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Finance and Fitness

The two most commonly expressed concerns about retirement are Finance and Health. This is no surprise: most people will be on a reduced income and so imagine that they will have to live somewhat more frugally and without our health and fitness we won't be able to enjoy retirement.

This guide is not going to tell you about how to deal with these two concerns. If you want some help with either or both of these topics, you might like to take a look at the Guide to Making the Most of our Money, the Guide to Discounts and Concessions and the Guide to Staying Fit and Healthy all of which are on the Laterlife web site. This page of this Guide is about why it's important to plan for these things.


Retirement is a time of opportunity and choice. The more money we have available to us, the more choices we have. Money can't buy happiness but it can buy choice. So we need to make the most of our money so that we have more surplus income to spend on those things we want to do.

Our starting point for finance in retirement is the amount of income we have left over after we have spent all the money that we have to spend - our mandatory expenditure. Mandatory expenditure is what we spend on things such as food, heating and lighting, council tax and so on. Everything we left after that is our discretionary income, to spend or save as we wish. Only when we know how much discretionary income we have, can we make informed choices on what we spend our money on.

In order to do this we need a budget and constructing a budget is something we should all do prior to retirement. So we need to list everything that comes in and everything that goes out by way of expenditure or regular savings. We should do this both for our situation before retirement and what we believe it will be in retirement. We won't be able to do the latter completely accurately but we will be able to get a feel for it.

To help this process, we can get a State Pension forecast from the DWP We will also receive an annual pension forecast from any company or personal pensions that we have and don't forget about any interest from savings that we might be able to use.

Once we have our budget and know how much we're likely to have by way of discretionary expenditure in retirement, then we can start to plan and make our choices. If we are going to receive a lump sum from any pensions that we have, we also need to plan how to use those. Do we want to spend some or all of it to reduce debt - paying off the mortgage or other regular outgoings? Maybe we might buy some big-ticket items that we believe we will need in the next few years so that we don't have to buy them out of our retirement income.

When we do retire it is unwise to make any final decisions as soon as we get our hands on lump sums and pensions, even though we have done some initial planning. It's more sensible to see how it goes for, say, six months, keep a close eye on our budget - income and expenditure - and once we're confident that we know how much discretionary expenditure we will have in retirement then we can make our final plans and choices.

So if we are going to make the right choices in retirement and live within our means at the same time, it is important that we plan our finances by creating a budget, seeing how much discretionary income we will have and then acting on that information.

 Fitness and Health

There are two aspects to fitness and health in retirement that we need to think about. The first is physical fitness and the second is keeping fit mentally.

Physical Fitness

Even people who have a sedentary job use energy when they go to work. When we think about the process of work, from getting up in the morning until we get home at night, we can see that there is a fair amount of exertion involved. We get some stress at work, which also keeps the adrenalin going, so all in all our bodies are working. When we retire we have the potential to use none of that energy - we can sit around all day if we wish. However, when we consider that, as well as not using the energy that we use when we're at work,  most of us eat and drink more when we're at home and that our body naturally loses its flexibility as we get older, it's obvious that sitting around all day is not a good option if we want to stay fit and healthy so that we are able to enjoy retirement to the full.

It's not necessary to turn ourselves into an Olympic athlete in retirement. However, doing some exercise is a sensible thing to do and it can also be very enjoyable. Exercise can be a good way of meeting new people and it can provide part of our social life. Also, it's said that it releases endorphins into the blood that give us a feeling of wellbeing. So, as well as keeping us fit it can bring other benefits, too.

If we're someone who has always done some physical exercise then there should be no problem in keeping fit in retirement. However, if we aren't used to taking exercise we need to do some planning to build some exercise into our lives. So think about walking groups, some sort of fitness classes at the local leisure centre, a sport of some sort or other exercise of some kind. You may also like to read the Guide to Staying Fit and Healthy on the Laterlife web site for some further thoughts.

Keeping Fit Mentally

The mind is just like the body in that it needs to be kept fit if it is to function effectively. We need to think about how we're going to keep our brain healthy and there are basically two ways.

The first way is to do some continuing education. It might be at the local college, you could do an OU course or go to the University of the Third Age (U3A). We might look on the website of our local university to see what they're offering or we might do a learning break, (look at  to see a good example of the wide variety of learning breaks that are available). There are any number of educational options using the internet, including the Government initiative learndirect.

There are a huge number of options available and we need to think about the one(s) that will suit us the best. For some of us a regular class will help us to meet people and give us the routine that we need. For others of us, who want to be more flexible in our approach, doing something that is internet based, or some other form of distance learning such as the OU, might be the best option.

The other method of keeping our brain active is to do hobbies or activities that will keep the brain working. There are endless choices, from crosswords and sudoko to learning a musical instrument or tracing our family history. The biggest problem is choosing which of the endless choices we decide to take!

Planning for both finance and fitness in retirement is a vital part of our planning, but it's not the whole story, so read the rest of this Guide to 'Planning Retirement if you haven't done so already by clicking on the links in the box. It will give you food for thought so that you can then make your own plan. You might also like to consider a Planning Retirement workshop. You will be able to spend the day thinking, planning and discussing your retirement and gleaning ideas from others about how to best enjoy the rest of your life. It's well worth spending one day to make the most of the next 10,000!

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