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The retiring type

The revolving door at the Department of Work and Pensions is still in working order. We have had the following at the DWP since Labour came to power – Harriet Harman, Jeff Rooker, Alasdair Darling, Alan Johnson, David Blunkett and now John Hutton.

The recent lack of action over Government employees’ retirement age simply reflected a decision being ducked. I hope that Adair Turner is not sensitive because the Government will avoid any difficult problem that was previously the preserve of the pension actuary.

The change to the retirement age was not an option, especially as the state pension may go to 67 or 70 in the next year or so.

I am not saying there is any magic in age 65 and this is shown in why it was chosen in the first place. Kaiser Wilhelm was looking for a way to rid himself of some troublesome individuals in his govern-ment. An aide suggested he retired them and proposed 65. In the 1930s, the US government wanted to get more of the younger men back to work and picked 65 when the German story was relayed to them.

The question I have is whether retirement is really necessary. I have stopped asking people when they want to retire, moving on to ask when do they plan to retire. After all, the former will simply elicit the response, as soon as possible. I now ask clients when they plan to do something different. One US planner uses the phrase “How old would you be if you did not know how old you were?”

This approach follows the concept that two people of the same age can be completely different in activities and outlook.

We need to encourage the public to move to more realistic levels of pension contributions. Most 30-year-olds are paying more for gym membership than they do towards pensions. The Government can help by being more direct and explain that S2P will die away and the state basic pension move to affluence-testing.

When the public realise taking control of your own pension funding is the way forward, so much the better.


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