the coming years. As the rich get older and richer, the poor seem to be getting poorer.

As it stands, there is very real and grave danger of hurtling towards a dystopia where we end up with a fraught, highly-taxed and resentful small working population struggling to shoulder the needs of an increasingly impoverished and irate retired population.

This will especially be the case if state pensions shrink and the tax and social costs associated with an ageing population grow.

Women will inevitably be worse off. We earn less than our male counterparts for all sorts of reasons, but we also live far longer. As we struggle to get by day-to-day with ever increasing prices and inflation eroding our meagre savings, the thought of retirement may seem an age away.

But look at it this way. According to Standard Life, you need an income of nearly £20,000 a year to be able to afford a few weeks in the sun, a couple of meals out, a few trips to the cinema and the occasional home improvement. The stuff of retirement dreams.

 

You need around two-thirds of your income to live comfortably in retirement, and £20,000 doesn’t seem like much does it?

Assuming a retirement age of 65, a 25 year old stands to get a pension pot of £167,000 if they start putting £50 into their pension pot a week.

That’s £200 a month. Now, if like many, you are struggling to make ends meet as it is – a £200 dent in your monthly income seems more than steep.

But then imagine this: if you invested £200 a month, you’re still left with only £9,600 per annum after retirement. That’s assuming you have paid off your mortgage and are debt-free and only want to live a basic lifestyle.

If at age 35 you start squirrelling away that same £200 a month, you’re facing a pot of £110,000 when you hit 65. That’s an annual income of just over £6,000 in retirement.

Put away the same amount at age 45, you are looking at a meagre £4,000 a year in retirement. What, if any, kind of life would that pay for?

£4,000 barely pays for much now, even in the cheaper parts of the UK – and if the trend for rising energy prices, food prices, and clothing prices carries on, your meagre £4,000 is not worth that much in reality.

At the risk of sounding like a pension’s hypochondriac, it’s hard not to stress how important putting whatever you can aside is.

Which leads me on to workplace pension’s scheme – I won’t bore you to death about the ins and outs of each scheme – there’s probably an adviser who can do that for you – but do take this away: your employer will also put in money when you do.

At whatever percentage they give you, that’s still free money at the end of the day. Free money.

So, burying your head in the sand might feel like the knee-jerk reaction to something that won’t happen for another 30-40 years, but retirement planning needs to happen today.

Even a small amount, like going without a couple of pints and a meal-out now could be the difference between comfortable and really struggling when you’re old.

 

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