Plan B

Practicalities – Plan B: when things don’t go to plan

So far, much of Age Life Balance has focused on what we can do to positively influence our ageing journey. I truly believe that there’s mileage in this, being the optimist that I am. However, I am also enough of a realist to appreciate that things don’t always go to plan. Some of these subjects may relate to other Age Life Balance topics, but I think it’s worth bringing them together here.

This article will highlight some examples of when things don’t go as expected. I plan to look closer at many of these in future articles including some ‘antidotes’, where possible, to deal with them.



An obvious one when we consider ageing, although this makes it no less sad, is the loss of a loved one. I’m sure that we will not really know how we will cope with this until it actually happens. Often, couples have been together for so long that they cannot imagine how to get on and need help on a practical level as well as an emotional one.

My sprightly seventy-something aunt died unexpectedly several years ago. My uncle is still very sad about losing her, sometimes looking for new purpose in life now, but is coping well nevertheless and has even begun travelling to visit relatives overseas etc.


Possibly no less upsetting is divorce. Divorce levels in the over 60s have increased in recent years, with those initiated by women rising faster than those by men. The number of ‘silver splitters’ is at its second highest level since the Divorce Reform Act came into effect in 1972.


Friends may move away. This is often to be nearer to family; their parents, other elderly relatives, their children and/ or grandchildren. Alternatively, the move may be part of their retirement dream. There will be different challenges for those doing the moving as well as those left behind.  Fortunately, with today’s travel and technology possibilities, through careful planning and use of communications, these distances can be shortened. The use and engagement in social media helps to stay part of families, groups of friends and communities.

Finally, we may change as we age. This could relate to our personalities, interests, tolerances, medications, pain, resilience, resentfulness etc. These differences could render relationships more difficult to maintain.


Although many of us may intend to be fit and healthy, we may not all turn out that way. This could be through a slow deterioration over time or an unexpected diagnosis of all manner of illnesses or conditions.

Sometimes this could be triggered by an event such as a heart attack or stroke and subsequent recovery could be challenging. Similarly, we could experience an accident e.g. a fall or car crash, and the recovery could again be slow or complex. Sometimes operations (even routine ones) don’t go to plan leaving irreversible effects.

I previously mentioned my mum’s routine hip operation that didn’t go to plan. This has ultimately left her disabled and fairly housebound.


We may have a target retirement date in mind, but this could be threatened by:

–        Ill health, preventing you continuing to work the hours, rhythm or intensity required.

–        You may get made redundant. This could be a blessing if it comes at the right time and the pay-out helps feather the nest. However, sometimes the timing and compensation are more advantageous for the company than the individual and you could struggle to find another job at a later age.

–        The need to continue working beyond this for financial reasons.


We’re not all fortunate enough to be in a secure financial position whilst we’re working and earning, let alone planning for retirement, so let’s look at some of those reasons:

Not managed to save enough whilst working – some of the recommended saving targets are scary!  A common recommendation is half the age from when you started saving from – so if you start at age 30 it could be 15 per cent, whereas if you start at 40 it is 20 per cent. I’m not sure that everyone will be putting away as much as they could or should, perhaps relying on blind hope that future governments will have to find a solution.

Pension pot isn’t as much as expected – this is highly dependent on the state of the economy and the stock market.  Most work pensions today are ‘money purchase’ or ‘defined contribution’ schemes. The growth of your money – and the size of your annual pension – is directly linked to stock market performance.

Unexpected costs – Many people put money away for a rainy day, such as house repairs, car maintenance, or medical expenses. Sometimes these costs all fall during a short time period which may wipe out a savings nest egg.

Looming future costs – similar to above, you never know quite what the future holds and how much it will cost e.g. car expenses, or medical treatments.

Having to bail out other family members – You may look after your money, but you can’t control those around you e.g. kids, parents, siblings etc. Unfortunately, this may make you a target if they get into financial trouble.


As much as we love our families, they can often cause us worry.

Elderly relatives. As we are learning on the ALB journey, as people age there is a higher probability that they may get ill, and need more support and attention including additional visits, and incurring unforeseen costs. These could also be complicated if they haven’t arranged power of attorney, wills and so on.

Children. Even grown-up or independent ones can sometimes be a cause for concern. Financial issues, mental health, addiction, life-changing accidents and other demands for support can be a drain on energy and resources. This can include expectations for looking after grandchildren.


Current property may turn out not to be suitable in the longer term and you may need to make adaptations or even need to move.

You may also have been counting on property for financial purposes e.g. equity release or rental income, but its ultimately not deemed possible to realise these amounts.

With some couples, one or both can’t cope in current housing and may get split up e.g. different care homes.  Recently a judge urged social workers to apply a “common decency test” and do more to keep couples together, whether in their own homes or in residential care.

Wrap up

So, we can see that with the best will in the world there are a number of things that could occur and thwart our retirement dreams. In future Practical Considerations articles, we’ll consider options available in some of these circumstances and we’ll also see if there is anything that can be done to avoid or mitigate them.

If you have any experience of any of these first or second hand, or other similar situations, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by leaving a comment below.


Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at to learn more.