We are being swamped today by “big questions” about how long we can work and how much we need to save to retire.
As I look out of my bedroom this morning there is snow on the banks of the river Tay. I am nearly 55, I thought 2o years ago I’d be retired by now. Instead I will be driving a hire car around Central Scotland urging accountants to take pensions seriously.
There are times (like now) when I fear getting old, bones creak , tummy wobbles, I get breathless getting out of bed. I know it’s relative and I’m a lucky young (old) man, but those who speak blithely of working till they drop, probably having mornings like mine too.
And there are many people who don’t just have senior moments, many of us in our late fifties and early sixties have neither the capacity to work, or the prospect of productive employment if they could. People who are mentally impaired, physically impaired or who simply don’t have the opportunity to work as a result of where they live and how society sees them.
Ros Altmann, before she became Pension Minister was a champion for the older worker. We have not had a replacement for her, I wish we had.
John Cridland is starting a review of the state pension age, his work should encompass that of leading gerontologists at universities like Bristol, London and Manchester who collect data on people’s capacity to work and their financial needs when they don’t. I hate to use a clichéd word but “lifestyle” sums up what they look into.
We should listen too to Age UK, a charity which speaks for older people. They’re calling on John Cridland to think of a regional state pension age. Age UK said yesterday
“We live in a country where healthy life expectancy varies so much and there are widening inequalities between deprived and affluent areas.
…. the state pension age should not be based on life expectancy alone”.
I cannot agree with lifestyle testing the State Pension Age.
If we were to target the state pension , we would formalise divisions in society which we should be working to remove. But we need a system of welfare flexible enough to treat different types of people and different parts of the country flexibly.
The gerontologists now have the data to tell us where problems are and we should be using the big data they are collecting to make interventions where we need to without breaking the universality of the state pension.
And we should listen to the message of Royal London’s report (and that of the Labour party’s think-tank), that we need to prioritise our private spending on retirement above immediate consumption.
I moaned a the start of this blog about the attention we are paying to the pension this morning. I take it back. It was because for much of the last quarter of the twentieth century , we ignored these big questions about work and pensions, that we are having this enormous debate today.
If we were not to be debating state pensions today (and revisiting the way we incentivise private pensions on March 16th) we would just be kicking the can down the road.