The Case for 'NOT Retirement'

For the past 200 years global life expectancy has been steadily increasing – from 46 years in 1840 to over 80 as I write this post. We are living longer, more fit and healthy. Since about 1950, the increase in life expectancy has been almost entirely due to older people living longer (rather than reduced mortality in early and mid-life).

All over the world, life expectancy is on the rise. Canadians are among the longest livers at 82.3 years in 2016. The UK clocked in at 81.0 years and the US at 78.7 years. Women live longer than men by around 4 or 5 years (I’m not sure who to complain to!). But, apparently, women age more slowly, are more robust in illness and carry their fat under their skin rather than around the organs where men carry it (a less healthy place).

But life expectancy is only half the story – and not the most important half. We are also more mentally and physically fit. Sixty is indeed the new fifty. In some cases, the difference is even more dramatic. The trend is continuing almost linearly. If things keep going this way, we could enjoy an average life expectancy of 95 or more by 2040 – most of it quite healthy.

 But there is a catch to all of this good news, and governments are worried. Pension plans didn’t sufficiently take into account the combined effects of a lower birth rate (i.e. fewer workers), more people living longer and zero to negative increase in earnings for most of the population since about 1970. Personal savings for late life aren’t keeping up either. After 65, what is a person to live on?

 There is (fortunately) another trend that can help mitigate this nastiness. Half a century ago, people were at their most productive between 40 and 50. Today, that’s more like 40 to 65. Many are perfectly productive well into their 70s. A key opportunity is that these older ages don’t carry the burden of supporting a family of children and so earnings can more freely accrue to savings and investment.

 Add to this, healthy and fit people almost always want to stay productive and contributing. Retirement is shaping up to be something much different than before. In fact, maybe it’s NOT Retirement!

 NOT Retirement, however, doesn’t have to be more of the same. NOT Retirement can be something else … something we want it to be. I have a story to tell about that – next post!


Ed Britton, The NOT Retirement Coach

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