Now, more than ever, we need to consider how our financial decisions will impact us in later life. As the national retirement age moves back, and the cost of living gets higher, planning for the future is key. Those still working can take decisions now to help them prepare better, but for those already in retirement, the options are far more limited. Instead of saving for the future, today's retirees are dealing with the consequences of past choices.
Our latest report on global retirement trends, Life After Work?, which surveyed over 16,000 people, found that many retirees in Britain have regrets about their retirement planning. It revealed that almost two-fifths of UK retirees did not prepare adequately or at all for a comfortable retirement, leaving many having to make sacrifices in later life.
In fact, nearly half of retired Britons who have not achieved their aspirations for retirement blame this on having less money than they had envisioned. While poor health and having less spare time have also been to blame for failing to achieve their dreams, the harsh reality is that the traditional image of retirement has to give way to compromises.
Many retired people around the world have to sacrifice ambitions such as travelling and spending more time with their friends and family as they find they simply cannot afford to fulfill these. Our findings show that of those who have less money than they expected to live on, seven in ten regret not saving more in order to live out their aspirations.
Beyond a lack of realistic planning before retirement, we found that many retirees have unrealistic expectations about their income once they retire. Nearly a third found that their income was less than expected, many blaming the shortfall on the global economic crisis. Others identified poor financial planning and outstanding debts as the reason for a shortfall in retirement finances.
Whatever the reason for the disparity between expectations and reality, many retirees believe that making up the shortfall will be difficult at best, if not impossible. Indeed, nearly half of retirees across Britain told us that they do not believe they will ever make up the difference. Similarly, among those whose income was less than expected, we found that the difference was more acute amongst women than men.
However, not all retirees have given up hope of improving their finances. In fact, we found that 14% of retirees globally expect to have to rejoin the workforce to boost their income. Furthermore, it seems that those who are yet to retire are facing similar problems with one in five Britons stating that they will never be able to afford to leave paid work and retire fully; the highest figure of the 15 countries surveyed.
As we grow older as a nation, we need to consider the impact of our actions not only for ourselves, but for the generations to come. Key to our research is that financial hardship comes second only to poor health as the biggest fear that retired people have for the years ahead.
To guard against a feeling of regret as we reach our twilight years, we must consider how we will provide for our future selves. We all have a picture of what our retirement will look like - whether that be time spent tending to our garden, travelling the world or spoiling the grandchildren - but to ensure we are able to live out our dreams, there is only one answer: the earlier we start to plan and save, the better shape our finances will be in, and the fewer retirement regrets we will have.