In this week's blog: the coronavirus crisis has shown that plans can be derailed in an instant... does this mean you should give up planning?

Planning for D-Day started in earnest 7 months before the event.

America had to ship 9 million tonnes of supplies to Britain. The Allies had to produce a lot of additional equipment including landing craft and amphibious tanks.

Amongst other tasks, they had to train troops, carry out photo reconnaissance, arrange for sufficient amounts of fuel, and print millions of maps for the invading soldiers.

The Allies even launched an extensive campaign, called Operation Fortitude, to mislead the Germans about their plans to invade Normandy.

It was a monumental planning effort.

And yet, General Eisenhower, who oversaw D-Day, was famous for saying: “Plans are nothing, planning is everything.”

Many of the plans he drew up had to be radically adjusted on the ground – in fact, he briefly postponed D-Day because of bad weather.

But he didn’t regret spending that time planning – far from it. He understood that the true value wasn’t in the plan, but in the process of drawing it up.

It ensured that he had thought through all the major issues and had the fundamentals in place, including the right troops, the right equipment and the right training. The details could be modified on the hoof.

I thought of General Eisenhower this week, as we completed the first few days of full lockdown…

…because there is something important we can all learn from him, in the current crisis.

You see, in my emails over the past few months, I’ve been talking about the need to create a structured plan for your personal life, in the 10-15 years before retirement.

It’s not always easy to fulfil your potential and find satisfaction during these transitional years, when careers can stagnate, people often have to take care of elderly loved ones, and financial pressures may mount as you consider reducing your work hours.

You need to carefully work out what skills and resources you must put in place to make the most of these years – I recommend looking at your career path, your health, general finances and pension.

And your employees should do the same.

But as the Coronavirus crisis shows, plans can be derailed in an instant.

Social reality is changing at breakneck speed – we are all living in a way which was inconceivable just last month.

Each weekday around 5pm, the government press conference brings new, unprecedented economic measures which change the equation completely.

And there are vast question marks over how long this situation will last, and how we are going to get through it, as individuals, as businesses and as a nation.

Right now, it’s difficult to plan day-to-day – let alone 10 years ahead!

So does this make your pre-retirement life-plan worthless?

Given what we’ve been through and learned this past month, does this mean that long-term planning is simply not worth doing?

No, that is not the case.

What it shows, rather, is that you have to be flexible with your plans, and revisit them regularly.

And if you have a plan, you should not tear it up given recent events.

You simply have to adjust your plans a little, to find new ways to achieve your goals.

So, for example, my 20-year plan has just become a 22-year plan.

It’s clear that, given the financial crisis, I may not be able to retire at 70, which was my aim. I recognise that I probably won’t be able to retire until 72 now, and have made my peace with that.

And I’ll probably have to delay another goal in my plan, which was to move to flexible working as I approach retirement.

I’ll still work on making that happen, it will just happen a little later than originally intended.

Many people will have seen their pension pots lose value during this crisis. If so, you too may have to retire later than expected.

Or you can start putting more money into your pension now, to recover the loss over the long-term and still retire at the date you originally intended.

If your pension is already part of your plan, you’ll be able to make these decisions deliberately and consciously, rather than continuing as you are - and then suffering enormous disappointment when you discover, a year before you planned to retire, that that just isn’t possible.

As for careers – another key element in a good pre-retirement plan – I am certain that the Coronavirus crisis will prompt many people to rethink what they want out of their work life (and life in general).

Your priorities may change once we are out of lockdown – for example, you might decide you want a less stressful job in the future, or one that pays more, or a job that offers more satisfaction or more security….

…but if your plan already included gaining new skills, updating your training and trying out new areas of professional interest, you should be able to accommodate all these changes of direction.

In short, General Eisenhower had it right.

A good plan isn’t set in stone. The details can change.

But the process of planning means that you think through all the major issues on a regular basis, and equip yourself with the broad skills and resources you need to change direction when necessary.

Ultimately, having a good plan that is flexible will always serve you better, long-term, than having no plan at all.

So plan ahead – don’t let Coronavirus stop you!

And over the next few weeks, I will start exploring how and why companies should offer a pre-retirement planning session to all employees… watch out for those emails.


Posted by Steve Butler

Topics: Age diversity, wellbeing, Mid-life


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