• The Listener
  • North & South
  • Noted
  • RNZ

Farewell, beautiful if irrational superannuation dream

Are dreams of a few decades of post-retirement bliss fading into the horizon? /Getty

Opinion - Sean Scanlon. 

On 25 December, 2040, I will turn sixty-bloody-five.

Will there be a nicely wrapped superannuation cheque from the government for my dual Christmas-birthday celebration?

Nope.

Have I always paid my taxes?

Yep.

Was I part of the first generation forced to get students loans (at 7 percent compounding interest a year, while studying, then with an extra 10 percent deducted from my pay packet)?

Yep.

Did the ones before, or after, us have to pay interest on their loans?

Nope.

Am I jealous?

A smidgen.

Do I protest, too much?

In my darker moments, I think of Generation X as the pay-for-everything cohort - health (private insurance means we don't clog up the public system for a whole heap of things), tertiary education and … (insert anything else here non-baby-boomers) and now we must slog on further to hit government-supported retirement.

I happily acknowledge I've had a peaceful middle-class upbringing, chances aplenty and, other than a few earthquakes, a life that moves within a fairly normal range of ups, downs, ebbs and flows.

Part of that ebb and flow has always been the beautiful, if irrational, idea that I'd retire at 65, come hell or high water, enjoy maybe 20 years wandering aimlessly around a golf course, some travel and then drop dead.

My wife, interrupting this rant, says the superannuation age hike isn't so bad.

"I didn't think we'd be getting any money by the time we got through," she says.

Spoken like a rational human being.

In answer to that I'd say: there doesn't seem to be any protection against the age going higher still.

Jeepers, if it went over 70 that would be depressing.

Yes, rationally, I understand the issue of the baby boomer population spike, which was followed by a more, dare I say it, measured approach to family size in following generations.

I know that successive, and cowardly, governments have punted doing anything with superannuation for fear of upsetting the masses. That is a big part of the problem.

Too much thought to protecting votes, too little thought to honesty about the punch to the middle-age paunch for anyone who is not a baby boomer (they who must be protected at all costs, wink).

I don't, actually, begrudge baby boomers their superannuation at 65. I know no-one who has worked harder than my parents and their friends. Still, it's a bit miserable for the rest of us.

Putting aside the easy stuff to moan about, the biggest question in all of this is: where in God's name am I going to work until I'm 67?

Anyone heard of automation? Robots? The interweb?

Moore's law, which emerged in about 1970, says computer processing speeds double every two years (it's about 18 months at the moment). There is no hope of me working up to 2042.

My car will drive itself and my iPhone 30-something will do everything else, including ordering stuff I don't need from a factory where not an ounce of human flesh is present.

And who, bless them, in the younger generation will want 67-year-olds sitting next to them at whatever workplaces will look like in 23 years' time?

The millennials already think I've passed my use-by date at 41.

So to end this diatribe, I have one piece of advice for non-baby-boomers: Buckle down, it's time to work harder still because either way money is going to be hard to come by when you're 65.

PS Dear RNZ, because you're paying by the word I've added a few extra. Every penny counts.

Sean Scanlon is a journalism tutor at the New Zealand Broadcasting School. He got a hefty student loan in the 1990s studying to become a journalist and has worked in Kiwi, Australian and Chinese newsrooms. Disclaimer: Opinions are his own and journalists don't get paid much. Sob.