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One day to save your pension

Updated 22 December 2022

3min read

Nick Green
Financial Journalist

One day to save your pension

What if you had only one day to save for retirement? What would that day be like? We compress your life into 24 hours to show you how little time you have to build your pension pot. The clock is ticking… Article by Nick Green

Want to know something we’re really bad at? A proper sense of time. Most people find this difficult – for instance, a 45 year old might feel that they have ages to go before retirement, and that retirement isn’t so very long. In fact, this person would probably retire in 20 years’ time, but could easily spend 25 more years being retired. Yet this same 45 year old has been working and earning for only around 25 years.

To make it even clearer, we’ll condense a lifetime into a single 24-hour day. You’re born at midnight and you’ll die on the following midnight. Let’s say you’ll live until you’re ninety, so each hour is a little under four years of your life. Ready?

Starting work


Up until now you’ve just been growing up. This is the moment when you leave the house to go to work. It’s 5.30am and you’re 21 years old. It’s an early start because you have a long commute: a long way to go before you find a fulfilling career.

Your first job - joining a pension scheme

"Your commute"

Fast-forward to 6.45am. You’re still on the train. That’s you, aged 25 now, in a job that’s taking you places but which isn’t your ultimate destination. But you can’t wait until you arrive at your dream job – you have to start saving now. By this time you should have begun to save into either a workplace pension or a personal pension scheme. After all, you have less than a day to build up your retirement fund.

Other financial commitments - buying a home

"Reaching your office"

You get in early – you’re at your desk by 8am, aged 30. You could be buying your first home around this time, although recent surveys suggest that you might not have saved enough until about half past nine (that’s 36 years old) or even later. You haven’t had much time to save for a deposit, so you’ll probably need professional advice to secure the mortgage you want.

Developing your career & raising a family

"Time for some real work"

The proper working day starts at 9am. You’re 34 – perhaps the age at which you’ve settled into the career of your choice. But don’t get too comfortable at your desk. This is also the age at which many people start a family, with all the costs of raising children. If you’ve chosen to marry (always best for inheritance purposes) then that’s another big chunk out of your savings.

And it’s still only 9 o’clock. Is it encouraging or scary to find you still have most of the day ahead of you?

More financial commitments - childcare and school


Assuming you start a family around 9am, then by lunchtime your eldest will be starting secondary school, and will already have cost you about £40,000 in childcare alone, with another £40k+ of miscellaneous expenses on top of that. Better make it a cheap sandwich.

Turning 55 - reaching pensionable age

"Afternoon comes around"

It’s just gone half past two. Remarkably you’ve already reached pensionable age, 55 years old, so in theory you could leave the office early for an afternoon tipple while the sun’s out. But would you have enough cash to party until midnight? It’s looking doubtful.


"Home time"

Aptly, at half past five you hit your chosen retirement age of 65, and it’s time to leave the office. You go home to have dinner and put your feet up. But there’s still six and a half hours of your day remaining – 25 years of retirement if you live until you’re 90. Have you saved enough in your pension to last you that long? Only time will tell.

If one day was all you had, wouldn’t you see a financial adviser right away? Find yours today and look forward to enjoying your sunset years.

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About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.