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Preparation is the secret to a happy retirement

Not surprisingly, I’m a big believer in planning. That’s especially true when it comes to the golden years of our retirement. But will those years really be golden, or more like copper?!

I am in the fortunate position to have met and shared the retirement plans of thousands of couples over my 26 years as a financial planner. That work has shown me some patterns, things people have had in common to help them enjoy a successful, vibrant retirement.

You can benefit from that experience, and plan ahead to help make your retirement the best years of your life.

Know your number

How much will you need to have saved so that you can enjoy a comfortable retirement?

I call this your number, and it’s unique to you, because it depends entirely on your retirement plans.

You can calculate your number by writing down all the things you expect to spend in your retirement years. That may seem difficult, but if you break it down into a plan, it will become clearer.

Some costs you’ll know, like utilities. Others you’ll need to estimate. And this is where those patterns come in.

Life’s chapters

In my book The Money Plan, I refer to the three chapters of our retirement.

In your first chapter of c.10 years, you’ll likely be more active and want to travel more often and further afield – play out your bucket list – so you’ll spend more.

The second chapter often begins around age 75 and typically sees much less travel, or at least less long-haul, which reduces costs.

When we approach the third chapter, from around age 85 onwards, expenditure is more about getting around. Do we keep a car or not? Medical spending is very often the overriding cost.

Once you’ve added up all your projected costs, you can plan your monthly budget. Get a free downloadable spreadsheet at to help.

Do you have enough?

To cover these costs you will have a mixture of your state pension and any private pensions. Request updated statements to see where you are now.

If you have enough now, you could ask why do you continue to work? If you’re short, calculate how long would it take me to meet the shortfall? To estimate this, you can use the rule of 300: multiply how much you’re short each month by 300 to see how much more you need to save. So if you need an extra £200pm, you need to target an additional £60,000 in your pension (200×300).

Start planning your retirement now – not just by knowing your number and saving, but by deciding, how will you live the rest of your life? We only get one chance at life, so make it count.


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