Let's lower the retirement age. Please don't increase it!
The Government has announced that the retirement age will be increased from 65 to 67 years in 20 years time. The rationale for this increase is that life expectancy is increasing while the burgeoning cost of the universal pension is unsustainable. It would appear that the majority of Kiwis have accepted this. I don't.
I think this policy announcement is a political cop out. I think it is dishonest and morally reprehensible. I think it is a preemptive move to prevent the under-investment by Government in retirement funding from becoming a toxic election campaign issue for the Establishment Parties.
Increasing the pension age is wrong and I will explain why.
Life expectancy may have been increasing up till now, but it is about to start decreasing
Image above: Back in the Good old Days when we were all terribly healthy.
Baby-Boomers of New Zealand come from the strongest stock and were the best-nourished generation of Modern Times.
We got sunshine and we exercised constantly. We were not sent to war as young men. Young women gained control of their reproduction and no longer die during childbirth. We got car seat belts and industrial machine guarding. We benefitted from minimal medications, but the best of modern medications. It is hardly any surprise that we are expected to live longer than any generation that came before us. But this trend for longevity is about to reverse.
I'm now over 35 years into the business of health. When you work this long at one thing it is hardly a surprise that your get to notice trends, some of which may not show in the research for quite some time to come. Come to think of it, most scientific research findings are first preceded by a series of observations by an experienced person in the field, noticing a trend and acting on it. It might best be called "the anarchy of science". There is a health trend that I can see and I am not the only one who can see it.
Right now we have the Baby-Boomer Tsunami now hitting the shores of retirement. Not long from now, in fact right now, we are being hit by the Tsunami of "Generation Weak". Following the robust Baby-Boomers are generations if progressively weaker and sickly generations. Please don't get me wrong, I am not speaking unkindly of those generations that follow, including my lovely children. I am expressing these words with a sense of great concern and alarm.
Baby-Boomers will be followed by generations with progressively declining health and declining life-expectancies
Many people will never get to experience more than a few years of retirement and many of those that do will not enjoy a good quality of life, relying on side-effects-laden pharmaceutical drugs and invasive medical procedures to simply remain alive. This may sound depressing but it sure looks like it will be our reality.
Thirty years ago, few people, other than the oldest, were on meds. Nowadays, I must question every person, young and old about their meds, prescribed and over the counter. Some powerful meds, such as antihistamines, are now so casually prescribed that many people do not even think of them as being meds, leaving them off the list of medicines! When I was at secondary school, I was aware of just one medicated asthmatic and one diabetic and this was in a school of 700 pupils! Asthma and diabetes are now epidemic.
Ailments that were once considered diseases of the old are now common within young people. Gall bladder surgery is now typically a young woman's procedure. Nasty diseases of the digestive tract are now common in youngsters. I could not tell you how many cases of shingles we now see in young people. Type II diabetes is now a young person's disease. Children no longer seem to suffer "greenstick" fractures when they fall: instead, their bones may snap like those of old people. Horrible autoimmune diseases are surging. Motor neurone disease was once very rare. No longer is this the case.
We can argue all day about why this across-the-board decline in health is happening, but let's not. What this all points to is that the population coming up behind the Baby-Boomers has declining health and this will inevitably lead to a decline in both quality of life in old age, as well and an overall reduction in life expectancy. This is my prediction. It's alarming.
Yes - please prove me wrong I would like that.
The people who can least afford to retire are the most penalised by increasing the retirement age
I don't have to retire until I feel like it. We are far from wealthy, but I feel I can gradually reduce my work, if I want, because I can afford to do so; besides I'm in good health and I love my job.
Getting my pension when I turn 65 will be most welcome but it will not make much difference, financially, for me or my family. On the other hand, I'll take it because I have earned it. I've paid all my taxes, insurances and ACC levies and barely called on any of these. So, I'll happily take it and keep on working until it is time to call it a day - probably never!
Raising the retirement age will have a huge financial impact on many people . You will be in serious trouble if you are in a low income job, or if your earnings and savings have been interrupted or disrupted for any number of reasons, be it taking time out to raise your children, a messy divorce, a business failure, an accident, or ill health.
Women, more than men, will be adversely affected by raising the retirement age and look who are making these decisions - wealthy men!
People who do physically demanding jobs are penalised by increasing the retirement age
Some jobs - many jobs - simply wear people out. Forcing a person to continue to labour, well past their used-by date, at a job that has long worn their knee cartilages to the bone is just morally wrong.
Let's reduce the retirement age instead and give every New Zealander a basic universal wage
Here's the plan: gradually reduce the age of retirement to 60 years. Introduce a basic universal wage for every Kiwi 18 years and older. Say $10,000 per year. The pension is then placed on top of this basic universal wage.
Means test those people who are at, or in, retirement so that the pension is paid proportionately to those who most need it.
Can we afford a universal wage and earlier retirement age?
Of course we can! We are a First World Nation. If there is a problem with funding, it is because of the uneven distribution of our national wealth. We are a wealthy country where the wealthy keep getting wealthier, while the majority of us get poorer by the day. Hundred a millions are there for the taking for investment in social programmes, including retirement and a providing a basic living wage for all. All that is needed is for those in power to go after it (one could argue that this will never happen because it is the wealthy few who control the legislature!).
Introducing a universal wage and paying the pension sooner than later has many benefits. The most obvious is the stimulation of domestic economic activity, including higher tax takes which can, in turn, help fund these programmes. People will be happier, they will feel less enslaved to their jobs, they will be better placed to feed their children with wholesome foods, rather than Coke and white bread.
Early retirement frees up job spaces for young people.
There will be more voluntary participation in "good works".
We will be a better society all round for these changes.
Where there's a will, there's alway a way!
Enough said: Let's get on with it!