I woke up this morning listening to a report on pensions on Radio Five. Well, I was sort of awake anyway and sort of listening to the brinkmanship stuff that was going on overnight in the US Congress where the world's economic health was at stake. Scary stuff and a bad start to a Monday morning really. Mondays have never been my favourite days if I'm being honest and having to worry about the state the States are in as well as everything else I've got on my mind right now made me think that even by a Monday standard today isn't even up there with the best of the worst.
The pension item on the news didn't do much to cheer me up either. John McFall (these days Lord McFall) was on talking about a new report he's done for the NAPF on the state of our private pensions in the UK. Nothing as disastrous as the potential collapse of the western financial world I suppose, but a potential personal disaster for millions of Britons if our private pension scheme doesn't deliver that's for sure.
I was listening to all this and wondering what different people hear when they get this kind of news hit them about pensions. The trouble, it seems to me, is that different generations of us have different shapes to our lives and will probably want different things from our one-size-fits-all pension system.
Years ago, I suppose, you could say a whole generation of Britons saw pensions as a way off the treadmill of work. I'm sure not everyone ever saw things that way, but that's kind of the way pensions used to be portrayed once upon a time. The perception was that people started work in their second decade of life, stopped work halfway through their seventh decade of life and looked to leave the planet sometime early in their eight decade; sort of three score years and ten, that kind of thing.
Now that was never really real, but enough people bought into the idea that it was possible for our politicians to build a pension system around that basic perception of the shape of our lives.
The generation that followed that generation (a group that calls itself the Baby Boomers) started the trend of at least some of the generation not starting work until they were in their third decade on Earth. Increases in longevity, or at least the numbers of senescent deaths, meant that many Boomers could have a reasonable expectation of still being on the planet to see some of the years of their ninth decade.
That's not the same for everyone, of course, but there's already enough consensus around that perceived shape to that generation's lives that today's politicians have the political capital to change our pension system to take account of it.
The Boomers' children are a different generation (just as their children will be to them). Boomers' children accept the idea that starting work is something that happens in your third decade of life. They also accept that 'normal' now means starting work in debt and not with the clean slate that was the norm for previous generations. They are told that they can expect to see most of the years of their ninth decade and many may well see some of their tenth decade's years before they pop off. They'll be confident their own children may well see their eleventh decades out while still enjoying life.
All three generations probably listened to that radio broadcast this morning, but like I said, I wonder what they all heard...
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