Simon Read: New roles mean retiring at 70 really won't be so bad


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The Independent Online

The Chancellor's Autumn Statement proposal to extend the state retirement age to 70 also got me into hot water with readers.

I wrote a comment in this paper to the effect that working until 70 won't necessarily be a bad option. Cue an onslaught of criticism.

"Yes, Mr Read, you really look like a man who goes out pushing barrowloads of cement around mudbath building sites," said one scathing comment. "Tell me. What temperature is the thermostat set at in your air-conditioned office?" it added.

Another was more direct. "Simon Read, you have no idea of what you are talking about," he wrote.

"I cannot see 68-year-olds doing hard manual labour. Maybe alright for you pen type people, thinking type people, although judging by this thought you don't seem very good at it!"

I'm always grateful for criticism. In this case the points made are good.

While I quite expect to carry on working until I drop, that could – health and fitness willing – be 90 or so, given that I sit at a desk in a warm office typing away.

I know that many people do much more physically demanding jobs. For them the idea of still straining away at 70 is not a very practical or appetising prospect.

That's why the world of work is changing and state payouts must change with them. Those who may have to rely on the state pension because they can't afford to build up their own retirement nest egg must be given options.

For starters, if anyone reaches a stage where they are not physically able to continue working then they should be allowed to take the state pension early, possibly in return for a little less.

You are already allowed to delay receiving your state pension and get interest on the money you've not claimed, so it makes sense to give a little the other way.

Next there should be more help for retraining for those who may need it.

If you've done a job involving hard, physical graft for, say, 30 years, it may make sense to switch to a job involving a lot less physical exertion.

That's where government-funded retraining schemes should step in to give older people the expertise and skills to be able to start a completely different type of career, if they need to.

Finally, businesses have a massive role to play. More should follow the example of retailer B&Q. It has a well-deserved reputation for employing older workers. The company says that's "because we want to let our customers tap into their lifetime of knowledge and experience".

It's also fully aware of the good PR the move generates, of course. But, cynicism aside, companies that create new roles for older people should be encouraged. It's that sort of thinking that will make retiring at 70 less of a fear for future generations.


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