What Her Majesty the Queen can teach us about retirement

10th July 2022

At a glance

  • After 70 years of service, the Queen will be the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee.
  • While few people work into their 90s, retirement is not the cut-off point it once was, and many of us can expect to continue working or volunteering after we reach State Pension age.
  • By planning ahead and seeking guidance from an expert financial adviser, you can ensure you have funds in place to make your retirement what you want it to be.

As celebrations marking her Platinum Jubilee get underway, the Queen’s remarkable life and longevity are once again in the spotlight.

At the age of 96, she is still working, albeit not making as many public appearances as she used to. In fact, the recent scaling back of public engagements offers a reminder that the pattern of her later years has in some ways been typical of today’s older generations. Because for a growing number of people, retirement is no longer a cliff-edge event that takes place when they reach State Pension age.

Will retirement become a thing of the past?

When the Queen turned 60 in 1986, there was no withdrawal from public life. State Visits continued right up until the COVID-19 pandemic, while the past three decades have been eventful in other respects. It’s now 30 years since her ‘annus horribilis’, 25 years since the death of Princess Diana and 20 years since she travelled some 40,000 miles around the world for her Golden Jubilee tour.Like the Queen, it’s increasingly likely that those reaching pension age will continue working or taking on their own engagements for years or even decades to come.

“The Queen is an example of someone who has never really retired. Just because you get to a certain age doesn’t mean that you have to stop – you can continue to be engaged, proactive and give to the community,” says Tony Clark, Senior Propositions Manager at St. James’s Place.

Why retirement planning is important

Living for a decade or longer in retirement was still the exception rather than the norm when those now reaching State Pension age began their working lives. Now, however, those of working age know there’s a decent chance of living for two or even three decades past their State Pension age.

A man aged 65 now can expect to live for another 18.5 years on average, while a 65-year-old woman typically has 21 years ahead of her, according to the Office for National Statistics.1

“Previously, getting to retirement was your chance to stop, but now it’s the next phase of life and the chance to start something new,” Tony points out. “You have choices in retirement now.”

There’s also the question of how to manage your emotional wellbeing as you age. The Queen’s loss of Prince Philip last year underlined that later life is a time when bereavement can be a prominent feature.

“No one is ever prepared for that, regardless of how many advisers they have,” says Harriet Shepherd, Financial Wellbeing Manager at St. James’s Place. “You can’t really prepare for the emotional impact of bereavement, but preparing for the financial aspect can provide peace of mind and give you the space to grieve.”

There are several steps you can take to plan ahead and make retirement what you want it to be:

  • Work out what you want

Whether or not you give up work entirely in retirement, you may wish to review how you spend your time and what you want from life.

“You might focus on things that are more meaningful to you, perhaps something that started out as a hobby, doing some volunteering or a different kind of paid work,” says Tony. “Let yourself think about what’s important for you and build that into your plans.”

  • Don’t underestimate your potential life span

Research in 2018 by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that, on average, people in their 50s and 60s underestimated their chances of survival to age 75 by about 20 percentage points and to 85 by around five to ten percentage points.2 This increases the risk of running out of money if you live longer than expected.

“It’s safer to plan on the basis that you’ll live for a long time in retirement,” says Tony. “You need to do some financial planning to ensure you have enough money through retirement.”

  • Talk about it

As you enter your later years, you might be thinking about setting up a power of attorney, so that if you do lose capacity, support will be there. That invariably means having potentially difficult conversations with family members.

“That can be a real worry, asking children to do certain things and being able to have those conversations with them,” says Harriet. “It’s about choosing the right people as well, as you’re passing on responsibility as well as money.”

  • Build your team

The Queen isn’t alone in being able to turn to specialist advisers for financial, legal and other matters.

A financial adviser, for example, can ensure you don’t run out of money later in life, taking longevity into account. They can map out your plans, review them as the years pass, make changes when necessary and help with the difficult conversations.

“They can be invaluable for those conversations and in providing an independent point of view,” says Harriet.


1 National Life Tables – Life Expectancy in the UK: 2018-2020, Office for National Statistics, September 2021

2 Subjective Expectations of Survival and Economic Behaviour by Cormac O’Dea and David Sturrock, Institute for Fiscal Studies, April 2018