What do you mean “getting old”?

Hope I die before I get old


Today’s my son goes up to Cambridge, just as I did 36 years ago. He’ll make his own way, I am off to France to watch the Arc de Triomphe.

It feels like it should be one of those rites of passage things with mothers weeping and Dad’s proudly packing a wad of notes and a packet of condoms into the lad’s jacket.

But it isn’t like that at all. Modern Life defies expectations and no matter how hard we try to make it like the movies, it rarely is. Like David Byrne “singing once in a lifetime”, we may find ourselves behind the wheel of a large automobile and we may ask ourselves “my God – what have I done?”.

None of us really gets old, we just struggle against age – which defines us by what we are not. I can no longer beat my son at tennis, I no longer feel the need to chase after women, I no longer check my balance before drawing cash out of the machine.

It is annoying to be told that at 55 (give or take a few days), I do not have the right to call myself “in retirement”. I would very much like to retire from much of what I see going on around me ; the people who spoke boldly about the mass affluent enjoying unlimited free time once they reached 50 are as inconspicuous as the people a generation behind them who told us we would all be living on the moon.

The nightmare scenario of a world in permanent fuel shortage and population overload is failing to materialise. We can scarcely remember we are supposed to be in crisis. My generation is neither on the moon or over it, we are living a life of much greater mundanity than we ever imagined.

Apocalyptic visions aside, we are marching resolutely towards immortality. Fitbits record our progress and our vitality is the measure of our health premiums (health is something our frugal parents would  not have thought of insuring. For our parents health was national and funded through taxation.

Bizarrely, we are polarising between a generation polarised  between those that can afford to live for ever and those  with every prospect of becoming imporverished in late-late old age. Maybe the SIPP drawdown crew should consider eating more pies.

So I face being 55 quite differently than I expected, my son considers Cambridge a short commute from London, he is earning from webchats he conducts on his mobile phone with employers choosing pensions for their staff. He is taking on £40Ks worth of debt as a premium to the world of steady work. It is a bet with the odds shortened by the likelihood of having (Cantab) on his card. This was not the deal I made with society in 1980.

I never expected what I’ve got. Running Pension PlayPen is nothing but a pleasure. Working with First Actuarial is a delight. I don’t need an office , my work arrives in a black or silver tray called a laptop and it is despatched with the press of a key. The only thing that divides me and my client in California are the time zones.

My lifestyle is organised around convenience, I live in the City of London, have a boat on the river and work where it suits me and my clients. This is much more than I could ever have hoped for. My partner is similarly sorted.

Though I feel my shirt tight across my belly and ache when I get up from my chair, I can still do an hour on a Boris Bike each day and am determined not to stop drinking! I gave up smoking in 2010 and hardly know anyone who smokes (tobacco). Though I am no model of health, I have it in me to become one.

Death is something that happens to other people, it is an abstract notion confined to life insurance policies and conditions of my pension, and yet I know it could become my reality at any moment. It is my failure to engage with the hereafter that most surprises me. I have almost completely lost my interest in the afterlife, the spiritual has become  temporal, the word is flesh.

So if you ask me if I am getting old, I can only reply “what is old” and hope that I don’t look it. I do not feel elderly but I’m counting my chickens. I appear to be lucky in my finances, my health, my friends , my family and in love. Carpe diem!

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to What do you mean “getting old”?

  1. Stuart Trow says:

    Love it. Laughed out loud several times without feeling the need to LOL. Almost exactly the same age as you and with much of the same angsty-baggage when I forget how good life has been to me

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