Not many workers can match the length of service of the Queen or the Duke of Edinburgh but since the abolition of the default retirement age, more and more people are now retiring later in life.

Granted there are other factors also at play such as increased economic uncertainty, increasing longevity, a growing number in defined contribution pensions and so on. But should everyone now expect to work longer or is there a choice? 

One of my financial planning colleagues has the perfect story that he sometimes tells clients when looking at planning for retirement.

He asks them when they want to retire. Many find this a bit surprising as a first question as they expect him to go into their income and expenditure, assets and liabilities, needs, circumstances and attitude to risk first. However, when he encourages them to share, they often say they don't know because they don't know when they can afford to retire. He then tells them that he has looked at his own situation and seen that he could afford to retire now - he is only 38 and despite rumours about pay levels in financial services, he is not wealthy. He then goes on to tell them that for him to retire now he would have to convince his wife and two young children to sell their home and all their worldy belongings and move to Nepal to live a life of contemplation and frugality. With this illustration he then goes on to review what these clients want from their retirement, their key goals and the standard of living they want to have. Of course he does then go on to look at their current financial position, their assets and liabilities, their income and expenditure, their family circumstances, needs and goals.

What this illustrates so well is that everyone should have some idea of what they are aiming for before they can start their decision making and that ultimately there are choices to be made. It is extremely unlikely that even given exactly the same pension savings, no two people will have the same financial aims and expectations or personal circumstances. So they are likely to have very different choices when it comes to looking at when they can retire and what they can expect from each of their retirements.

People planning towards retirement should of course look at their pension, other savings, assets and investments. They should also absolutely use pension modellers and budgeting tools as a guide to see what they might expect in retirement. But with something as important as this many would also benefit from sitting with a financial planning professional to see exactly when they could afford to retire and the things they could do ahead of retirement to enhance their choices at retirement. 

For some it may be a surprise to see just how soon they could afford to retire and it may give them the comfort and confidence to choose their retirement date rather than it being an unknown. Ultimately, it is better for individual employees and their employers, that they have a planned retirement date and that  they move towards this with confidence in their financial decisions, supporting a smooth and positive transition into retirement.