It may only be more than 100 years ago, but life in the 1900s would be considered brutal by today's standards.
Lights in your home might be candle or gas. Fridge, freezer - well they didn't exist. Indoor plumbing? If you were lucky. If you examined the list of what we might consider horrors, it would be akin to the famous Monty Python sketch where the four Yorkshiremen attempted to one-up each other with tales of how hard their childhoods were.
The average life expectancy at birth between 1955-57 for males was 68, and for females, it was 73.
When the National Superannuation came into effect in 1977, the eligibility was set at 60 and designed to ensure a basic standard of living for older New Zealanders living beyond 60. The age of eligibility became 61 in 1992, then gradually increased to 65 between 1993 and 2001.
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Things have changed since then. With modern medicine and some safety standards, we have more people over 65 than ever before.
The good news is that because we live in New Zealand, the odds of us making it into our 80s are very strong indeed. Life expectancy has increased by 12 years in the last 60 years – 79 for men and 83 for women.
In simple terms every 10 years our life expectancy has increased by two years. It is estimated that the number of people aged over 65 will hit 1.2 million within the next 10 years, from 600,000 in 2013. And by 2032, it is expected that 20-22 per cent of New Zealanders will be aged 65-plus.
For governments, it's a fiscal headache. We're living too long. There's not enough money.
But policymakers won't say it in so many words because, according to the economist Shamubeel Eaqub, it is politically unpalatable and they wouldn't want to upset voters, who are a large part of the voting population closest to retirement.
"It's affordable for now, and we don't tend to deal with things until they are well and truly broken. We don't save for super; it's a pay as you go – not save as you go – scheme, which is one of the problems," Eaqub said.
Some have gone further and likened our unfunded pension arrangements to that of a Ponzi scheme given its funding is solely reliant on future workers' tax contributions, both borne and unborn.
New Zealand has one of the simplest, yet expensive schemes ($14.5 billion in taxpayers' money this year) in the world – one must be old enough and spent 10 years (at least five of which must have been after the age of 50) of their life in God's Own country to get it.
Although the current Government is taking measures to protect the government's ability to pay superannuation at age 65 by restarting contributions to the NZ Superannuation Fund aka the 'Cullen Fund', with a projected increase of the funds to $64 billion by 2022/23, the increase in ageing population and pension expense projections are not helping.
The Wellbeing Budget 2019 states that social assistance spending is expected to increase by $6.8b per year between now and 2023. Of that, $4.8b relates to growth in pension expenses, reflecting an anticipated increase in the number of people receiving it. An OECD report last year, Pensions at a Glance, talked about the worldwide trend to curb rising pension costs by lifting the eligibility age, although it observed this was a political hot potato.
It's a dilemma around the world. Australia, Israel, Iceland, the US and Croatia are hiking the pension eligibility age to 67, and the UK and Ireland are raising it to 68. In Denmark, retirees may have to wait until they are 74 to get the pension. Russia is raising the pension age for its men to 65, even though their life expectancy is just 67.
In 2016, the Commission for Financial Capability said increasing the age of eligibility to 67 over eight years would save about $3.5 billion per year by 2034. The first cohort of people facing a retirement age of 67 with this potential change would be those born on or after January 1, 1974.
Even though the current Government is firm on keeping superannuation age at 65, those under 45, or more likely under 40, might want to wake up and shouldn't make the mistake of thinking the matter is closed.
Someone taking a full pension from 65 to 95? You can guarantee that brings a scowl to the face of those in the parliamentary budget office. So it is safe to expect that every couple of years there will be a new load of tweaks and changes for the betterment and sustainability of the superannuation system.
"That's not fair, I've paid my taxes" isn't a response any more. Assume it all. Governments can't live within their means at the best of times. A tsunami of people getting older doesn't just have implications for the superannuation. They'll also need more support and health care. That's more money.
Want to live on your terms? More saving and presumptive planning is the answer. Yes, presumptive. Because retirement for those born after 1974 may be the game that moves as you play.
· Nick Stewart is an Authorised Financial Advisers and CEO at Stewart Group, A Hawke's Bay-based CEFEX certified financial planning and advisory firm. Stewart Group provides personal fiduciary services, Wealth Management, Risk Insurance & KiwiSaver solutions.
· The information provided, or any opinions expressed in this article, are of a general nature only and should not be construed or relied on as a recommendation to invest in a financial product or class of financial products. You should seek financial advice specific to your circumstances from an Authorised Financial Adviser before making any financial decisions. A disclosure statement can be obtained free of charge by calling 0800 878 961 or visit our website, www.stewartgroup.co.nz