Thinking about retirement? Victor Billot has been doing
some crystal ball gazing on the subject and offers some
There is a retirement crisis in New Zealand.
Experts have made a compelling case for an imminent ''zombie
apocalypse'' of retired Kiwis, stalking the streets and
cannibalising the disposable incomes of innocent passers-by.
If humanity survives the collapse of the global financial
system, climate change, peak oil, peak population, Australian
DIY home improvement shows, and Facebook addiction, then we
are all in for some serious trouble when we retire. Experts
have done the maths and confidently predict in 40 years' time
we will be in the midst of pension armageddon.
Experts say the problem with the retirement crisis today is a
refusal to face up to reality. New Zealanders, as our owners
regularly point out, are in general quite irresponsible. To
afford retirement, people need to gain big-money jobs in
productive and highly skilled roles, such as finance company
directorships, public relations contracting for the
Government, or developing software for paying school staff
Instead, large numbers continue to avoid their
responsibilities by filling in their time in dead-end jobs
such as nursing, teaching, firefighting, and rest-home care.
On the subject of rest-homes, New Zealanders can be comforted
that the retirement crisis does provide opportunities for the
Once the retirement age reaches its optimum level of around
100, retirement villages can be self-sustaining. The older
residents can be cared for by residents who are a year or two
younger. These less older residents will need the work so
they can afford their own care.
People don't realise that retirement can be extremely
profitable for shareholders. Rest-homes have a flexible
workforce who are paid the market rate, otherwise known as
the minimum wage. However, if the overseas employers ask
nicely, we can also get rid of the minimum wage, if required.
KiwiSaver is another retirement innovation that may save the
day. It means that everyone from the prime minister to
rest-home helpers and even struggling hobbits can expect to
collect a windfall at age 65. This money will come in very
helpful in your golden years.
For example, a retired prime minister could spend his
KiwiSaver on upgrading the filters on the Olympic size
swimming pool at his Hawaiian condominium. On the other hand,
a rest-home helper could use their KiwiSaver nest egg to
photocopy the CVs they will be sending out for extra jobs to
supplement their national superannuation.
We have to catch up with Australia, and KiwiSaver is part of
the strategy. However, we don't want to catch up with
Australia too quickly, otherwise they might hear us coming up
behind them and start running faster. This is why we have
reduced the Government and employer contribution to
KiwiSaver. If we didn't do this, it would encourage people to
stay in New Zealand and then we would have to pay for their
retirement, as well.
In addition, it is important that we return to the family
model of social security. This model is used in many
countries which have avoided the welfare trap. The idea is
your family provides for you in times of hardship. If you are
irresponsible enough not to have a family, or if the rest of
your family are worse off than you, then you go hungry and
sleep in the streets. In economic terms this is known as a
Finally, there are the health reasons for not retiring. Many
psychologists are now pointing out that stopping work is bad
for older people. Getting out of the paid workforce can lead
to isolation, boredom, ennui, long walks on the beach,
leisurely breakfasts, fun afternoons at the bowling club,
quality time with grandchildren, volunteer work in the
community, and other negative indicators of declining mental
On the other hand, social contact with overbearing bosses,
annoying co-workers, and exasperating customers, apparently
provides us for a reason to keep breathing. There is also the
concern that retirement gives people time to ruminate about
the last 50 years of their lives they have spent grafting
away in dreary wage slavery. The solution is simple. If we
just keep on working, there is no time to think, so such
Thus I propose we announce a new national motto: ''we live to
work, rather than work to live''. I spoke to my neighbour
John about it at a barbecue while on holiday recently.
Apparently, he used to be in merchant banking, but has some
type of government job now, dealing with hobbits.
He plans to keep busy in his retirement keeping track of his
investments via the internet. He owns the condo next to me in
Hawaii, which has this amazing swimming pool.
Victor Billot is a Dunedin writer (and a member of the
Alliance Party) but contributed this as a private