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Financing the 100-Year Life: Insights from Emma, 58, UK
Emma on the South Downs, East Sussex, UK

May 2024 – Interview by George Lee

Theme: Money

Financing the 100-Year Life:
Insights from Emma, 58, UK

Planning for retirement can feel overwhelming at any age, but have you ever considered the idea of financing a 100-year life becoming the new normal? In our ongoing conversations with people from around the world, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Emma, a 58-year-old who has approached her retirement planning with a blend of cautious optimism, guided by wise advice she received from her father in her 20s. Emma has also taken the proactive step of training for a new career, recognising the potential for additional income should unexpected expenses arise.  We explored the unique challenges that divorced women face as they approach older age and listened to Emma’s concerns regarding future generations in financing a 100-year life.  

Emma smiling at the camera

TCL. How confident are you that you will have enough money for a 100-year life? 

Emma. I believe I will have enough money to lead a modest life until I reach 100, which I consider myself incredibly fortunate for. This feeling of gratitude stems from my father’s wise advice to start a pension at the age of 23. Although it wasn’t substantial, it has made a significant difference in my financial security. Additionally, throughout my life, I’ve learned to become sensible with money. While I wouldn’t classify myself as wealthy by any means, my pension and future income will be modest, yet sufficient to sustain me.  I feel fortunate, especially when knowing friends who aren’t in a similar financial position. 

“If I get really ill, I have every intention to see if I could end my life..... I prefer not to face a long life filled with illness and lack the financial means to cover necessary care”.

A couple of years ago, at a reunion, an old friend shared with me her spreadsheet showing when she could retire and the income required for a basic lifestyle, £20-£22k annually without a mortgage. This revelation prompted me to consider the cost of living per year, a thought that hadn’t crossed my mind before. This and knowing that the UK state pension is around £10-11k a year has helped me set a target figure for a survivable life. While I know there are unforeseen expenses like car repairs, boiler breakdowns, and potential health issues, I’ve never been reckless with finances and hope I can continue to maintain a sustainable approach. 

I also feel fortunate to live in Lewes, East Sussex, in a modest yet comfortable home. Overall, I cautiously feel optimistic about my ability to sustain myself. If I get a very serious illness which would lead to a poor quality of life, I have every intention of seeing if I could end my life. I don’t want to be long term ill.  I prefer not to face a long life filled with illness and lack the financial means to cover high quality care. 


 TCL. Do you see yourself needing to work well into your 70s, 80s, or beyond just to make ends meet as you get older? Do you think that younger generations will have to work longer?   

Emma. When my state pension kicks in along with other sources of income, I believe I’ll have enough to lead a decent life. However, I’ve also trained as a funeral celebrant, recognising it as a potential source of supplementary income in the future. I’m passionate about this role because I genuinely care about providing the best possible support to those going through difficult times. I’m acutely aware that many people aren’t as fortunate as I am, and I’m immensely grateful to my father, who instilled in me the importance of early saving. 

Emma as a celebrant

Emma as a celebrant.

Many of my friends, like me, have experienced divorce and had to take breaks from their careers to care for their children, leaving them financially worse off. This disparity particularly affects women. Looking at my daughter’s generation, the situation looks worse. They face enormous student loans, struggle to afford housing, and can feel hopeless about the future. My nieces, aged 26 and 30, are wonderful young people who will struggle to ever own their own homes, and it breaks my heart to see them grappling with life’s challenges. It can be incredibly difficult to convince young people of the importance of saving when they can’t even envision a stable future amidst concerns about climate change and other global issues. The rising cost of living, especially rent, only adds to their burdens. The outlook for younger generations is dire, and I’m appalled by the obstacles they face at every turn. 

“People shouldn't have to worry about falling ill or needing care; our society should provide for all its members.”

TCL. Some people say that older generations/ people had financial advantages, leaving their children and the next generation facing greater challenges? Do you agree?   

 Emma. It’s undeniable that the housing market in the UK has become unmanageable. Personally, the only reason I can afford a small house in Lewes post-divorce is because of the era I was born into. Present-day house prices are exorbitant, and it pains me to see young people struggling to afford homes. I want to see a world where homeownership is within reach for everyone. 

I don’t solely blame older generations for this situation; governmental policies and those in positions of power must also bear responsibility. My vision for the UK is one where high taxes fund comprehensive social welfare systems similar to those in countries like Denmark. People shouldn’t have to worry about falling ill or needing care; our society should provide for all its members. 

“I am concerned that parents who are ill or feel like burdens to their children might feel pressured to take action to end their lives.” 

TCL. Given a 100-year life has never been lived before for so many, do our financial models need to radically change?  if so, how?   

Emma. If I could enact change, I would empower individuals to hold those in power accountable, ensuring proper care and support for our communities and environment. It’s also crucial to prioritise decent wages for essential workers such as nurses, teachers, nursery staff, and carers, enabling them to not just survive but thrive. 

Looking to the future I do have one very real concern. Although I am pro the right to choose to end your own life safely, I am concerned that parents who are ill or feel a burden to their children might feel pressured to  do this. I know it sounds awful but it’s important to address, especially when there’s considerable wealth in both my generation and the older generation’s property.  


More Information

About Emma Chaplin

Emma holds a Postgraduate Degree in Counselling from the University of Brighton (UK) and has extensive experience running community projects for individuals with learning disabilities and mental health challenges. She managed an independent living scheme for disabled individuals and worked as a journalist for many years, conducting interviews across diverse communities. Emma served as the editor of Viva Lewes magazine, representing her beloved town. Currently, she works for the Sussex Wildlife Trust, and in her free time, she enjoys singing in a local choir and swimming in the oldest outdoor pool in the UK. You can read Emma’s blog here.