As the retirement age increases, how can you get better prepared for the future? (Part 1)

I am in my mid-forties and  I have been working for  more than 15 years at highly demanding jobs. I met many interesting people, went to places that I wouldn’t have visited otherwise and  learnt a lot from the various experiences while going up the corporate ladder. However, it is difficult for me to imagine that I will continue working with this intensity for another 20 years.

When I shared my thoughts with friends and colleagues, most of them responded that even if we want to work until 65 years old, there will be very few jobs for us and these jobs will probably be at a much lower level.

Not to mention that due to the challenges that pension systems in different countries already face, the retirement age will keep increasing and the amount of money we will receive will keep decreasing. Hence, we should not assume that if we do what our parents did, then everything will be ok.

Since we will have to work much longer than previous generations, how can we can get better prepared for the future?

Good financial planning is key to success. The basic concept is very simple. While we are working, our salary (usually) covers most of our expenses (e.g. mortgages, food, clothing, vacation etc). When we will retire though, we want to ensure that our pension (state & private) plus other sources of income are sufficient to cover our expenses.

The earlier we start acting, the better it is.

It would help to do some “back of the envelope” calculations before deciding how to act.

  • Calculate how much money you will need to live when you will stop working at retirement. Write down the key annual expenses; especially the big ticket items e.g. mortgage payments/service charges/rent/private health care insurance/car insurance/food etc). You can also add an amount for the ‘nice to have’ items e.g. vacation, hobbies etc.  This would help you to get a rough idea how much money you will need on an annual basis a) for the basics and b) for a more comfortable lifestyle.
  • Estimate how much money you will receive after your retirement. The key sources will be your pension (both the state and the private one). You probably have a good understanding of the state pension level in the country you live (For example, it will be around £150 per week or £600 per month in the UK). For the private pension, you can usually get an illustration from your pension provider. Otherwise, you can do the calculations yourself. A good ‘rule of thumb’ is to estimate the pension pot you will have at retirement age and then divide it by 25 years life expectancy and get a ball park of the annual private pension. (For example, if your pension pot when you become 65 years old is £350K, then  you may expect £14k on annual basis.)


    Will you have enough money for your retirement?

So let’s take an example:

Kate is 45 years old and her annual salary is £70K. Her current pension pot is £100K. Both Kate and her employer contribute around 10% of her annual salary to her pension pot. If we assume that she will contribute for another 20 years, her pension pot would be £240K  at retirement age (10%*£70K*20 years = £140K +£100K her current pension pot = £240K (Note that we didn’t take into consideration the possible growth of the pension funds depending on Kate’s investment decisions for the sake of simplicity). If we assume a 2.5% growth for the next 20 years, then the pension pot will increase to £335K.

The £335K pension pot translates into £13.4K every year (£335K pot/25 years=£13.4K). If you also add £7.8K from the state pension (£150 per week* 52 weeks = £7.8K), then the total amount from pensions that Kate will receive after she reaches the retirement age will be £21.2K  approx per year.

Note that the income that Kate is expected to have from her pensions at retirement is 1/3 of her current salary. So, her living standards will have to be adjusted accordingly.

My suggestion is for you to do a ‘back of the envelop’ calculation based on your personal circumstances. Keep these calculations simple. It is not necessary to include inflation/growth of investments & taxes. All these definitely will have an impact. However, it is very difficult to make predictions when the time horizon is 20 years or more. The whole point of this exercise is to get a feel of the big picture i.e. what is the gap between your income after retirement age versus the outgoings you expect to have at that age.

The bottom line: Even if you are surprised by the outcome of this exercise  (and trust me you will!), it is better to know the gap between the pension money you will receive and that you would need to have a comfortable lifestyle after retirement so you have time to make the necessary corrective actions.

At the next blog post, we will discuss what we can do to get better prepared for the future.

(If you want to get financial advice tailored to your needs, please find an authorised financial advisor in your country. This blog is to help you understand the situation you will face and encourage you to do something about it now.)

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply. She passionately believes in empowering people to  make informed decisions about their career and their finances. She is a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her limited spare time, she provides pro-bono career advice. Her b4iapply blog is recommended by The Guardian for professional development. 




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Feedback on Blind Spots: A Gift that Hurts

It has been a long time since I last shared my thoughts with you. The reason I decided to write now is because I had an encounter that made me feel uncomfortable.

I am a huge advocate of getting feedback and I am shameless in asking for it from people I trust and respect. However, when a good friend (and mentor) offered me constructive feedback a few days ago, I didn’t feel happy about it.

Some suggestions for you to think about” she said. I was taken aback. I did not expect it so I was not emotionally ready to have this discussion. Most importantly though, the suggestions were on a subject that I consider myself an expert. Hence, I didn’t even think that I can further improve. Was it a ‘blind spot’ I was not aware of?

Needless to say I felt uncomfortable and surprised. The good thing is that I am older and wiser now (or so I want to believe!) and I quickly managed to contain the negative feelings. I asked my friend to give me some specific examples in order to understand better her perspective. Later, we moved on to other topics.

Don't forget to smile

When you get feedback irrespective whether you like what you hear or not, remember to smile:)

I reflected on this experience afterwards and the reasons why I didn’t feel at ease. In general, I am continuous trying to develop myself. In most cases, I am the one who identifies an area to work on and invite people to give me some constructive suggestions. In this case though, somebody else took the initiative to let me know of a behavior I was not aware of (my ‘blind spot’) and I was caught off guard.

Here are some of my thoughts that may be also useful to you.

  • Be aware of your ‘blind spots’. The problem with ‘blind spots’ is that we cannot see them. Others though can but they usually don’t tell us anything about them. Why should they bother? Most people want to avoid uncomfortable discussions. So, it helps to develop a network of  trusted friends/colleagues/mentors to whom we give the permission to share their observations with us about areas we need to know even if we have asked them for feedback on the specific occasion or not.
  • Check for ‘blind spots’even in areas you consider yourself an expert. This is a typical missed opportunity by many. However, the key to success is by further advancing our strengths. Be open to suggestions from people you trust. Some small changes (e.g. on how you communicate your hard-earned knowledge) may have a significant positive impact in the way your are perceived and can lead to further career advancement.
  • Consider yourself lucky if somebody takes the time to help you identify your ‘blind spots’. (And if it is difficult at the beginning, pretend it until you become it.). Also, remember that people who are willing to give you feedback, they usually do it because they care about you. It doesn’t mean they are always right. This is up to you to decide but they take the risk to tell you things that you won’t be happy to hear initially and you wouldn’t know otherwise.

The bottom line: We all have ‘blind spots’ and we are unaware of them. If somebody helps us to discover them, we need to be happy even if initially we feel a bit hurt.

I would like to hear from you. Have you gone through similar experiences? What were your learnings? Feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Thank you for reading,


Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply . She passionately believes in people’s development. She is a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her limited spare time, she provides pro-bono advice to whomever is asking for it. Her b4iapply blog is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.



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Happy 2016! A small gift from b4iapply

Both b4iapply ebooks are free to download until Tuesday January 5 on Amazon.

b4iapply to uni: the 4-step manual to success provides a methodology that will increase your chances of discovering early in life the career that suits you best –at you are good at, that you enjoy and that you can excel in.

b4iapply to college:the great little guide to success‘ is the US edition.

Deciding what to study is not easy. With high tuition fees, it’s more vital than ever for teenagers to make the best possible choices.  Getting off to a good start is key to success.

Our objective is to empower you to make an informed decision.

Happy and productive 2016!

Korina Karampela

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Have You Put Your Career Aspirations on Hold?

We have all started our careers with big aspirations and then for various reasons along the way we had to settle. Things may have not progressed as fast as we would like, or we simply had to put our career on hold in return for a decent wage and security.

For some people, this is ok because their priorities have changed. Others though continue having ‘what if’ thoughts.

If you still have the urge to further progress your career, then:

Career Aspirations

It is never late to re-ignite your career!

  • Be clear about what you want to do. Do you aim for a bigger job in the company you work? Do you want to make a career change? Do you want to become self-employed? This step is the one that most people find most difficult to define.
  • Stop thinking and start doing. Don’t procrastinate for too long. If you are not 100% certain, take small steps. Get the opportunity to be involved in interesting project at work, volunteer for a relevant initiative a few hours per week , start a course that will up-skill you , meet people in the field you would like to get involved. Then reflect on the experience. Is it what your are looking for?
  • Be confident.  Think what skills and experiences you need to go to the next level and develop a plan how to get them. Eliminate thoughts like ‘I am not good enough’. Focus on what you need to do to become good enough.
  • Go for small wins first. The most common mistake that people do is that they expect too much too soon, they often get disappointed and give up prematurely.  Have realistic expectations and keep trying.
  • Let luck to play its role. There is not substitute of hard work. However, don’t underestimate the power of luck. It can manifest in many ways: you may move to a field that is growing, you may meet people who can introduce you to the right contacts, etc.

The bottom line: If you had put your career aspirations on hold and you now feel you want to re-ignite your career, go for it. It is never late.

Have you gone through this type of experience? If yes, what were your learnings?

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, author of 2 books, and speaker. She is a senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her b4iapply blog is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.

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If You Made a Career Change that Didn’t Work Out, Do You Give Up or Not?

There are a lot of books and articles around to inspire you to take the leap to the unknown if you are unhappy with the direction your career has taken. They all state that the journey will be a rough one but it is worth the effort.

What if you did your research, made the transition but a few months down the road,  you realize it doesn’t work out as you planned it. What do you do? Do you give up or not?

There is no doubt that this is a very difficult decision to make. Nevertheless, you need to ensure that you don’t let your emotions influence your decision.

There are plenty of stories around where perseverance was the reason for the ultimate success. At the same time, ‘failing fast’ has been the mantra of most entrepreneurs.

Here are the two key questions that might help you decide the next steps:Never give up

Does it make financial sense?

‘Follow your heart and money will come’ is not a good advice. When you make a career change, it is likely that you get a pay cut at the beginning while you are building your expertise and record in the new area.  If you set up your own business, you probably have invested your own money. (My advice: Always have enough cash to cover at least the first 6-12 months.)

With a few months of experience under your belt, you can make realistic predictions about the financial matters.

If you believe more time is needed for the initiative to take off, then explore options to support yourself during this period. You can get a part-time job, do some consulting, or find somebody who believes in your idea and is willing to invest his/her money in order to be part of  its future success (My advice: avoid getting money from family and friends because if things goes awry, you will not only lose money but also some of the people you care).

Does the career change make you happier?

If it isn’t what you expected and Fail fastdoesn’t make you feel fulfilled, then it is no-brainer. Accept you have made a wrong choice and start exploring other options.

You definitely learnt a lot during the last few months that will help you design your next move. Many times our career goals evolve based on our experiences. Unless we act, we cannot really find out whether we like something or not.

If you are convinced that you won’t be able to earn a living out of it but you still loving doing it, then you may want to consider how this initiative can  be evolved you so you can still work on it during your free time (evenings, weekends and vacations) while you find another job that will help you pay the bills. Sometimes ‘failing fast’ is the best business option although it is difficult to accept it emotionally.

The Bottom Line:  There is no wrong or right answer and definitely there is no risk-free option.You are the one who needs to decide whether the ‘Never Give Up’ or the ‘Fail Fast’ philosophy applies in your specific case.


Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, author of 2 books, coach and speaker. She has been working as senior pharmaceutical executive for 14 years and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her blog b4iapply is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.


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Become Comfortable Out of Your Comfort Zone

We live in a fast changing environment. Life-long learning is necessary.

There are many ways you can develop yourself. You can read books, watch educational programs, attend workshops, or learn on the job. Take every opportunity you can to master the skill you have identified.

Out of your comfort zone

Become Comfortable Out of Your Comfort Zone

If you feel  a bit apprehensive at the beginning, you are on the right track. It means that you are doing things outside your comfort zone. Keep doing them. Welcome the feeling of “the knot in your stomach” when you try things for the first time. Expect to make mistakes when you are learning and learn from these mistakes. If you don’t make any, it means that you don’t try hard enough.

The bottom line: Identify the area you want to develop and go for it. Learn to be comfortable out of you comfort zone.

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, author of 2 books, coach and speaker. She has been working as senior pharmaceutical executive for 14 years and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her blog b4iapply is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.

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How to Deal with Adversity – Still I Rise

Learnings and advice can be received in various ways. The best advice I got about how to deal with adversity was via a poem written by Maya Angelou who passed away on May 28, 2014.

You can read the poem below or you can listen to Maya herself reciting “Still I Rise”.

How to deal with adversity - Still I Rise

Listen to Maya Angelou reciting ‘Still I Rise’

Still I Rise

Maya Angelou1928 – 2014
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou

What is the best advice you have received?

Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, author, consultant and speaker. She works as an executive in the pharmaceutical industry and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her blog b4iapply has been recommended by The Guardian for professional development.

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