I'm 45, work three jobs, and will never be able to afford to retire – Metro.co.uk

Every time I look at the rent leaving my account, I can’t help but feel deflated at knowing I’ll never own my own place, and the fact that the bills just keep on coming. 
I am just 45 years old and I know already that I will not be able to stop working at the state retirement age of 66. 
It seems crazy to think like that, with over 20 years still to go, but I just can’t imagine a world where it’s possible. 
I am not in a position to save more money for my pension, not with the cost of living rising so dramatically, and so I am unable to change my future. With this knowledge, I feel incredibly stressed, inadequate, and insecure. I find myself wondering why I haven’t prepared enough for these circumstances?
But I think that part of the answer to that comes down to knowledge and education around finances, retirement and pension plans. 
There needs to be more education around private pensions; there is a sense that it’s not something you need to worry about now and that you can put it off. Take it from me: you can’t. 
The younger generation who are leaving school and getting jobs are being given a National Insurance Number but don’t know what this number means. If they were better informed and taught how and why you should pay into your pension, and that you can’t rely on a state pension as it won’t easily cover your essentials, things might change. 
In reality, when you’re at school leaving age, you aren’t thinking about what’s going to happen when you’re 60+. But if everyone had information about the need to invest in a pension early on in life, then they might enter the workforce understanding how important it is to prioritise. 
If I am honest, I only recently started to think about my pension after reading new research from Working Wise. The study found that 50% of older women are planning to work into their retirement due to the gender pensions gap, with 53% of respondents unable to be financially independent on their pension. 
It made me realise that I will be in this 53%, despite working three jobs – something I’ve done for years. 
It’s not enough, so I’m terrified about where things are heading. I often find myself thinking about whether there’s any way I can change my situation – but I don’t know what more I can do.
I have one role with a government authority, which pays into a pension alongside me, but my other roles working in a bar and cleaning are zero-hour contracts with no pension support. 
Looking at the inflation rates and how they have increased over the last 40 years, it seems clear that costs are just going to keep going up and up. Yet, my pension payments aren’t growing, so I can’t see the way out of this – and I can’t afford to pay any more than I do. 
I have no idea what my pension will be in the end, but I am starting to worry about it
I have also realised that my pension will also be affected by my past employment and lack of National Insurance contributions. In 2007, I moved to Kenya, where I lived for around 10 years, working as an executive PA.
No one contacted me to see if I wanted to keep paying National Insurance in the UK, nor was there any education on the impact of me not doing this. If I had realised that because I wasn’t working for a UK company and was paying only taxes over in Kenya, I was cutting myself out of my UK pension, I would have paid it, but I missed the boat. 
This is something that I hugely regret, but I just didn’t understand it all enough; I didn’t understand the consequences. 
In 2017, I came back to the UK but initially found it hard to find a job, especially with two young children – so I ended up taking any job I could get. I worked as a shop assistant for around 15 months until I found a role that was more in line with my marketing and admin experience. 
Being in a low-level income job and not being in your trained profession means your National Insurance payments will be lower than they should be. I was on £8.40 an hour, and I needed that to ensure a roof over our heads and food on the table – so I couldn’t provide anything extra. I had to just take it. 
The impact of this time not paying into a pension has had lasting effects. But there wasn’t an option; with two children, I just had to get back on the ladder.  
I have had several jobs over the years and paid into several workplace pension schemes. I have six in total, but I don’t know how I should manage them. Should I bring them all together, or keep them separate? How can I understand what I have? I need a financial advisor, but I can’t afford one. 
As a result, I have no idea what my pension will be in the end, but I am starting to worry about it. So much so that recently I took out life insurance and critical illness cover in case something happens to me; if it does and I can’t work, I’m not sure what I would do. However, while it gives me some peace of mind, as it would cover my income, critical illness cover adds even more to my premium. I could do without this extra expense. 
As a single parent with one daughter living at home with me, I might be better off working reduced hours and claiming benefits, but the long-term impact would mean relying on the state pension, which I don’t believe will cover basic costs by the time I retire. 
The state pension is currently £185.15 per week, but how much you get is then dictated by your National Insurance record, so mine will be lower. The amount is barely enough to live off, as well as to continue to support my family. 
I am keen to teach my daughters the importance of financial planning, and I strongly believe that the government should teach children about pensions before getting their first jobs. 
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My eldest daughter is in Australia. I want her to avoid the mistakes I made by proactively paying her National Insurance contributions in the UK. My youngest is 14, and I am telling her she need to think about these things early on and make plans – they need to know as young as possible that you can’t rely on the state pension. 
Being a single parent has taught me that financial independence is vital; I want my daughters to understand their choices so they don’t have to think about it later in their lives and wish they had addressed it earlier. 
If I could choose when to retire, I would say aged 60-65 so that I could enjoy what is left of life – but I know I won’t be able to afford to do that. Instead, I have no choice but to plan to work for the next 30 years at least. 
The thought of this is both tiring and deflating. There’s no reward waiting for me, after everything that I have put in, after all the hours I have worked. I hope that the tide turns and that people start to get a better understanding from an earlier age – otherwise I fear that many more people will get to retirement age to find themselves in a similar situation to me.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk
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