Longevity and the Burden of a Marathon.

How soon should you start saving for your older age, your gilded years or if you still prefer to call it, that retirement at the end of a long and winding road? Not soon enough it appears. As if there weren’t enough to worry about, whether you are 22, 42 or 62; a financial planning strategy to meet this concern can be easily derailed at any time by stressful life events such as a hit or three of a loss in employment income, divorce, uncovered home care or other emergency expenses.

Three impressions about financing longevity concurred in my headspace last week, which fell into sort of a “face that fear in the mirror” category. First was a May 25th radio segment on CBC’s The Current – Canadian seniors still working to make ends meet. It seems this program piece was prompted by a recent 2016 Manulife Bank survey, which speaks more largely to the concerns of Canadian homeowners over personal debt issues.

The Current interview was with two individuals, ages 68 and 72, and it fixed on their personal dilemmas about being forced to work longer. These were grim enough tales that no doubt play out for a good many people at a later stage of life. At the same time I couldn’t help but consider the other media coverage we get about younger people, ages 28 or 42, living with debt problems. Some of whom were likely mulling over similar thoughts about making ends meet while listening to The Current, never mind thinking about working longer.

Imagine. If you are 28, you have another forty or fifty years to face that fear.

Second came this May 26th article in the Insurance and Investment Journal with another face that fear title – Canada needs strategy to address ‘burden of longevity’. Centered on the comments in a Conference Board of Canada presentation by Derek Dobson CEO of the CAAT Pension Plan, this is a thought provoking conversation piece for all Canadians, once you get past the beast of burden headline.

Picking up on a multi-generational issue around saving for later life becoming an arduous responsibility, Mr. Dobson is spot on when he says that “Canadians have a narrow view of what longevity really means.” Of course, this spills on to the larger agenda on public policy around pension reform, health care delivery and for that matter workforce engagement. All signs point to the notion that even in the near term and for sure in the longer term – the possibilities of what working longer looks like will need a rethink.

Dobson further says that one of the problems the pension and insurance industry has is that “longevity is often based on looking at history rather than the future”.

Which takes me back to The Current interview. A lot of our frustration or fear is based on an old narrative that retirement was more like a destination, a finish line on the great marathon of life and if you could retire from the race early, wouldn’t that be … well what? On that note, the best line in that Current segment came from John Stapleton of the Metcalf Foundation:

“If you think of Freedom 55 as high art, it would be a period piece.”

Even as a teenager the mere mention of track and field and any activity that involved running shoes would send me walking slowly to my own beat. So at the end of last week the third impression that hit me in the eye and ear one to many times again was the Prudential Insurance commercial – The Race for Retirement.


In many ways, as punishing to watch as it was (thinking of my failed romance with track and field), it is a brilliant piece of advertising – captures the worry, helps you face that fear. Prudential’s matching web site is a masterful interactive, flip your iPhone story. “LET”S PUT NOW ON YOUR SIDE.” Save for the retirement marathon and be prepared by applying the “POWER OF 1% MORE”. Take to the streets. The cause is retirement. It’s a race. It’s a movement.

By the time the weekend came around, I was exhausted. Retirement is not a finish line. Longevity is not a burden, but it is a promise. While we don’t really know what the promise will be, as we live for the now, we can make the best of it as time goes by. With the future focus in mind, as Derek Dobson suggests, the mind set change asks us not to think about financing for retirement but financing for longevity. Who knows … by 2056 that high art, retirement race conversation will be yet another period piece.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *