How long will retirement be?

And what it will cost to do it your way

How do you picture your retirement? Maybe you’ve got a list of things you want to do and places you’d like to see. Or perhaps it’s more about the lifestyle you’d like when you finally stop working. 

Turning your dreams into reality takes careful planning and budgeting. But how can you do that if you don’t know how long your money will need to last?

A beginning and an end

On the one hand, working out the length of your retirement is pretty simple. There’s a start point — when you retire — and an end point — when you die. But working out the details is more complicated than that.

People are living longer

Life expectancy has increased in the UK over the last 40 years Footnote [1]. So what does that mean if you’re getting close to retirement now? A 65 year old in England could expect to live on average to almost 84 if they’re a man, while if they’re a woman they could expect on average to live to 86 Footnote [1].

A longer life has got to be a good thing, right? But there’s a danger that you won't have planned for this extra time spent in retirement. And if the gap is large, you could end up not doing all you want or not having the level of comfort you hoped for.

Estimate your life expectancy

A good way of working out your likely life expectancy is with calculators that use your age, gender and lifestyle. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has a simple life expectancy calculator you can try. Looking at when people in your recent family died can also give you an idea of how long you may live. But when you're planning for retirement you may live longer than your life expectancy, so you should work this into your figures.

Life expectancy doesn’t stand still

The later you were born, the longer you can expect to live. Remember we said that a man who is 65-years-old today could live until he's nearly 84? For children born in 2020, boys are expected to live until 87.3 years and girls to 90.2 Footnote [2], according to the ONS. 

So, you should always look at your retirement plans based on the most likely lifespans for your age range.

When can you start your retirement?

This comes largely down to what you can afford and your ability or desire to keep on working. You’ll need to find out how much you might get from your State Pension and any private pensions, savings or income. You can find out more about how much you might receive from your State Pension on the Gov Website.

The State Pension age is currently 66 for men and women. For those born after 5 April 1960, there will be a phased increase in State Pension age to 67, and eventually 68.

If you have a private pension, it'll also have an age from which you can start taking money from it. It's usually 55 (57 after 5 April 2028 unless you have a protected pension age), but check the details of your plan or talk to your provider for details.

Please be aware that the value of investments and many private pensions can go down as well as up and you could get back less than has been paid in. You'll need to be aware of this when planning what your retirement income might be.

Getting the right balance

Once you’ve got a good idea of your life expectancy, pension pot and any other retirement income, you can make an informed decision about when you want your retirement to start.

You may choose to start your retirement as early as possible — particularly if work has become physically hard — or it might be better for you to keep working for a while to increase your pension pot and reduce the number of years it needs to provide for. If you're planning to retire early, remember that your pension pot and retirement income will need to provide for you for a longer period of time.

This really depends on your personal circumstances and what you want and need from your retirement.

Again, there are tools that can help you to work out the lump sums and regular income that may be available to you. And by moving around some of the dates and figures, you can get a real sense of what’s going to work for you.

When making decisions about your retirement and planning how to take your retirement income, you should research all of the options available to you. We recommend you get appropriate guidance or financial advice to help you.

Pension Wise from MoneyHelper is a free, impartial, government-backed guidance service. If you're 50 or over, you have a defined contribution pension and you want to understand your retirement options, make it your first port of call. Visit the MoneyHelper website or call 0800 138 3944 for details.

If you'd like a personalised recommendation based on your circumstances, you should seek financial advice. Remember that financial advisers may charge for their services. You can find a financial adviser in your area at

Plan, refine and take action if necessary

With thought and planning you can start to take control of your retirement. Once you get an idea of its length, what your pension income might be and how you want to spend that period of your life, you can identify gaps and plan to address these.

Whatever you do, don’t just leave it to chance.

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