"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
July 10, 2005

The Future Of Retirement

Here’s a bit of futurism for you, by the time people born in the 60s start to turn 60 (i.e., 2020), full-time retirement at the age of 60 or 65 will be the exception, rather than the rule. What I am getting at is that if you are my age or younger (I was born […]

Here’s a bit of futurism for you, by the time people born in the 60s start to turn 60 (i.e., 2020), full-time retirement at the age of 60 or 65 will be the exception, rather than the rule. What I am getting at is that if you are my age or younger (I was born in 1968), then the odds are you simply will not retire in the way you may have seen your parents or grandparents retire.

The good news is this may be by choice. People will choose to rethink their working and living patterns, with increased opportunities for second and third careers. Rather than suspend work at an arbitrary age, they will see midlife and beyond as the chance to take on different challenges, maybe give back to their community. Others wil simply continue to question the logic of stopping work they find stimulating and interesting.

However, the bad news is some may not have a choice. With defined-benefit largely a thing of the past, social security being eroded and a massive saving’s shortfall many will simply not be able to afford to retire. The lack of savings (or losing savings due to bourse-instability) and often the eroded income potential in later midlife (through job insecurity) will leave large numbers of people unable to fund a conventional retirement. Unless we as a generation (or set of generations) plan to radically overhaul our consumerism, we will still need substantial nest-eggs to live into old age and many will not have enough.

The world starts to look rather different if you start to add 10-15 years to your working life. The extra years start to make it seem a little more absurd pressuring teenagers into choosing a “career” before they have even finished school. It also starts to seem a little absurd to put off experiences for a retirement that may never happen. Family, travel, where you live, all start to come under reconsideration if you accept that you might never retire.

Perhaps the whole notion of retirement will simply be abandoned, or at least radically rethought. Maybe the notion of taking longer breaks or sabbaticals from work through midlife to retain health and focus will become more fashionable. Certainly it is easy to imagine not retiring if your work is fulfilling and flourishing. But for many it is not. So, on the flipside, maybe we will become more accustomed to seeing older and older folks working low paying jobs we once assumed would go to school-leavers and the unskilled. I’m not sure. Whatever happens, I’m pretty certain most people under 40 will not see the kind of retirement they might have imagined when they started work.

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