Learn. Work. Retire.
Three little words you won’t find emblazoned on a mug, yet their meaning is ingrained in our consciousness.
And like their more fashionable cousin, Eat. Sleep. (Read/Run/Rave). Repeat., they’re crying out for a revamp.
Because while most of us still think in terms of a relatively simple three-stage life – education comes first, then working and perhaps raising a family, and finally retirement and leisure – that model no longer adds up.
Thanks to breakthroughs in medicine and public health, we’re living longer lives. You most likely underestimate your own life expectancy. Based solely on my age and sex, I’ve got a one in four chance of reaching 95. One in five baby girls in the UK today will reach 100.
But for longer lives to be better lives, we need to change the way we think about how – and when – we work, learn, save, care for our families, and retire.
Take education. If living longer means working longer, wouldn’t you like to think acquiring new knowledge and skills is a lifelong opportunity, not something you get one shot at before you’re even old enough to vote?
As things stand, we’re setting ourselves up to squander longer lives. Our twentieth-century structures and systems are holding us back from enjoying a twenty-first century opportunity. We’re not ready for retirement, and retirement isn’t ready for us.
Phoenix Group, the UK’s largest long-term savings and retirement business, set up our think tank, Phoenix Insights, to address the opportunities and challenges of longer lives. Our first major publication, A Crisis of Confidence, showed that between 15 and 17 million UK adults are not saving enough to retire when they want to and on the income they want. Phoenix is committed to meeting its customers’ needs, be that through the right products or through education, tools and guidance that give everyone the chance to engage with their financial future. That support is desperately needed – when you consider the current lack of guidance available means most people are having to make important decisions about their pension on their own, is it any wonder so many are worried about not having enough retirement income?
We can also play a role in opening people’s eyes to other steps they might take to get closer to the retirement they want, like working for longer and upskilling along the way.
With more than 8,000 colleagues and 13 million customers, Phoenix Group recognises its responsibility to improve everyone’s journeys to and through retirement. Our purpose is to help people
secure a life of possibilities – but we can’t go it alone.
Too often we’ve seen longer lives deprioritised as tomorrow’s problem. We’re here to show our industry peers, politicians and the public that it’s today’s opportunity – and one we want to collaborate on.
Lifelong learning is a great example of where we can work together to drive meaningful change. In our recent report, Never too late to learn, we concluded that reskilling and retraining midlife and older workers would not only increase productivity and accelerate economic growth, but also help people prepare for living longer lives by helping them to work for longer and save more. If we can convince businesses of the case for investing more in upskilling for workers of all ages, people may be in a position to earn and save more, and we could even help reverse the concerning trend of over 50s dropping out of the labour market, many of whom don’t have adequate savings for later life. We know people can find thinking about their longer lives daunting; a fear of the unknown and entrenched ageist stereotypes combine to paralyse us into inaction. But organisations like Phoenix Group are keen to combat this and help.
The good news is, we’re not starting from scratch. Pension auto-enrolment, banning the default retirement age, the right to request flexible work, the promise of a cap on high social care costs – these are all significant steps forward made within recent memory. But if we are truly going to enable millions more of us to make the most of the opportunities of longer lives, we need to go further and faster.
Phoenix Group is committed to being a force for good, driving the research and collaboration necessary to change the way we all approach retirement. It’s a drum we won’t stop beating so policymakers can expect to hear much more from us.
In his time as Chancellor, Rishi Sunak spoke with passion about the importance of reskilling adults, recognising its vital role in unlocking opportunities both for individuals and the economy. We sincerely hope he retains sight of this as PM.
Many believe we’re on the brink of a long, painful recession. And some will argue that rising unemployment, spending cuts and tax rises are, at this point, inevitable.
If that’s the case, it would surely comfort people to know that difficult decisions are being made with their long-term futures in mind. As the nation braces itself for the tough times immediately ahead, can’t we at least make the changes needed to help people have the later life they want?
Our message for Number 10 is simple: it’s time to reshape retirement together.
Catherine Foot is Director of Phoenix Insights, the think tank established by long-term savings and retirement business Phoenix Group to address the challenge of longer lives.
Read more about Phoenix Group’s Let’s Get Ready campaign at thephoenixgroup.com/letsgetready