Comment: Our 'golden years' are set to be longer but less gilded
There are lots of frightening words flying around about the shortfalls in our personal and national pension pots. It seems we are all going to live much longer and are set to become major bothers to our children and their offspring.
According to figures from the World Economic Forum, and quoted by my colleague Ellie Donnelly in the Irish Independent last week, the average UK citizen in 1960 was expected to live for 6.1 years after retirement. The current average person is expected to live for 16.6 years after he or she clears out the locker and in 2050 the average Brit is expected to live for 20.9 years after they get the bus pass.
I am reminded of an old Brendan Grace gag about a mountain village in Kerry where the air was so good they had to hire a man on a FAS scheme to patrol the graveyard with a big stick while shouting "Lie down now lads, lie down will ye."
The 'golden years' are set to get longer but there won't be much gold to gild them. According to the aforementioned World Economic Forum the gap in pensions globally in 2050 will amount to €375 trillion, five times the size of today's entire global economy.
This ought to be worrying for many of us on the sliding side of 50 who are in rude good health but seriously lacking in the pension department. Apparently we are facing a retirement where luxury will consist of a Marietta biscuit and a cup of tea brewed from a recycled teabag.
In an attempt to establish how I myself am fixed or unfixed in relation to the pension gap I took to poking around the innards of the 'Net'. In the course of my perusals I came across an organisation called the Pensions Authority. This regulatory body is charged, among other things, with providing "information and guidance material to help you understand pensions." The Authority's website has a calculator that will tell you how bleak or how bright your financial prospects are as you face into the years of slippers and Complan. With not a little trepidation I clicked on this calculator and, to cut a short story even shorter, it told me I'm goosed. If I wish to maintain my income at only 45pc of its current level I will need to put aside a figure equivalent to a hefty monthly mortgage repayment.
There isn't a hope of finding that kind of loot in my coffers. With three little ducks toddling inexorably to the finish line at secondary education, every spare bob has someone else's name on it for at least the next ten years. It looks like I'll be going cap in hand to one of Leo Varadkar's successors in the Department of Social Protection when the time comes to hand in my badge.
I wonder if it is as bleak as all that? Maybe it isn't. As I reflect on these things I recall how, at the end and at the beginning of every new era in my life I was bombarded with dire warnings about the penury and hard labour that lay ahead. For instance, as I approached the end of secondary school I remember people telling me the best years of my life were over, that I was about to enter the land of adulthood, a place of weeping, wailing and dental gnashing.