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Leading financial expert warns: “A happy retirement needs a lot more than a pension” – yet retirement planning obsessively focused on money & tax-efficiency

Mike Middleton, Founder of Pro-Vision Lifestyles

With the end of the Financial Year approaching in early April, people are again being exhorted to top up their pensions and ISAs, make use of their tax-allowances and generally save now to ensure a happy retirement.

“This obsession that financial planning equals a retirement plan has become all-pervasive and explains why research found that your chance of depression increases by 40% on retirement,” warns Mike Middleton Founder of Pro-Vision Lifestyles ( and a financial advisor with 30+ years of experience advising 100s of people on a successful retirement.

Mike Middleton, who is author of the book “The R Word: Time to Retire Retirement” says: “Clearly having a healthy pension is a good thing to have when you retire, but it is not sufficient for a happy retirement.  The excessive focus that retirement planning equals building-up savings leaves most people ill-prepared for the profound psychological impact many experience when they retire.

“In my experience, most people find their spending goes down when they retire, so whatever your pension it will probably go further than you expect.  That is the good news.

“The bad news is many people, including those with healthy pensions, enter retirement without plans to do anything fulfilling.  Travel and golf can be great at occupying time enjoyably initially.  However, the loss of purpose and status that comes from no longer working eventually seeps through, bringing mental health and well-being problems.

“Instead, a less one-dimensional approach to retirement is needed.  People need to think deeply about what they find fulfilling so they can find such roles in retirement.  This needs to happen well ahead of retirement, say in your 40s and 50s.  Often people have not found their job fulfilling in later life, so retirement is actually a great opportunity to make your retirement the most fulfilling time of your life.”

Mike Middleton’s tips for ensuring a happy retirement, not just a financially comfortable one, include:

  • People need to start thinking about their retirement much earlier, ideally in their 40s.  Develop a plan that ensures you remain physically and mental active. Identify the things you love to do and keep doing them, otherwise you run the risk of losing purpose in your life.
  • A plan is not a simple list of things that would be “nice” to do. It is essential to properly understand yourself, your abilities, whether you want to carry on working in some way beyond retirement, or perhaps using your skills in other ways.
  • Too often people leave considering the changes they want to make in life until the last minute.  The result is they find they have underestimated what is required and the result can be an emotional trough when your retirement aspirations are seemingly snatched away.

In one example, a new client told me he wanted to retire on his 60th birthday… in six weeks’ time. He was horrified when we examined what he wanted to do with his time and that it was unaffordable. Over the weeks that followed we spent a lot of time discussing his and his wife’s real desires. They reset their lifestyle goals to things they wanted to do, rather than their previous list they had put together following other people’s lead. He also realised that he actually wasn’t that keen on stopping working so we came up with a plan for him to work full time for 3 more years, then part-time for 2 more. By the time he reached age 65 he realised he liked the idea of continuing to work so much that he continued working six months each year up to the age of 70. By then his savings and pensions enabled them to avoid having to move home, while continuing to enjoy the things in life he and his wife desired.

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