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How to save for retirement if you started late

It’s never too late to take control of your later life. Here are some things you could do to build up and boost your retirement pot if you started saving after your 30s.
Old man sitting on bench | Wealthify
Reading time: 6 mins

If you want to spend your later life doing what you love without worrying too much about money, it’s usually a good idea to start putting money aside when you’re still young. But life happens, and things don’t always go as planned.

If you didn’t manage to save in your 20s or 30s, or 40s that’s absolutely fine. It’s still possible to catch up and reach your retirement targets.

Here’s what you could do to take control of your retirement if you started saving late.

Is it too late to save for retirement?

It’s never too late to save for your later life, and whether you’re in your 40s or 60s, there’s still time to build up your retirement savings.

Of course, we’re not saying it’s going to be easy to catch up – saving for your later life after your 30s may require more effort on your side. However, with a good plan and some discipline, you could end up with a decent retirement pot.

So, what could you do? Well, there is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy – what you need to do will depend on your age, financial situation, and personal circumstances. But here are some things to consider if you want to have the retirement of your dreams.

Check your state pension and try to catch up

So, where do you start? Well, you could check your State Pension (which is funded by the government and will become available to you when you reach your State Pension age, provided you're eligible for it, of course). 

The maximum you can get currently (as of 2022) is £185.15 a week or 9,627.80 a year. But to get any State Pension, you’ll need to have made at least 10 years’ worth of National Insurance contributions. 

To receive the full amount, you’ll need to pay National Insurance contributions for at least 35 years (though you won't have to have paid 35 years' old of contributions consecutively).1 So, if you’ve been working, then chances are you already have a decent pension pot for your later life.

Your 40s could be a good time to check whether you’re on top of your contributions, and if you’re not, then you’ll still have time to catch up.

Obviously, as you get older and reach your 50s or 60s, catching up can become more difficult. One thing you could do to close the gaps in your National Insurance record (if you have any) is contact HMRC and check whether you’re eligible to pay voluntary contributions. You can find out more about making voluntary National Insurance contributions here.

Consider consolidating your workplace pensions

Now what about your workplace pensions? How many have you contributed to? Where are they? It could be a good idea to locate them and check how much you’ve managed to save in total. It may not be a huge sum, but it will still count towards your retirement income.

If you have multiple workplace pensions floating around, it could be worth getting them in one place, that way it’ll be easier and potentially cheaper to manage your retirement savings. To help you find a lost pension, you could contact your old employer or pension scheme provider (if you know who this is), or even go to the HMRC website and enter some details to see if you're able to track them down this way.

If you’re still working, you’ll be enrolled into your current workplace pension, unless you’ve opted out. As things currently stand, you must contribute at least 5% of your pay each month, and your employer should top up your savings by paying a minimum of 3% of your salary.

But if your financial situation is better than it used to be in your 20s or 30s, then why not consider making larger contributions if you can afford to? Saving a bit more in your workplace pension could help boost and maximise your future retirement income.

Think about opening a personal pension

Maximising your state and workplace pensions is a great thing to do, but it may not be enough to ensure you reach your retirement target.

If you’re in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, and haven’t got much aside for your later life, you may want to broaden your options. One way to take control of your retirement and help to boost your savings could be to open a personal pension, also known as SIPP (Self-Invested Personal Pension).

With a personal pension, you get to choose how much you put aside for your retirement, whether it’s £50 a month or £5,000 as a lump sum. But the main benefit of having a personal pension is that it comes with at least 20% tax relief.

What does that mean, you ask? Well, say you’re a basic rate taxpayer and you decide to put £800 in a personal pension, you could expect the government to add £200 to your pot – bringing the total up to £1,000.

However, one thing to note is that the amount you get tax relief on is limited to £40,000 per tax year, or 100% of your total earnings (if this is lower) – this is your pension annual allowance and includes combined contributions made by you, your employer, and the government.

Opening a personal pension can feel like a big job, but it doesn’t have to be. With robo-investing platforms like Wealthify, it’s never been easier to save for your later life. You simply choose how much you want to invest and the risk level that suits your needs. We’ll do the hard work for you, and by this, we mean we’ll pick your investments and manage your pension on an ongoing basis, so it remains on track with your investment style.

Consider your investment risk

If you start saving for your retirement a bit late, it could be a good idea to consider your investment risk  so, how much risk you're willing to take with your money. This is because the savings in your pension will be invested to give them an opportunity to grow, and all investing comes with the risk that you could get back less than you put in.

How much you'll want to take is really up to you, but to have a rough answer, you may want to review your financial situation, your timeframe, and your risk appetite. It’s also important to ignore the noise and your emotions when taking investment decisions. If you feel a bit lost and need help, it’s always a good idea to contact a financial adviser.

Think about how much you want to put aside

The other thing you may want to consider is how much you want to put in your pension. As you approach your retirement, and if circumstances allow, you may want to increase your contributions to try and boost your pension pot.

Typically, the longer you wait to save, the more you may need to pay in to catch up and reach your retirement target. But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you’ll need to put in thousands at once.

A good way to build up wealth for your later life could be to make sizeable contributions on a regular basis. And if you can afford it, you could try and pay a bit more.

But it doesn’t have to be a huge increase. Adding an extra £10 or £20 to your monthly contributions could make a huge difference over time.

Say you’re 50 and you’re planning on retiring at the age of 66. You open a Wealthify Pension where you contribute £300 a month. After 16 years of saving, you could end up with about £95,439 in your pot2. However, if you had contributed an extra £20 each month, you could have had £101,801 in your pension by the age of 66 – that’s an extra £6,362 in your pot3.

Again, at the end, it’s up to you, but remember, whatever you decide to put in your pension, the most important thing could be to get started.

Working out how much you need to save in order to retire can be tricky, but luckily our pension calculator does all the hard work for you. In four simple steps, you can get a good idea of whether you’re on track or not. Try it today and see what you could get.



1: https://www.gov.uk/new-state-pension/what-youll-get

2: This is the projected value for a Confident Plan (Medium Risk Plan) with an Original theme and includes tax-relief. This is only a forecast and is not a reliable indicator of future performance. If markets perform worse, your return could be £75,211. If markets perform better, your return could be £119,885. Values correct as of 22/08/22.

3: This is the projected value for a Confident Plan (Medium Risk Plan) with an Original theme and includes tax-relief. This is only a forecast and is not a reliable indicator of future performance. If markets perform worse, your return could be £80,225. If markets perform better, your return could be £127,877. Values correct as of 22/08/22.


The tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances and may be subject to change in the future.

Please remember the value of your investments can go down as well as up, and you could get back less than invested.

Wealthify does not offer financial advice. Seek financial advice if you are unsure about investing.

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