29 November 2023

In the UK, we’re not very good at finding the right work/life balance.

Just under a third of UK workers feel that they work too much and live too little, and just under half of us regularly work unpaid overtime. Taken together we work the longest hours in Europe, averaging 42 hours a week.

That’s not just bad for you. It can impact your friends and loved ones too. But fortunately, as a nation we’re taking action. In this article we’re going to explore those negatives and see how some careful planning now can help you reap the rewards of a balanced later lifestyle.

Why work/life balance is so important

In the last couple of years, poor work/life balance has led to almost nine out of ten UK workers experiencing some form of burnout. Four in ten of us say we’ve neglected our mental health because of work. And 60% of us say that overwork has harmed our relationships at home.

That’s why getting work/life balance right is becoming such an important goal. In fact, in a recent survey, 60% of UK professionals chose work/life balance as their lead job satisfaction driver. And eight out of ten of them would choose mental health and work/life balance over career success.

That’s an attitude that can help you as you think about your later life, too. It’s bad enough having a poor work/life balance in your 20s or 30s. Imagine feeling overworked all the time in your 60s or 70s! But a little advance planning now can make a surprisingly big difference later on.

How planning now can pay off later

Many people don’t stop working as soon as they reach retirement age. They start by cutting down their hours, either going part time in their current role or finding a new, more flexible one. So they’re still dealing with work/life balance issues even as they move away from work.

Whatever you end up doing, it’s safe to say that the higher your retirement income the more flexibility and control over that process you’ll have. So it’s worth thinking about how you’ll fund the transition out of working life to help you maintain your own ideal work/life balance.

That’s particularly important because:

  • Your State Pension will probably only kick in once you reach your late 60s and probably won’t cover all your costs – currently you can get at most only £10,600.20 a year.
  • You can usually start accessing a personal or workplace pension from your mid-50s on – and the sooner you start paying into and the more you invest in it, the more you’ll get back.

So if you want to start rebalancing your work and your life from your mid-50s on, it makes sense to start saving into your pension as early as possible. The magic of compounding makes that particularly true. Take a look at our article about Saving into your pension in your 20s and 30s to find out how:

  • Thanks to compounding, £1 saved now will work much harder for you and could grow much more than £1 saved in 15 years’ time

Managing your pension in your 20s and 30s

Not sure why starting your pension savings early is so important? We look at what can happen to your investment and how it can pay off when you choose to stop working.

Retire early with the FIRE movement

Some people don’t want to wait until their 50s to retire. They’re followers of the Financial Independence Retire Early, or just FIRE, movement. They save as much as they can, while also investing aggressively to hopefully grow their savings.

That helps them shift their work/life balance entirely towards life, as soon as possible. If that sounds good to you, our FIRE article has more information.

What’s next?

You’ve probably got work/life issues now and you’ll probably still have them in later life. Like many UK workers, chances are you’re already taking practical steps to get the balance right. Saving into your pension is one more practical step that will help future you maintain that balance in later life.

And if this article’s done its job, you’re probably now wondering if you’ve paid your pension enough attention and maybe even how much you should be putting into it. Well, we can help with:

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