Royal London has calculated that it takes a massive 25 years to pay for key life goals.

The old adage that the ‘best things in life are free’ does not ring true, according to Royal London, which estimates that it takes most Brits a quarter of a century to pay for major life targets such as going to university, buying a house, getting married, having two children and then retiring comfortably.

The mutual insurer has calculated that these major milestone add up, on average, to an eye-watering £566,659 over the course of a lifetime. That is on a median UK annual graduate net salary of £22,421.

Becky O’Connor, personal finance specialist at Royal London, said: “Put in these terms, the best things in life don’t look so free after all. Big life goals come with a price tag to match. With the exception of retiring comfortably, the irony is that many of these are goals people look to achieve before they are 40 – a time when your earnings are likely to be on the lower side and you will struggle even more to achieve them.

“The key to achieving life goals, first off, is to know what you would like to achieve and then plan for it, realistically acknowledging that you need something to live off in the meantime, and to think further ahead than you are perhaps used to thinking.

“We tend to only think about saving – apart from pensions – as something we do for the year ahead: for holidays, Christmas, and other short-term goals. But being mindful of long-term goals when planning your short-term spending and saving is useful – you can set aside any extra left at the end of the month towards them.”

The £566,659 figure takes into account the cost of going to university, which will cost approximately £23,000, buying a house with a 10% deposit as a first-time buyer on a property that has a total cost of £250,148. The figure also takes into account the average £30,111 cost of a wedding, and £150,000 needed for raising two children.

It also estimates that to retire comfortably, most people require a pension of around £300,000.

Commenting on the findings Andy Hart, financial adviser at Maven Adviser, said: “A fulfilled life costs a lot, why should it not. The key financial leaver is to spend less, the second leaver is to save more and the final one is a better investment return. Inflation beating investment returns only come from equities and physical property. The 80/20 principal should be applied to earnings verses spending, 80% of your energy should be on earning more and 20% on spending less. Setting up a business is the only way to create real wealth. What drives you – time, hobbies or material possessions?”

Keith Churchouse, director and chartered financial planner for Chapters Financial, said: “As Royal London notes, the best things in life are not free and planning for how to pay for them into the future has always been the challenge.

The sum calculated by Royal London seems fair and if you are looking at it from the start of your adult life, could well be daunting.

“Simply put, saving for the future usually requires two elements, namely time and money. So, start early, irrespective of the amount that you can save. It is also important to take advice early to understand investment risk and investment options to give the money you put away the best chance to grow into the future. Invariably, life events can be funded from varying sources, and it is usually sensible to create a range of sources of savings to help achieve future goals. Therefore, many will have ISAs, a pension or pensions, deposit savings, and other types of investment.

“The choices made for these varying plans may well depend on the tax wrapper and annual tax-free allowances most appropriate to the investor, along with their future access needs. If you need to access a house deposit at age 30, then a pension fund is not going to help.

“Some people also plan to rely on future inheritances, but with long-term care costs rising at a significant rate, this future source may not provide the funds anticipated.”

Aamina Zafar is one of the UK’s leading financial journalists. She has previously worked as a senior reporter at FT’s Financial Adviser. The award-winning journalist writes regularly on the IFA community, mortgages, pensions and financial regulation.

Further reading on this topic:

£500,000 tipping point for over-50s to seek advice – research