Occasionally, when I pick up the tab for younger colleagues or friends, they remonstrate with me. "No, no," they say. "Let's divide the bill equally."

"Leave it," I say. "It's a form of compulsory saving. When I'm old and living in a council flat and sharing cat food with my moggy for dinner, pay me back then."

I'm only half joking. The thought of being old and poor terrifies me - but only now that I'm getting older.

When I started work at 17, I didn't give retirement a thought. I'd only just started my working life. I was more concerned about getting through my probationary period as a reporter and surviving on the pittance I was paid, than about planning for life in my 60s and 70s.


When I decided it was time to woman up to my responsibilities, I was lucky to land a great job. The Irishman and I gave up the drink and devoted ourselves to paying off the mortgage as quickly as possible.

As much as it pained me, the bulk of our combined salary went on eye-wateringly dull things like mortgage repayments and income protection and insurance.

When you have family to look after and you finally accept that one day you may indeed be old, you do what's right and sensible.

But even now, I have no idea how to plan for the retirement I want. My dad died at 60. My maternal grandmother lived until 99 and my mother shows every sign of following suit.

So what do I do? I've turned 50. Do I keep working for as long as I can, husbanding my resources, in case I've inherited my grandmother's longevity?

Or do I make the most of Auckland's absurd property prices, sell the house and persuade the husband to live life large until he turns 70 and I turn 60 - and then hope like hell we both cark it?

Doing nothing doesn't appeal either. Even if I'm not in full time work, I hope that when I hang up my headphones on the radio I can find interesting jobs to do on an ad hoc basis, jobs that will let me interact with all sorts of people and give me gin money but not jobs that will interfere with travelling and looking after future grandchildren.

The unpalatable truth though is that if I wanted to have a retirement of choices and freedom, I should have planned for it 30 years ago. I just have to hope that the largesse shown to my young friends will pay off in the future.