If you’re in your late 50s or early 60s you may be coming up for some big changes in your life. Perhaps you have more time to think about yourself if children have flown the nest. Perhaps full-time paid employment is looking less and less appealing. Perhaps your priorities have shifted – you want to focus on your health, your friends or your community.

You’re not getting any younger but you’re far from “old”. It’s time to think about what your future might look like. Preparing for retirement can be scary and exciting in equal measure, and there are so many variables it can be hard to reach any concrete conclusions. We’re here to help you find some firm ground to stand on and survey the coming years.

How to plan for retirement

There’s no ‘average retirement’. Your best friend might be buying a camper van and setting off across America, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Your choices could be different: it could be travel, but it could be volunteering, studying, training until you can bench-press 75% of your body weight or just working your way through that pile of books by your bedside. When it comes to preparing for retirement, our checklist will help you work out how to retire in a way that works for you. We’ll help you think about:

  • what sort of retirement you might want
  • how much money you’ll have coming in
  • what the best way to access that money might be.

Planning for retirement checklist

When it comes to planning for retirement it can feel like there’s so much to consider, it’s hard to know where to begin. So let’s start with the basics:

  • Do you know when you plan to retire and when you’ll take your State Pension? While you can access your private pension from 55 (rising to 57 from 2028), the current State Pension age is much later. You can check your State Pension age at gov.uk
  • What do you want your retirement to look like? The Retirement Living Standards website can help with that. It’ll help you think about what kind of lifestyle you’d like to have in retirement, and how much you’ll need to fund it
  • Use a free budget planner to get a good understanding of your money. It’s important to know what your current financial situation is, and what you might be able to cut back on in retirement as your income changes
  • Try to think about what you might need to budget for in the future. It’s difficult to imagine the unexpected, but you may need to think how you’re going to fund a new car or a new boiler.

Having a clearer idea of how you want to spend your retirement is one part of planning for retirement. The next part is how to fund it. You may have some pension savings, be relying on the State Pension or be considering part-time work or downsizing your home to free up capital. There are lots of sources of income you might be able to access:

  • To receive the full new State Pension, you’ll usually need to have paid a total of 35 years of National Insurance contributions. You might find you have fewer than 35 years of contributions though - you may have taken a break from work to have children, or earnt less than the National Insurance threshold. You can top it up by making voluntary contributions. Head over to gov.uk to check whether there are any gaps in your National Insurance records that you can fill
  • If you have been paying into a personal pension or workplace pension, find the most recent statements and see what income you can expect
  • Track down any lost pensions. Between new jobs and house moves, it’s easy to lose track of pensions. But having a complete understanding of how much you can expect in retirement – and not missing out on one of more of those pots - is a really important part of planning for retirement. You can learn more in our article ‘How to track down your old pensions
  • Do you plan on working in retirement? Lots of people carry on working to top-up their pension income, keep active, to give their life structure and purpose, and to enjoy the social life work brings
  • Do you have any other sources of income, like savings or ISAs?

Whatever your situation, a qualified financial adviser may be able to help you decide the best route. You can find one at Unbiased, although you might need to pay for their advice.


We spoke to Angela Kirkwood from Pension Wise, a free and impartial government guidance service from MoneyHelper in our podcast, Rewirement. She shared her tips with us on what to think about when planning for retirement, and says: “When you come to retirement and taking your money out of your pension, you have a lot of options. Pension Wise is an appointment for over 50s. It will look at all the options you have. I would say it's actually more relevant when you are starting to think about taking your money out, because basically your pension provider will send you a statement saying, ‘it's time to take your benefits. Here are all your options’. That can become overwhelming.”

Retirement planning calculator

Now you’ve thought about how to retire, let’s start thinking about how you’ll access your retirement income. When you’re planning for retirement, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Having a good understanding of how much money you have to retire with can help though. A retirement planning calculator is a really useful tool that can help you start to put some plans in place, and begin to think about things like:

  • when you would like to retire
  • how much money you have to retire with
  • how you would like to access your retirement income.

Our Retirement Income Calculator is a good place to start. Just enter your age and how much you have in your pension pot (not including any final salary pensions you might have, or your State Pension) and it will show you how much you can access tax free, how much will be left in your pension pot, and how you can access this money.

What will your retirement look like?

Understanding how much your retirement income will be is all part of planning for retirement. Our Retirement Income Calculator can help.

Annuities and drawdown are two of the most common ways of taking a regular income in retirement. If you’re not sure which one is right for you, you can read our article – Annuity vs Drawdown to learn more.

Preparing for retirement

When it comes to planning for retirement, you don’t have to do it all in one go. But making time to work through your options is one of the best ways of maximising your income. Most of us spend more time picking out a car or choosing a new bathroom than planning for the last third of our adult life.

Angela says: “You don't need to be an expert. It's just taking a little bit of time and knowing where to go for a bit of guidance and thinking, ‘I don't need to learn everything about pensions, I just need to know about me and my circumstances and where I can go and get hints, tips, small things that I can do’…”

If you’re preparing for retirement, use our free articles and resources to help:

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