All I want is a shack somewhere...

by Bill Ralston / 03 January, 2013
So much for my retirement planning.
Big Ham cartoon by Steve Bolton
“Yeah, the tough old bugger’s still hanging in there, taking up space and making himself at home. I thought it’d all be over by now, but I suppose it was a pretty big ham.” /cartoon by Steve Bolton.

When it comes to acts of utter and complete bastardry, there is a wealthy Swiss banker who is a top contender for World Champion Swine. The 65-year-old convinced her 74-year-old wheelchair-bound husband to accompany her on the trip of a lifetime to India, took him to a New Delhi slum, paid a local family $3000 a month to look after him, then high-tailed it back to Switzerland alone.

This was not the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The poor old codger died nine months later as a result of “lack of care and poor hygiene” and his body was then cremated and thrown in a river. The wife, it seems, had tired of paying about $12,000 a month for his care in Europe, so found a cheap way out.

The story has a happy ending of sorts. Late last year, Swiss authorities charged her with kidnapping and she is now serving four years in jail. I’ve pointed this out to my wife, who has convinced me to holiday at a remote Hawke’s Bay beach. Should she disappear, having abandoned me to the dubious care of feral beach dwellers, I expect police would be on her tail, too.

However, the story of the husband-dumping banker did get me thinking about what we would do when we retire in another five or even 10 years. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a movie about a group of British pensioners who move into a down-at-heel Indian hotel to spend their autumn years, is one option, I guess. Sell up and move somewhere warmer and cheaper than Auckland.

With property prices around our area reaching Lotto-like proportions, we could cash up in, say, 2020 and buy a shack on a beach somewhere rural and live off the proceeds. The only problem with that scenario is that the rest of you baby boomers are plotting the same thing, so the property market will be flooded, prices will drop and I’ll have to spend my declining days in penury. Don’t think there’s any hope of living off the children; they’ll be living the high life in Australia, and saying things like, “Dad who?” when you rake up enough money to call them.

A friend suggests gathering half a dozen of our mates, pooling our resources, buying a plot of land, living on it in caravans, planting a huge vege garden and running some chooks and pigs. It would be a kind of self-supporting geriatric Centrepoint commune, but without all the communal shagging that went on there.

However, I’m not sure I want to become an agrarian peasant scraping a subsistence living in my dotage. Besides, the group of mates she suggests would doom me to an early grave with a vat of gin and tonic in the strawberry patch at 4pm daily.

I guess we could move to a small impoverished Pacific island where our savings would go further, but then again, we already live on a small impoverished Pacific island and our savings won’t go a long way here. Of course, there is superannuation, but you can guarantee some future government will raise the age of eligibility every time you get close to the trigger point and your KiwiSaver account will be demolished in successive global financial crises throughout the “teens” and “twenties”.

No, we’ll all just have to keep working until we drop. The future workforce of New Zealand business and commerce will consist of nothing but silver-haired drones shuffling about on their walking frames, their children having fled across the Tasman in search of high-paid jobs. The country will be led by an octogenarian Winston Peters who, like the rest of us, has been unable to retire gracefully. Come to think of it, I don’t think he’ll ever retire gracefully, even if this scenario doesn’t play out. Still, there is a family in New Delhi with a vacancy for a boarder if you want to give that a go.
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