We all have different ideas about retirement. Some of us look forward to it as a time of freedom, while others are a little more uncertain. Some may even refrain from thinking about it because of the outdated negative connotations attached. However, retirement can be so much more than it used to be.
One thing is for certain, the landscape, opportunities, and issues have changed enormously since the 19th century where times were much different. Now, in the 21st century, advanced science and technology keeps us well, in constant contact with our loved ones, and we almost have push-button accessibility to our dreams. Even so, there is still that shadow at the back of many people’s minds that retirement is still about slowing down and reaching an end.
Perhaps our attitude to retirement is very much dependent upon how financially safe we think we will be. If we believe retirement will be a time when we are going to struggle to pay for essentials – let alone the things we dream about – then it is understandable to not want to think about it. However, the sooner we think about it, the sooner we can improve our finances and make retirement less scary.
So, in order to prepare for retirement, it follows that we need to understand what it will mean for us in the modern world, create a vision of what we want it to be like and ensure that we get our pensions sorted as early as possible.
The beginnings of the welfare state and pensions
There is no doubt that the concept and resources for retirement have changed a great deal over the centuries. As society tried to deal with that period in life when individuals could no longer work, the idea of retirement came into being. In the late 19th century retirees without income were clustered under the poor law to ensure they at least had their fundamental needs. It was only in the 20th century (after the second world war), that the welfare state came into being and the State Pension, as we know it now, was created.
A change of perception
It is only recently that we have been able to look on retirement as a time of optimism, activity, and dreams. So, what has changed our perception of those post-work years?
In the 21st century we celebrate the rights of the individual. Retirement has become a precious phase in our lives when, free from the burden of official work, we can chase dreams and spend our valuable time doing the things we have always wanted to do and be with the people we really love. Advanced medical technology means we can be healthier (if we look after ourselves) and we are definitely living longer. So, what do we need to make retirement a life phase we can really look forward to? And how should we prepare for it?
First of all, you have to see it for what it is – a time of freedom and opportunity. In order to do that, you need to look it straight in the eye and decide how you can adapt it to your needs. Some people enjoy work because it gives them status, validity, great memories, a fine network of friends and of course a regular income. And we don’t have to lose that. You can find status and validity through dynamic voluntary community projects or by following your favourite hobby; no one can take your memories away from you and if you have prepared for your pension, then you have no worries on the financial front. While it can still be a time for slowing down, if you prepare for it, you can do it in style!
So how do you know you and your family are going to be financially safe? You need to start financially preparing for your retirement as early as possible. Retirement is the final exciting stage in our lives. And if we prepare for it properly then we can get the most out of it in a smart, informed way.
You are unlikely to be thinking seriously about retirement plans when you first start work. It is too far away and you are more likely to focus on making ends meet in the present. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for the future. As well as starting to think about how your retirement will look, start putting money away for the phase of your life when you will have no work income. Your state pension is unlikely to cover all your needs on its own, so you are likely to need to top up your income with your savings.
Occupational pensions and personal pensions
A great way to get long-term savings started at the beginning of your career is via an occupational pension. Your employer will provide this pension scheme as well as contribute to it. At the very least it makes the idea of retirement real and something to budget for throughout your life. Monitoring the growth of your pension fund is important and you can change provider, transfer funds, initiate a personal pension or increase contributions to boost the growth of your savings.
As you approach retirement, the need to streamline your pension becomes more essential. From the age of 55 you can access your pension savings. This can be a great asset as you approach your retirement. Make sure you seek guidance to protect your funds for when you finally finish work.
It is likely that throughout your career you may have worked for different organisations and therefore had various pension funds. That money you saved through contributions and the interest it accumulated is still yours – so make sure you claim for it. Click here for guidance on how to find lost pensions. Finally, watch your State Pension. If you are out of work or sick at any time, you may not be making National Insurance contributions. This in turn may mean you will not receive the maximum State Pension. To find out what your State Pension could look like, click here. You can always make voluntary contributions if you currently will not be receiving the maximum amount.
Make the most of your retirement
Whatever our attitude to retirement may be, if we look retirement in the face, we will find it can be a time of exploration, challenge, opportunities, and freedom. And all of that needs financing which needs monitoring and adapting throughout our lives. Here at Portafina we offer pension reviews and specialist guidance concerning pension accessibility and management. We are here to help you make the most of your retirement.