One in 10 will never be able to retire
In either case there's some bad news for you today; researchers asked people when they would realistically be able to retire, and one in 10 replied 'never'.
So just how bad have things become?
Rising retirement ages
The survey, by Barings Asset Management, found that the expected age of retirement has crept gradually up. Nowadays some 378,000 Brits plan to retire over the age of 71.
Today, over a third (37%) of us expect to retire over the age of 61 - this is an 11% increase from last year and is likely to reflect the dawning realisation that the state pension is not going to materialise for a good long while, and we simply don't have the alternative funds in the bank.
At the same time the number who were hoping for an early retirement has plunged through the floor. The number expecting to put their feet up between the ages of 56 and 60 has fallen every year from 31% in 2008 to 11% this year. The number who expect to retire between the ages of 66 and 71 has never been higher. This year it has hit 11% - which is double last year's figure.
More worrying signs
These figures are depressing enough on their own. If you wanted a decade of healthy, happy retirement, then starting in your 70s means that decade is going to have to take you into your eighties, so world travel is off the agenda if you ever wanted to hire a car or get travel insurance. It looks like retirement is no longer a period where we can finally enjoy our leisure, but has become the last few years when we're just too worn out to work.
But this isn't the worst of it. The same survey also revealed two other groups which are growing dramatically, and are far more worrying.
The first is the number of people who say they will never be able to afford to retire. This group faces dropping dead at their desk (if they are lucky) or being forced into retirement by ill-health before they have any funds built up to help them pay for it. The alarming thing about this group is how many of them are aged between 55 and 64. A shocking one in ten people in this group see retirement as an impossibility - and they are in a position to really understand what's possible.
The second is those who haven't a clue. Some 15% of over 65s say they don't know when they will retire and nearly a third of those aged 45-64 are unable to guess when they'll have the cash. This means they have given no real attention to saving for their retirement, and are likely to have some very bad news lying in wait for them.
What can you do?
Both groups are alarming, but everyone within this survey could have benefited from three simple steps that will transform every retirement - whatever your age.
1. Decide when you want to retire - and it pays to be realistic even at this stage.
2. Talk to a financial adviser, or use an online pension calculator to work out what you need to put aside right now in order to be able to afford that retirement.
3. Recover from the shock, and tweak the dates and figures. If the contributions are way beyond the realms of possibility, consider if you can afford to take more risk with your pension investments or whether you have to move your retirement date later. Keep going until you reach a level of contributions you can bear. Then stick with your plan.
You won't be able to retire in your 50s, and you may need to put aside far more money than you ever expected, but this process will lift you out of the danger zone where you will have to work until you drop or retire in poverty.
But what do you think? When will you be able to retire? Or is the whole area just a complex and troubling mystery? Let us know in the comments.
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