The issue of ageing populations and funding retirement schemes is not a modern one - the Romans faced the same political and fiscal problems 2000 years ago.

Take yourself back to March when new Prime Minister Bill English opened the door to raising the retirement age in New Zealand - the new superannuation age would lift to 67 years old from 2037.

The new policy would be phased in over three years, from then. Anyone born before 1974 would not be affected by the change.

To be entitled to New Zealand superannuation, the residency test is doubled. A person must have lived in New Zealand for 20 years, and five of those years must be post 50 years of age.


Taking a leaf from John Key's 2008 playbook, Labour leader Jacinda Arden last week pledged during spirited debate that she would repeal National's two-year age lift in 2037 and resign before raising the retirement age.

Stern words for an ever-growing problem.

The average age of Kiwis has increased by 1.3 years every decade, yet the retirement age has not kept pace.

The retirement age hasn't changed since 2001, when it was raised from 60 to 65 over nine years.

Kiwis are living longer, but the retirement age has not changed. It would have been ideal if this was phased in some time ago.

Australia moved on the issue years ago, with former Labour Prime Minister Kevin Rudd introducing the policy.

It has already come into effect across the ditch. Current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull intends to lift it to 70 years of age by 2035.

Superannuation at its crux has been a political football since 1898, when means-tested pensions were first established in New Zealand.


At that time, the retirement age was 65 and it was formally known as an old-age pension.

When introduced, life expectancy for a man was about 54 years and, due to the harsh means test, about only a third of those over 65 were eligible.

This is not a modern-day problem and is well documented. This has happened before; other states have been dealing with this for thousands of years.

In Roman times, 2000 years ago, Emperor Augustus introduced the "Aerarium militare" for legionaries, a pension for army veterans.

The problem was, Romans started living for longer and there were fewer wars, so fewer people were killed. The pension for the military was under-funded and Augustus found he kept having to introduce new taxes and levies to pay for it.

Unsurprisingly, this caused huge social unrest and civil war appeared inevitable.

In the end, new foreign conflicts were initiated that resulted in the number of serving centurions decline due to casualties and the pension increased from being awarded to those who had served for 12 years to staggering 25 years, to cope with the demand.

What is happening today is no different to those Roman times. At the end of the day, someone has to pay for it.

As people age, by necessity the pension age must be lifted.

It is déjà vu, Western society has seen this before, allowing the age bracket to creep up, as a necessity.

Failing to act would be irresponsible and place an extremely unfair burden on younger generations.

• Nick Stewart is an authorised financial adviser and executive director of Stewart Financial Group. Stewart Group is a Hawke's Bay-owned and operated independent financial planning firm based in Hastings. The advice given here is general and does not constitute specific advice to any person. A disclosure statement can be obtained free of charge by calling 0800 878 961.