Working Wise survey: Helen’s story

Helen took part in our recent survey about the cost of living crisis. She says that, despite health issues, she may be forced to delay her retirement due to financial difficulties.

calculator and person writing in notebook


The cost-of-living crisis is having a huge impact on older workers,’s latest annual survey showed. In our survey, published late last year, almost half (46%) of older workers said they would have to change their retirement plans to cover rising bills. One in ten people had no choice but to “unretire” and return to work.

Here is Helen’s story – she is one of many people who may now need to keep working for longer.

Helen, aged 64, is a receptionist at a law firm in the south-west of England. She works three days a week. Helen is divorced and has three adult sons, the youngest of whom still lives with her. She has a partner who lives in another town.

Helen has been struggling more and more to cover basic costs over the past year. She relies heavily on her car because she has osteoarthritis; she can’t walk uphill or for long periods. Rising fuel costs have forced her to cut non-essential outings, whereas she used to enjoy driving to Dartmoor for short walks. She has also cut back on buying meat and she hasn’t been on a holiday since before the pandemic.

“We don’t go for outings anymore – it’s just a case of getting to work and essential journeys really,” she says. “I don’t do anything, I just work and stay home.”

Helen says that, if things continue as they are, she will need to postpone her retirement and keep working. “I’m due to retire when I’m 66…So I’m seeing this light at the end of the tunnel – but it seems to be getting dimmer and dimmer. I may have to carry on working,” she says.

I’m due to retire when I’m 66…[but] I may have to carry on working.

Helen has a supportive workplace and she enjoys her job, but she doesn’t want to keep working well into her late 60s. “At the moment, I don’t get to see my grandchildren, I’ve got no time to myself,” she says.

Helen will rely on a state pension when she retires – she did a lot of fragmented part-time work while bringing up her sons, and she then stopped working for a decade to care for her mother until she died. As a result, like many women who experience the “gender pay gap”, she was less able to build up a good private pension than many of her male counterparts.’s annual survey of over 2,000 older workers was sponsored by Santander Consumer Finance. The survey was part of our National Older Workers Week.

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