100-years-old and still working a day job?

Monday, 18th July 2016

Good morning, friends,

In this issue of Money Truths….

  • I will never retire….
  • Depending on the ‘silver-haired’ brigade….
  • Ivan Roitt – you don’t get too many of him to the pound….
  • From the realms of science fiction….

I will never retire….

I cannot imagine ever ‘retiring’ in the conventional sense of the word….

Reaching retirement age is one thing. Quitting work altogether is another thing entirely. For me, getting to 65 or 68 years of age is not a cue to deepen my relationship with daytime TV or to retreat into a life that consists of reading the Daily Mail cover-to-cover every morning and visiting the local garden centre once a week.

Call me unique and peculiar but I enjoy work. I always have. And I don’t see that reality changing simply because the candles on my birthday cake have increased in number.

Life is short. Time is limited. And I want to make full use of every minute I have available to me. There are things I want to achieve. I have a long list of things I want to do. I want to be productive for as long as I can be productive. And I see age as no bar.

At 65…. 70…. 75…. I see myself continuing along a through-line that has driven and sustained me since I was in my early 20s. Given good health and a fair wind, my ‘golden years’ can be just that – golden.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about working a ‘job’ into my 70s and beyond. I’m not talking about pushing a shopping trolley around the Asda car park for minimum wage. I’m not talking about labouring on a potato farm just to fill the gaps.

What I’m talking about is ‘work’ – as opposed to a ‘job’. By ‘work’ I mean involvement in projects that mean something to me – as opposed to labour undertaken out of pure financial necessity.

If and when I continue to work into my ‘retirement’ years, I will be doing so out of choice. Not because my financial situation demands it of me.

Depending on the ‘silver-haired’ brigade….

In Japan there is a slightly different dynamic at work….

Just last week economists in the land of the Rising Sun were talking about Japanese workers needing to work into their seventies and up until the age of 80 as a matter of economic necessity.

There is a labour shortage in Japan. Japan has a low birth rate – which means that the pool of working-age Japanese is gradually shrinking. The number of ‘working-age’ Japanese workers in the economy is projected to decline to 56 million in 2030 from 64 million in 2014.

That’s some drop in numbers. But there is a ready solution to hand. In addition to low birth rates, Japan also boasts the world’s longest life expectancy rate. Japanese people are healthier and live longer than their counterparts in other nations.

That natural advantage offers a route out of the work-pool dilemma. To overcome the shrinkage in its working-age workforce, Japan simply needs to pull more of its long-lived ‘silver-haired’ workers back into labor.

Corporate culture and company policy is set to undergo change so that a larger proportion of the older generations are encouraged to stay on well beyond the age of 60 – the age at which most Japanese workers currently retire.

Quite how the average ‘silver-haired’ Japanese toiler feels about what the economy requires of him/her is unclear. But one thing is certain: more Japanese workers are going to be working into old-age than has been the case previously.

And that’s a trend you can expect to see harden all over the civilized world as time goes by….

Ivan Roitt – you don’t get too many of him to the pound….

You can certainly expect to see the retirement age in the UK drift ever upward in the years ahead.

Forecasts produced by the Department of Work & Pensions have already made that much clear – suggesting that the average retirement age needs to increase by six months every year to reflect longer life expectancy.

That would mean in just 30-years-time, some people in the workforce won’t be hanging up the gloves until they are 80-years-old – like it or not.

I look around today and observe the people I know that are 80-years-old and I wonder how realistic that’s scenario is.

I had lunch yesterday with an 80-year-old man and, with the best will in the world, I struggle to envisage a business or enterprise that would see him as viably employable. The man can tell a funny story and he’s great company but his days of putting in a shift are well and truly over. When a man can’t get out of his seat without assistance, to what do you task him?

For sure, you get the odd outlier on the spectrum. Old-age is not a bar for the chosen few. But for the vast majority it very much is. And I don’t see medicine or science progressing swiftly enough in the next three decades to completely reverse the effects of the ageing process.

Not everybody can be like Ivan Roitt, for example. He’s 88-years-old and is currently Honorary Director of the Centre for Investigative & Diagnostic Oncology at Middlesex University, London. He’s the kind of man you tip your hat to. He’s the kind of man you stand up and applaud. But he’s not the kind of man you can expect your average 80-year-old to emulate.

We have problems in the UK right now. We have an ageing population. People are living longer. Improvements in science, medicine and health-care serve to contribute to the ever-increasing growth and sustainability of the grey sector of the population. Retirees are multiplying like bacteria on a petri dish. And the pressure on pensions is at an all-time high.

The problem is all-too-real. Something obviously has to change. Something has to be rebalanced in the face of new facts. Exactly what the solution is, I have no idea. But some of the ‘solutions’ I am hearing sound more like scenarios from the realms of science-fiction than bona-fide remedies….

From the realms of science fiction….

Rohit Talwar, chief executive of consultancy Fast Future, which advises schools and businesses on how to prepare for the future, presented his thoughts at the Headmasters and Headmistresses’ Conference last October.

He reckons that many of today’s 10 or 11-year-olds will live to at least 120 and that schools should be preparing children for working to the age of 100. He reckons youngsters should expect to have up to 40 jobs during their ‘careers’.

‘On the one hand we’ll be living longer. On the other hand we’re not sure how people are going to earn the money to buy the goods and services that will largely be produced by smart software and robots. Will it be right to assume that everyone will still have a job? Or will it be natural for 50 per cent of the population to not be working? If they do have a job all the way through their career, that means they’ll be working potentially up to the age of 100.’

What will these 100-year-old factotums be doing exactly? Nobody knows for sure. But Talwar has an idea….

‘If you go to a football match the stewards are usually young guys who get abuse from the fans, who don’t worry about upsetting them. But if someone’s in their 90s, they might be more wary of getting physical with them.’

Or they might not. Who can tell? I’m just glad I won’t be the 90-year-old geezer putting his life on the line and trusting to the goodwill of a bunch of inebriated football fans in order to earn a few quid and put food on the table.

And, in any case, exactly how many stewards are going to be required at football grounds – of whatever age? It doesn’t sound like this has been thought through.

Keeping people alive until they are 100+ might well be feasible. But it doesn’t follow that 100-year-old people are going to be robust enough and/or sufficiently compos mentis to drive a truck, carry a hod or work a shift as life guard at the local pool.

Getting old ain’t going to be easy for any of us. And the further ahead we look, the harder it will get. That’s for sure. I don’t know how government is going to solve the pension problem. I guess working until 80 or 100 is going to be the only option for some folk. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ve been a bit of a harbinger of doom this morning. But necessarily so. The future is coming. You can’t avoid it. All you can do is plan for it as best you can. And we’ll get to that in future issues.

The bottom line for today is this: what you experience in the years ahead will depend very much on the choices and decisions you make today and tomorrow.

That’s a money truth….

I’ll be back with more next Monday.

Best wishes,

Oliver Upstone

Dave Gibson

Money Truths