It’s time to stop being shy about retiring – we can’t afford it

If 80 is the new 60, and 50 is the new 30, I’m a teenager again, looking forward to a bright future at university. I certainly had a thought-provoking tutorial recently at the hands of UBS’s professorial George Magnus, one of the prophets of the credit crunch but also the author of a book about demographics, The Age of Aging.

The statistics about an ageing population are starting to become familiar: people are living longer and having fewer children, and this is true not only in rich countries but much of the developing world. But the implications are often misinterpreted. An ageing society is not, primarily, a demographic crisis. The problem is a failure to adapt – a failure that afflicts politics, management and society.

The simplest way to see this is to think again about what the demographic “problem” is supposed to be. It is simply that people are tending to live longer and longer, often in good health. That doesn’t sound like a problem to me – are we supposed to prefer a world in which people die younger and younger?

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