The Western Front
The dream of a retirement bach in the Bay of Plenty has been around for many years.
The dream became a little upmarket in the ‘80s but, by the ‘90s, the bachs had been replaced with million dollar homes and the real estate market was loaded with unwanted two bedroom units. Retirement homes are the latest version of our sunset dreams and are touted as a major growth industry for the Bay. This solution will not last for long either. Like all dreams, we have to work for them and pay for them.
We are currently being bombarded with opinions on when we should retire, how much pension we will get and, of course, how much we won’t get unless we provide for ourselves. The real problem, never mentioned in all these debates is how old you will be when you are too old and have lost the opportunity to provide for yourself and your hangers on. With less than 40% of the workforce in any work at all, you are working to provide superannuation for yourself and one and a half extra people. How old will you be when you decide to give up the rat race and retire?
The young lad on television last week saw nothing strange in expecting a free lunch. It would appear that his life policy is that he is old enough already and is happy to join the one and a halfers that expect support for the rest of their lives. What should his free sunset dream home look like?
The politicians’ current debate is caught up in the detail of superannuation. Mr Key knows that the opposition will have a field day if he goes back on his promise of leaving the age for pensions at 65. Winston Peters is enjoying singing counterpoint behind him. Already resentment is rising over the freeloaders. Some are challenging the unemployed, the unemployable and immigrants who will never contribute anything to their share of our superannuation nest eggs. We are now warned that we will have to save 10% of our income for our old age and may not expect to get anything until we are 75. Let’s forget about retirement for a moment and look at the life that this planning is defining for us and our children.
A school leaver, who starts work at 16 and retires at 70, will have worked for 54 years.
He won’t have been responsible officially for a family until he is 30. The old chestnut of life beginning at 40 will have to shift on a bit. Forty used to be seen as an age for new beginnings. This was the time when the kids were basically off your hands and it was time to branch out and rejoin the human race. How does the idea of life beginning at 50 sound?
This mid-life crisis is evident already and featured in the news this week. A 50-year-old reported on his difficulties in finding a job at his age. He was told that he was over-qualified, knew what he was talking about and was too old. If the superannuation figures are right he should expect to work for another 20 years contributing to his superannuation.
Perhaps politicians should be studying the ad hoc work environment for workers. They can play with the numbers of superannuation as much as they like but if there is no chance of a worker actually being employed for 54 years, their planning and promises are rubbish and only political grandstanding.
An even more important problem is emerging in the Bay. New Zealand has been warned that seven per cent of our population is over 65 and this will rise to 10 per cent by 2020. Katikati already has 37 per cent of its population over 65.
The Productivity Commission warned of the need to address this aging population problem and I invited them to come to Katikati and study at firsthand the problem they were trying to solve for 2050. No-one has taken me up on my offer. It looks like Katikati will have to solve its own problems.
The town has been recognised already by the Ministry of Science and Innovation for having more innovative ideas than any other equivalent town in New Zealand. We were recognised but no-one has come to find out why. There are many highly qualified and experienced semi-retirees around town. They are probably baby boomers and are now being given the opportunity to lead our society in new ways of releasing their potential and finding new ways of allowing people to live fulfilling lives, from 15 all the way to 70. If a Katikati solution can be developed, only then will all the discussion in the papers on retirement age and sunset dreams 30 years from now have any relevance.