If I were granted one wish for old age, it would be to avoid the horror that is early retirement. Please God, anything but that. Anything but waking up in the morning with no particularly urgent place to go, and no particularly obvious thing to be. Channel 4’s new series How to Retire at 40 – which largely seems to involve two decades of fanatical self-denial, all in the name of spending the next decades worrying about running out of the money saved – looks to me like the worst sort of dream.
What are these people going to do for the next 40 years? Won’t couples simply run out of things to say to each other when they’re spending two-thirds of their marriage under each other’s feet day and night? For every one in retirement smelling the roses there is surely another grieving for the loss of an identity and a purpose, sinking into depression as the walls close in. Barring dementia, or getting too arthritic to use a keyboard, all I want is to die typing.
But you can’t bar those things. And that’s why the government’s decision to raise the state pension age to 68 (phased in from 2037 onwards rather than from 2044) is frankly scary even for the lucky few in adored jobs that can be done sitting down, let alone for those who hate their jobs, are frankly knackered or dying to stop. It fuels the fear that something will make us give up work before we can afford to do so. No wonder the announcement was slipped out while the nation was busy arguing about whether the BBC’s Huw Edwards should be paid more to read the news than Laura Kuenssberg gets to find it out in the first place.I retired early at the age of 54, some 13 years ago, and have never regretted it for a moment. There is nothing more delightful than "waking up in the morning with no particularly urgent place to go, and no particularly obvious thing to be". Read a book, engage in day trading. watch the Tour de France on the telly, even blog a little. Especially if you have few financial worries.
The real objection to the raising of the state pension age is that it discriminates against the poor as they have a lesser life expectancy (for all sorts of reasons), particularly in the post-industrial areas. Whereas the wealthier home counties set are more likely to be less reliant on the state pension even although their longer lifespan means that they will derive more pension benefit than those in less fortunate circumstances. Time for regional variations in state pension age?