How much should I save to retire at 50?
4 minute read
For many people, retirement seems a long way away. Some won’t have considered what they want their lives to look like once they retire – but there are also plenty of others who dream about retiring early. If you can afford it, retiring while you're still relatively young could allow you to enjoy life free of work before facing the challenges of ageing.
However, it can be tricky to determine how much money you need to save before taking the leap into early retirement. The right amount is different for each individual and working it out requires some careful planning. Start by answering these five questions to determine how much you’ll need to save to retire at 50.
1. What retirement lifestyle do I want?
Before we start talking about finances, thinking about what you’d like to do during your retirement can help clarify how much money you’ll need. Retirement can seem like an exciting prospect as you don’t need to go to work, but often people end up with more time on their hands than they first anticipated.
We all have different retirement lifestyles in mind. You might be comfortable living a bit more frugally, want to travel – or maybe you want to use your early retirement income to start a personal project. You might even find that you don’t want to stop working completely. In this case, you could turn a project into starting your own business. Striving towards what you want, and putting savings away to try to achieve this, is a good starting point and motivator.
2. How much will I need to live on each year?
It will depend on the retirement lifestyle you want to live – but to help provide some direction, you could try the ‘50-70 rule’. It suggests that you should aim for a total retirement savings pot, that allows you to have an annual income of between 50-70% of your pre-retirement income.1 So, if you’re used to living on £40,000 a year, you might need a retirement income of roughly £20,000 to £28,000.
However, the rule doesn’t work for everyone. For example, if you expect to be paying rent and have a car payment, you’ll likely need more income than someone who has a mortgage paid off and doesn’t drive. So, in addition to using the 50-70 rule as a guide, take time to calculate your basic annual expenses. Also, be sure to include any special things you'll want to buy or do during retirement, such as travel or golf.
3. How much can I depend on my pension?
You can’t take pension benefits before the normal minimum pension age (NMPA) of 55 (rising to age 57 by 2028) unless you have a protected pension age or are in ill health.
If you plan to retire before the NMPA, you'll need to determine where you'll get income from during that period. This is important to remember when you’re starting your savings journey. Say you’re in your 20s or early 30s – you’ll need to plan for the fact that the NMPA to access your private pension may change again in the future. So, you’ll need to save enough to live on beyond the age of 57.
Depending on your personal situation – you’ll probably need significant savings or income from other investments to tide you over until you can access your pension. Remember, the value of an investment, and any income you take from it can fall as well as rise, isn’t guaranteed and you could get back less than you invest.
Your workplace pension differs slightly from any private pensions you may have. Under auto-enrolment your employer may be making contributions to your workplace pension too. Generally, employees need to put in at least 5% of their annual salary and their employer must add a minimum of 3% on top of that2 – but each organisation will have their own contribution structure for their workplace pension so make sure to check this out. Try to take advantage of your employer contributions to boost your pension and build a healthy retirement pot.
Our Financial Wellbeing Index can help you work out how much you should be contributing to your pension – check out the Long-term savings section.
Also, remember to include your State Pension entitlement. You can’t access your state pension until you’re 66 – this is rising to 67 between 2026 and 2028 and is expected to rise again to 68 between 2044 and 2046. This is another additional piece of income to factor into your financial planning for when you reach this age.
For more information about how the State Pension fits into this, read our article Your guide to understanding the State Pension.
4. Can you delay taking pension payments?
Even though you can withdraw funds from your pension at NMPA, delaying taking your pension will give your pension pot more time to grow. For example, you could work to save enough money to avoid taking pension payments until age 65 or later. By living off savings for a period of time, you would be able to preserve your pension pot and ensure that it will last longer in retirement.
As mentioned, by doing this you will need to have more money in other savings or investments that you could draw from until you choose to access your pension.
5. How many years do you expect to be retired?
There are no guarantees for how long any of us will live, but for retirement planning purposes, you’ll have to make an informed guess. Find out the average life expectancy for a person of your gender in your geographic region. Also, consider your family history. For example, if you expect to live to the age of 85 and you plan to retire at 50, you’ll need to save enough to support yourself for 35 years in retirement.
When you have a general idea of how many years you might expect to live, you can calculate how many years you’ll need to plan for in retirement. There are plenty of online retirement calculators available.
Once you’ve answered these five questions, you should be able to develop a better idea for how much you’ll need to retire at 50 – or any age. Even if retirement seems a long way off for you, it’s never too early to start thinking and saving towards it. The earlier you start the better.
The key is to understand that your retirement will look different from someone else’s retirement, and the amount you need to save will depend on your specific situation and expectations.
Remember, financial advisers are highly qualified professionals who can help coach you towards achieving your financial goals and keep you accountable. If you don’t already have a financial adviser, you can find one near you by visiting MoneyHelper.
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1How much should I pay into my pension? Data source, Nick Green, unbiased.co.uk, March 2022.
2Workplace pensions. Data source, Gov.UK, March, 2022.