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Am I too old to save for retirement?
Photography by Tofiqu Barbhuiy on Unsplash

April 2024 – Gigi Eligoloff

Theme: Money

Am I too old to save for retirement?

In a world where financial planning often takes a backseat (and we can come up with all sorts of good reasons why we do this), This Curious Life contributor Gigi Eligoloff gets brave. Approaching sixty with uncertainty looming over her pension prospects, Gigi embarks on a journey of financial makeover for us. Taking her head out of the sand and with some guidance from trusted advisors, she navigates the complexities of retirement planning, shedding light on the necessity of early financial education and prudent decision-making and shares why this is truly a conversation that is relevant for all ages. 

Photography by Getty Images on Unsplash

Like a lot of people, I occasionally worry about not having enough money when I retire, and yet don’t do a thing about it. Now, three years away from hitting sixty, I genuinely have no idea which pension camp I will slide into, but I think I want to know. I’m embarrassed about my complete lack of financial planning. Will I be comfortable enough to eat out once a month as well as having enough money to help out my adult children? Or is my inertia going to surrender me to years and years of buying own brand baked beans and sitting in my local library to keep warm? I’ve been speed skating into my third chapter with a cushion in front of my face. So, is it too late to take control? 


I’m not the only one of my generation in this over-fermenting money pickle.

I’m not the only one of my generation in this over-fermenting money pickle. Although the government introduced auto-enrolment for pensions in 2012, the set contributions were small and, anyway, I was 46 by then with two small children. My retirement planning should have started decades earlier.   In 2022, the International Longevity Centre estimated that 30 per cent of Generation X – about 4.2 million people – were on track for an insufficient pension for their retirement and 14% of my generation have no private pension whatsoever. 

 The only person I trust when it comes to money is Martin Lewis. Martin’s first tip for someone like me, whose only debt is their mortgage, is to interrogate my direct debits to ensure I am not missing out on a better deal. I looked at everything! From broadband and phone contracts to car, pet and home insurance. That took a day. I’m not kidding but I did find a few areas where I was paying nearly double the cheaper alternative. And with a couple of phone calls and some time on the computer, I made the changes and saved myself some money. Making these small changes actually motivated me to do the next thing which was to tackle the really scary stuff like mortgages, pensions and planning for a possible retirement. Preferably one which avoided the horror of joining the growing number of pensioners dealing daily with a ‘heat or eat’ struggle. 

 The latest figures show that if we want to avoid pension poverty, we should be aiming for a private pension which can top up the basic state pension by around £3,000 a year. The full state pension is currently £11,500. Even with that top up we will have to give up running a car, have only £50 spend on food a week and limit ourselves to one UK based holiday a year. Martin recommends two trusted starting points for getting help with a financial makeover. I contacted one of them, Vouched For, who were happy to put me in touch with someone who, they promised, could help. 


Kirsty Stone in a green dress smiling at the camera

Kirsty Stone.

Vouched For is a collection of verified financial advisors with reviews to help you find who might suit and how they work. The reviews on the site are verified which gave me some peace of mind and I was put in contact with Kirsty Stone, an Independent Financial Chartered Advisor from The Private Office, one of many independent financial services companies who are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. 

I needed to get all my financial information together, which was no mean feat. As a freelancer I get a lot of short term contracts each of which enrols me in a new pension provider. This means I have six separate pensions, most of which I suspect are worth peanuts. 

But there was good news, Kirsty told me that it’s really never too late to do something about your situation.

Kirsty and I spent an hour and a half on the phone talking through my circumstances, income, savings, pensions and my retirement goals. She also asked me whether I was risk averse. ‘Very’ I squeaked. I asked her what the biggest mistake people make about money was and she told me, it was putting your head in the sand. Which was me all over. But there was good news, Kirsty told me that it’s really never too late to do something about your situation. So this is what I learned and what I am going to do about it. 


Status — I have two parts to my mortgage both of which are on manageable interest rates and are locked in for at least another year. 

Lesson — Thankfully the mortgage rates are the only thing I do pay attention to. As a very risk averse person, my only debt is something I monitor closely. I clearly need to afford the same attention to the rest of my finances. 


Status — Being self-employed I have learnt to ensure I have accessible cash savings to cover periods when I am not working. Those savings are in a savings account in my bank. 

Lesson — Even easy access cash savings should be in the best account possible, which is usually not your own bank. Kirsty recommended checking my interest rate on Savings Champion and I can immediately see that by moving my savings I will double the interest I get. 

A seedling sprouting out of a jar of money

Photography by Tofiqu Barbhuiy on Unsplash


Status — None of my pensions are currently worth enough to top me up to where I need to be, let alone where I want to be (seriously is it too much to ask that I am able to afford my once a week Tonys Chocoloney bar?) But, one of the pensions, which I had paid the bare minimum into for a few years in my twenties (and then forgot about), was now a blossoming money tree. Okay, more of a sapling, but it’s something. 

LESSON — My money sapling is a lifeline I didn’t know I had and if I can manage to save £50 a month into it from now on, it will make a difference to my future. Much to my embarrassment, I have only just learned that the government gives tax relief on any private pension contributions. That is money they don’t take in tax. Which is sort of free money. From the government. I know! For basic tax payers the government bumps your contribution up by 20%. For higher tax payers it’s even more. I don’t know why I didn’t ever understand this, but anything that reduces my tax bills is something I’d be plain stupid to ignore. 

I am going to tell every person in their twenties, thirties and beyond to plan for their later life. This is a lesson that needs to be shared between the generations.

The biggest lesson I have learned going through this painful process is that I should have done it years ago. Especially if I want to be able to get beyond Eastbourne for my annual holiday. But what flummoxes me is why so many of us choose to stay in the dark when it comes to planning ahead? Isn’t there something horribly wrong with the way we all throw ourselves into being grown-ups and earning money without a thought for our futures? Maybe financial planning should be part of the curriculum, certainly for the 16-18 year old bracket. Perhaps we should all have to take a test, like learning to drive, to demonstrate we are competent to earn? I thought I would want to work forever and that trying to pay into things like pensions was only for the mega-wealthy and ‘business-type people’. That careless attitude has resulted in adding a fresh financial anxiety to approaching this chapter of my life, can I even afford to? And, beyond finally taking control of my financial planning, I am going to tell every person in their twenties, thirties and beyond to plan for their later life. This is a lesson that needs to be shared between the generations. Pension classes will probably be one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. Will they listen? I hope so. As Kirsty said to me: “Sixty comes around quicker than you imagine”.  

More Information

Further reading.

Most Financial Advisors will give you a free of charge initial meeting or phone call to get an idea of your situation and then talk about where they can help. If you wish to proceed with their help, that’s when they will charge you either a fixed fee or if you have an on-going relationship with them, this might instead be a percentage of the amount you want to invest. 


This Curious Life is not associated with any of the following organisations and the advice supplied here is no substitute for independent financial advice from a regulated body. 

Vouched For is an regulated organisation that exists to help you search for an independent financial advisor 

The Private Office 

Pension Wise is a free, unbiased guide to pensions from the government 

For advice from Martin Lewis on everything from mortgages, saving, spending, holidays and anything money related. 

Savings champion a savings comparison website