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How to save for retirement – from your 20s through to your 60s

·4-min read
How to save for retirement (Alamy/PA)
How to save for retirement (Alamy/PA)

It’s never too early – or too late – to do something about saving for your retirement. And it’s natural to make adjustments to retirement saving through life, as more immediate priorities shift and change.

Unsure where to start or whether your retirement saving is on a good track? To help, Fraser Kerr, a financial planning expert at abrdn (abrdn.com), shares his guide to saving for the future through the decades…

In your 20s

While you may just be climbing onto the career ladder at this stage, and retirement may seem like a very long way off, this is where you can start to embed healthy savings habits.

“It’s important to introduce good savings habits and proactively engage with your finances as soon as your start earning money,” says Kerr. “The more you can do earlier in life, the more valuable it will be when you need it later.”

It’s never too early to start a saving habit (Alamy/PA)
It’s never too early to start a saving habit (Alamy/PA)

He suggests that investments, such as stocks and shares Isas, could help people save faster for more immediate goals – perhaps for a wedding or a property – “so you can move focus to saving for retirement”.

Bear in mind that the value of investments can go down as well as up. And Kerr adds: “Make sure you still take advantage of any workplace pension schemes available to you.”

  • Aged at least 22

  • Earning at least £10,000 with an employer

Employees aged between 22 and state pension age who earn at least £10,000 with an employer are automatically placed into a workplace pension. As well as tax relief, they also get the benefits of employer contributions.

“These contributions are essentially free money and will help you kick start your pension without much effort,” says Kerr.

In your 30s and 40s

While you may be earning more than you were in your 20s, your outgoings, such as childcare costs if you’ve started a family, may also have increased.

Financial demands can change throughout life (Alamy/PA)
Financial demands can change throughout life (Alamy/PA)

“You might want to consider ‘salary sacrifice’ to maximise your payments into your pension. This is where an employee can agree to reduce their earnings each month to redirect it instead into their pension,” suggests Kerr. “If you receive any bonus payments, redirecting these into your pension could also be a great way to maximise tax-efficiencies.

“If you haven’t already, now could also be a good time to seek financial advice, especially if you’re not sure how much money you’re going to need in retirement,” he adds. “This will be to ensure that a strategy is put in place that is right for you.”

Free online general guidance is also available, such as Money Helper’s retirement checklist.

In your 50s and 60s

“You might consider using a retirement calculator or online guides that will help you determine how close you are to retirement, or speak to a financial adviser if you want an answer individualised to you,” says Kerr.

“At abrdn, we have a retirement calculator on our website, so you can work out what a realistic retirement age may be for you.”

People may be considering accessing their pension in their 50s or 60s, and currently under the pension freedoms, savers have a range of potential options once they reach the age of 55. The Government-backed Pension Wise service gives general guidance to people aged 50 and over about their options for free.

However, Kerr cautions: “Remember, at 55 you’ll be able to access your pension, but consider whether you really need to at this stage, as there could be tax implications involved if you’re still paying in. You also need to ensure you have enough money to last throughout your retirement years.”

Kerr suggests using the UK Government’s state pension forecast tool to check your state pension entitlements. The age when people start to receive their state pension depends on when they were born.

Kerr adds: “As you approach the home straight, make sure you’re topping up your pension as much as you can before you stop earning a regular income.

“Don’t be alarmed if you think you might need to work into retirement as you wouldn’t be alone, with our recent research into 2022 retirees showing 66% will continue to work in some form in retirement and that a flexible, blended approach is becoming more and more common.

“Whatever your plans, it’s important to remember that everyone’s circumstances are very different,” says Kerr. “There are always good behaviours you can introduce, and remember that always saving something, no matter the amount, is a step in the right direction.”