“Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times” Jesus said. I’m being tested, I’m feeling weak and I’m going to share it with you.
We’ve all surely debated what retirement is and what we expect from it. Remember those cheesy life co ads from God-knows how many years ago “The longest holiday of your life”? Cheesy, yes, but it does sound very appealing. I have to ask, though, how long was your longest holiday? Three weeks? Six weeks? Not 25+ years, anyway.
Normally, that’s the cue for warning about the commitment people need to make to save enough. But that’s not what’s troubling me. What if, rather than being 25+ years, your retirement is 0 years and 0 days?
My in-laws all live in Asia and one of them has just been told she has lung cancer (despite not smoking). We are all frightened about what that means; we all fear that she will never have a retirement.
Is it heresy to ask, have we gone wrong with retirement planning? Providing enough for such a long retirement seems to be placing a huge bet on our making it. Would we bet our house on making it? Our pension fund may be worth more than it.
In many Asian countries, traditional custom is different. Children give their parents money to support them throughout their retirement. It aligns interests brilliantly and has mostly worked well for millennia. For sure, the custom has its vulnerabilities, including children dying before their parents. In China, the 4-2-1 phenomenon (4 grandparents supported by 2 parents who are also supporting 1 child) has put this custom under immense pressure and it is rapidly being lost to something more akin to our Western convention.
Daniel Kahneman said in his book “Thinking, Fast & Slow” that we struggle to infer the particular from the general. He’s called me out again: we all know that some die before their time but we think it only happens to other people, unknown. Now, I find myself questioning my faith in what we do. Have we got it right? Should we be looking at alternatives, old and new (defined ambition)? Or is this just a riddle without an answer?