Saturday, 9 April 2011

Planning for the Future

Pensions are the thing that most people in their forties and fifties don't like to think about. It's a distant phenomena which happens sometime in the future, and like Wills and other matters which concern the last stage in life is difficult to take too seriously. However, open every money page of the broadsheets and it is hard to ignore the need to plan and not anticipate what the provision will actually be when retirement actually comes.

When I was first ordained the sums were simple, work 35 years as an ordained priest and you would be entitled to a receive a full pension. I had worked out that I would therefore be able to retire at 66 years. After working 16 years the goal post have changed and I now anticipate working until aged about 70 years. That's of course if I don't take that word Pension a bit more seriously and begin to save for retirement, which I will have to do if I want to have some choice about where I live and how I live in old age. Long gone is the short hay day of the eighties when, like my father, one could retire at 53 and with some financial prudence manage never to have to work again, enjoying the fruits of ones labour for at least another 25 years.

As I write however I am aware of all the words I use: entitled; receive; provision; save; choice. Words which do not appear in the vocabulary of many across our globe. They are words which speak of wealth and luxury, not of millionaires or celebrities (that's on totally a different plane) but of people who will be provided with something when we stop working for a living to enable us to continue to live independent lives.

This weekend we are asked by Christian Aid to reflect on the plight of the elderly across the world. In many countries those beyond 70 have to go on working to survive, Bolivia has only recently introduced a state pension to enable people in their late 70s to be able to afford the rent without having to keep working. And in other parts of the world most families have to daily absorb the cost of caring for their elderly relatives because there is no state provision. This gives those who work additional costs to bear out of a limited income, and the elderly little choice about anything.

Reflecting on this makes me realise how much we have. It also makes me so grateful for all I take for granted - that my parents have had a long and happy retirement, and that I can anticipate receiving something called Pension when I eventually stop work.

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