We all know it’s important to plan for retirement, but many of us are still not planning well, or early enough.

Despite all the media headlines and Government initiatives, many of us still have a ‘tomorrow will do’ attitude. This is worrying for one simple reason – we are going to live longer than most of us think.

Those approaching retirement today have many more opportunities and challenges to face than their parents ever did. There are also many more ways to fund retirement, adding to the confusion about how to best prepare for all your needs.

Live long

In 1900, life expectancy at birth in the UK was only 46 years for men and 53 years for women. Just over a century later life expectancy at birth has increased by around 30 years. By 2014 had reached 78.7 years for men and 82.6 years for women.

The population aged 85 years and over, often termed the 'oldest old', are now the fastest growing section of our population. For the 1921 cohort, only 18% of men and a third of women reached the age of 85 years. But for the 1951 birth cohort, it is expected that almost half of men and 60% of women will achieve that age*.

Knowing our chances of living to our late 80s and beyond leaves us with one fundamental question – will we have enough money to enjoy the lifestyle we desire for what could be 30 years or more after we stop work?

...and prosper?

Some of us are planning our pensions. But few of us plan for ‘late retirement’. This is a period from our mid-70s and onwards, when our expenses can rise faster than our pension income can keep up with.

This can happen for various reasons. It could be because we need more help around the home or even that we require nursing care. Then there are unexpected expenses like replacing the roof, health care, or financial help for our families.

But these days, it’s just as likely to be because the older generation is leading a more active life through travel, work or leisure.

And don’t forget our old enemy – inflation. It continually eats away at the value of our money over time.

Forward planning

This problem has been at the root of much of the recent innovation in the retirement market. Getting sound financial advice throughout the different stages of retirement will help identify which products can help you achieve the income you need.

Although it may seem a long way off, making robust financial plans now for late retirement will give you the peace of mind to enjoy your early retirement years - safe in the knowledge that you will be able to live the lifestyle you desire further down the line.

*Source data: Continous Mortality Investigation Bureau November 2011.

A pension is a long term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down. Your eventual income may depend on the size of the fund at retirement, future interest rates and tax legislation.