One day during our Christmas break, my wife was horrified to read in the daily paper that retirement ages are going up. Jeanette is a French national, even though she has lived most of her life outside of France. ‘There won’t be enough jobs for the young people and the elderly will be forced to work until they drop,’ she said.
Since I value domestic harmony, I didn’t contradict her. Usually it’s not a good course of action. ‘Don’t ask me,’ I said. ‘I just manage the money that pays the pensions and I don’t have a say about what age we pay the pensioners or who works for how long’.
Back in the office after Christmas, our HR department has organised a short seminar for senior staff on employment and age discrimination.
Two facilitators are running through the issues, but without much good humour. They brief us on our government’s policy and the role of the unions and employers associations. We watch a video with a factory worker who has worked his way from the shop floor to a white-collar role and who has taken retraining.
Then we are asked to split into groups for role play exercises, pretending to be elderly people in the workplace. And, finally, we brainstorm ideas for Wasserdicht to promote ‘active ageing in the workplace’. ‘Don’t pay pensions until 75,’ someone says from the back of the room’. The facilitators don’t look amused.
Later that week, I have a presentation from a consultancy about longevity hedging, with a view to getting our business for a trade.
Jos and his colleague Anke have a lot of interesting and quite striking interactive slides about demography but I soon spot that they are really trying to appeal to my professional pride. I would be a leader in Dutch pensions if we were to do the trade, they tell me.
‘Imagine the industry awards and accolades that you and Wasserdicht Pension Funds would receive,’ Anke says smiling.
‘Maybe,’ I tell Jos and Anke, ‘but it would have to make sense for us to do this and I am just the investment director. Our chief executive and trustee chairman would need to be involved and right now we just don’t see the need to do all this work.’
Back at home one weekend, it’s time for Jeanette and I to discuss the family finances. Very soon, we get round the topic of retirement and pensions, even though I like to think I have a few years or even decades of professional life ahead of me.
‘Actually I’m thinking of taking early retirement in a few years,’ I tell Jeanette. I am joking but I want to test her reaction. ‘We have enough money and I’d like to practice my golf.’
Predictably, she is horrified. ‘Early retirement!’ she exclaims. ‘I’m sorry but you’ll have to continue working. I don’t want you at home all day getting under my feet’.
Pieter Mullen is investment director at Wasserdicht Pension Funds