BLOG: The changing face of retirement

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Continuing to work in retirement is a choice for some but a necessity for others. Which group do you think you will be in?

Over the years that I have been part of the financial advice profession I have seen this picture used many times. What do you see, an old lady or a young woman?












As this picture shows, many of us see things very differently and one area where this becoming very apparent is around the subject of retirement. What once was a very definite date, linked to our 60th or 65th birthday, is now an undefined point somewhere in the future.

I am not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing as the current workplace allows flexibility in this planning and many will choose to take advantage of this. The concern I have is that if a goal or aspiration is not clearly defined then it can often become very difficult to achieve and usually takes a lot longer to get there.

There have been a number of reports recently that have backed up the trend we are seeing in this area. The first, I read about during the summer and it found that the average amount of mortgage debt among 65 to 74-year-olds fell from £64,024 in May 2012 to £48,547 this year, but the amount of equity tied up in their homes has fallen by nine per cent, suggesting people are struggling to pay off their mortgages as they approach and enter retirement.

The second, was a recent HSBC report and the key findings were that one in five workers in the UK expect that they will never be able to fully retire, in fact 37% of respondents aged between 55 and 64 aspired to continue working. The key question for me here is whether this is out of choice or necessity?

There is no doubt that this shift in attitude toward working longer is speeding up as some recent research by AXA Wealth highlights. When asked whether they wanted to retire at a set date, 48% of those over 55 did, while only 28% of the 18-24 age group wanted to. In fact 6% of the over 55s said they never wanted to retire and this shot up to 10% in the 18-24 age bracket. There is an element of choice in this, but we are increasingly seeing generations that are having that choice taken away from them.

The last fact I will quote comes from another piece of AXA Wealth research which showed that almost one in 10 people felt they would be relying on family support as a retirement funding option. This peaks at 11% for 25-34 year olds who are often referred to as the ‘boomerang generation’ – having to return home due to financial constraint. Seemingly there is an awareness that family support may never fully come to an end.

There is no doubt that this flexibility in retirement date is a choice for some, but for others it is a necessity due to financial commitment or need. My key message here is that you need to think about this and which group you may find yourself in. A great saying from Benjamin Franklin sums this up “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.

Andy Zanelli is head of retirement planning at AXA Wealth


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