young woman writing in a diary

In today’s fast paced society, it is easy to feel that we must ‘have it all’, as quickly as possible.

The pressure people put on themselves to reach desirable life goals is undoubtable, and some of them usually have to be prioritised over others. Britain’s young professionals are making compromises to reach their objectives, which in some cases diverge from traditional societal expectations.

Whether that’s buying a first property, getting married, having children, or achieving a career target or promotion, UK adults are beginning to rewrite the rulebook on the ages these milestones are achieved. While Gen Z and Millennials have an aspiration to retire early, the latest research from Evelyn Partners throws doubts on how realistic this will be in future decades.

Pushing back the personal

Considering a rapidly changing economic outlook, research reveals that one in three (30%) people have put more personal milestones on hold, so that they can focus on their career and improve their income, in the hope that it’ll facilitate a greater quality of life in the future. Starting a family (90%) and getting married (86%) are two of the most common goals professionals have delayed, as they prioritise fast-tracking their careers.

The reality of when people are reaching these milestones are falling out of line with traditional expectations too. On average, UK adults are delaying starting a family by around three years so that prospective parents can reach an ideal point in their career before having their first baby. This could include achieving a desired level of seniority within the company they work for, or reaching a certain salary which enables the couple to afford the anticipated costs of a newborn.

Preparing for a 25-year retirement

The goal of retiring early (71%) is being deprioritised for many adults, as workers stay on the career ladder for longer than expected amidst a challenging economic climate. Post-war Baby Boomers (aged 58-76) have postponed retirement by an average of four years already, while 25% have ‘unretired’ and re-entered the workforce.

Adults today are failing to recognise how longer life expectancy will impact their ability to retire at similar ages to previous generations. Whilst Gen Zs (aged 18-24) and Millennials (aged 25-34) aim to retire at the age of 60, this will be unrealistic for many because of increased life expectancy, which will require these generations to fund a 25-year retirement, at a time when rising costs of living show no signs of moderating.

With longer retirements to fund in the future, more complex family structures and a significant risk of job loss because of automation and technological advancements, the next two decades could bring about an even more challenging path to retirement. Workers today should start saving into their pension at the earliest opportunity to prepare for this lengthened retirement, as they’ll also benefit from compounding returns over time, while riding out any market volatility that pension pots will inevitably encounter.

Don’t look back with regret

Everyone makes the right decision for themselves, at that moment in time, but some are left doubting past decisions when it comes to putting their personal life on hold. A quarter of UK adults (24%) say they regret putting personal milestones on hold to focus on their career, with more than a quarter of men (28%) regretting not prioritising personal goals, compared to one in five women (20%).

However, it’s important for individuals to embrace a positive outlook on their personal life and careers, and not forget the distinct challenges professionals face today compared with previous generations. The impact of inflation has created challenging circumstances for families to navigate, which in turn increases the difficulty of reaching life milestones at a comparable age to previous generations.

The power of good advice

As the cost-of-living crisis bites and adults feel the pinch from mortgage rates and energy hikes, many people’s relationship with their jobs and salary is coming under scrutiny. A recalibration of life milestone expectations may result in a changing relationship to work in the years ahead, as four out of ten Brits (41%) say they don’t have enough time to focus on both their personal and professional life and that recent world events have made them re-evaluate what’s important.

Getting good advice at every step of your life and career can help you achieve the milestones you wish to reach. More than half of UK workers (54%) say they don’t have enough money to pursue both personal and professional milestones simultaneously, and 43% believe the key to reaching milestones quick is by earning more – so it’s important to remember that receiving good financial advice can help you make better decisions with the money you already have. For example, money saved at the start of your career can build a nest egg to support an experiential career break, or even as a safety net for the uncertain times we’re living in.

The desire for increased wealth, seniority at work, and to be surrounded by a loving family are driving forces in life for many people. However, the key to ‘having it all’ may just simply mean being financially secure and receiving good advice from the right person, at the right time, to navigate challenges as they are presented.

About the author

Henrietta Grimston is an Associate Director of Financial Planning at Evelyn Partners. She has been advising private clients for over 15 years, with a particular interest in helping more vulnerable clients and those later in life. She is passionate about helping people engage with their finances and enjoys breaking down complex matters into clear and easy to understand advice.

Henrietta is both a Chartered Financial Planner and Chartered Wealth Manager and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments (CISI).


Nationally representative survey of 2,000 UK adults conducted by Opinium between 12th June 2022 to 16th June 2022. 

A financially comfortable retirement requires retirees not reliant on state pension to have an income of £2,390 per month for their expected 25+ years of retirement, according to Centre for Economics and Business Research. Unretirement – one in four Britons return to work.

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