Fifty. Shades of Grey.

Author Virginia Woolf in her renowned 1925 novel, ‘Mrs Dalloway’, described one its characters thus:  “he is elderly, past fifty now”.

Ouch!  That hurt!   Perhaps Woolf can be forgiven for her words were written only a few years after the end of World War 1, a dreadful period in history when many did not even reach their twenties.

Contrast Woolf’s then perception of over-fifties with the likelihood that of babies born today, one in three is expected to live beyond a hundred[1] and we can see that in less than a hundred years, both perceptions of and the reality of what is old have changed dramatically.

Movie stars such as Julianne Moore, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Sandra Bullock all recently turned 50 – shades of grey they are not.  They may set the bar higher than we mortals can possibly aspire to but better diet and general health mean we’re living longer and more youthfully; we look and feel 20 years younger than our parents did at our age.

Of course there are exceptions but there’s no getting away from it:  we are living longer.  Between 2015 and 2050, the number of 60 to 79 year-olds on earth will increase by 860 million, or 111%.[1]

Hopefully for most of us, these extra years will be ones that we can enjoy to the full.  But it does mean that if we do want to retire at the age our parents did – anytime between sixty and sixty-five – we’ll need to plan for it.   If you’re in your twenties or early thirties, now is the time to work out how much you’ll need to put aside for the kind of retirement you want.

By the time today’s twenty and thirty somethings approach their sixties, the whole nature of retirement as we currently know is likely to have evolved – indeed, the evolution is already taking place.

Retirement doesn’t necessarily mean stopping work altogether.   Today, many now choose to work part-time in later life or even embark on a different type of work; one perhaps that suits their lifestyle better.   And this shift is likely to increase over coming years.

While part of this shift is due to people simply not wanting to retire at the traditional time because they enjoy working, for many it will be because they have not built up sufficient funds in their pension to allow them to retire.

The pension freedom changes that have come into effect this week have led to what has traditionally been viewed as a dull topic to being headline news.  Few can be unaware of the advantages -and the dangers – that pension freedom will bring.

The focus to date has unsurprisingly been on how the baby boom generation can cash in their pension savings and the attendant headlines on purchases of Lamborghinis, buy-to-let property and luxury cruises.

Once the dust has settled, there has to be more focus on what the younger generation needs to do to prepare for life after work.   Help is at hand as many newspapers have personal finance sections that are constantly updated on matters related to retirement planning.  The government run Money Advice Service also has a pensions calculator that helps give you an indication of how much and for how long you’d need to save depending on the kind of retirement lifestyle you’d like.  The new government Pension Wise also offers guidance for those considering their current pension options.  And, of course, if you’re at all unsure about your options, consult an independent financial adviser.

The world of planning for retirement has become several, if not fifty, less shades of grey.


  1. ABI. Retirement 2015. February 2015.

The information provided in this article was accurate at the time of publishing and should be read in the context of the date it was published. Views in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the view of Scottish Friendly. No advice has been provided by Scottish Friendly. If you are in any doubt as to whether a savings or investment plan is suitable for you, you should contact a financial adviser for advice. If you do not have a financial adviser, you can get details of local financial advisers by visiting Advisers may charge for providing such advice and should confirm any cost beforehand.