How do I prepare for retirement?

Retirement can be fulfilling for many people, with more time available for family, friends, and leisure. Make the most of it by ensuring you are financially secure for your later years; there is much you can do to plan ahead.

We’ve put together a few tips to get you started.

Calculate your pension income

The first step is to get a State Pension Statement, which should tell you how much State Pension you’ll get when you retire, based on your National Insurance record.

Then you’ll need to add the pensions you have built up during your working life. Almost everyone has had a number of jobs these days, so that may mean more than one pension pot.

If some of your paperwork has gone astray, and you think you are entitled to more pensions, the UK Government has a service you can use to track it down. The Pensions Advisory Service may also be able to help.

Work out your savings

You’ll also need to work out how much savings you have. Check your bank statements, and any building society accounts. If you have ISAs (Individual Savings Accounts), shares or other financial assets, get a snapshot of their valuation and if any are due to mature or expire by a particular date, keep a note of this.

If you have a mortgage, find out when it is due to be paid off, as that will free up some money. It may make sense to pay it off early, if you can afford to, or if there are no heavy penalties.

For both pensions and savings, jot down the total value, and how much income they will produce.

Prepare a budget

Once you have collected the figures for your likely retirement income, it’s time to work out how far your money will go. As a retired person, you’ll have no more commuting costs, but there will be plenty of expenses left to deal with, so estimate how much money you will need from month to month.

Make a note of your regular outgoings, starting with essentials like rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, insurance, food, and your car, if you have one. Work out what you spend on holidays, hobbies, grandchildren and pets. Add some extra for a rainy day, in case of unexpected household repairs or illness.

Clear any debts

If you have debts, your pension will stretch that much further if you are able to clear them. Some debt, including credit cards and payday loans, can be very expensive. Even if you can’t clear it, you may be able to consolidate it into one loan so it’s more manageable. Make sure you get good professional advice before committing to anything.

When to retire

Once you’ve done your sums, you can start thinking of when to retire. Do you want to retire early – and can you afford to? Or would you prefer to work a bit longer, and have a larger pension when the time comes? If you are delaying your retirement, it’s usually worth contributing more into your pension fund, and this may be matched by your employer. Talk this through with your pensions advisor.

You should also discuss your potential investment options with a financial planner, especially if you are withdrawing a lump sum or buying an annuity, which is a way of putting all your pension pots into one, to get an income for life.

Keep your paperwork up to date

Have you reviewed your pension paperwork recently? It is extremely important that you review your pension policies regularly to ensure that, in the event of your death, the lump sum will be inherited, tax free, by the loved one that you have decided to nominate.

It would also make sense to check your life insurance policies, and your will at the same time, so everything is in order and to give you peace of mind.


An article of this kind can never provide a complete guide to the law in these areas, which may be subject to change from time to time. The opinions and suggestions made within this article should not be interpreted as specific advice in relation to any particular individual or individuals. Neither STEP, the article author or their firm accept responsibility for any loss occasioned by someone acting or refraining to act on the basis of the opinions and suggestions contained in this article. More