It is realistic that people in their 20s today will be working until they are at least 70, says Silver Travel Advisor managing director Debbie Marshall

I’ve been pondering the question of retirement lately. Not my own, I hasten to add, but the bigger picture of how long should a working life be, and is retirement the only goal?

Until 2011, the system was straightforward in the UK: men retired at 65 and women at 60, whereupon they were entitled to their state pension and some well-earned rest and relaxation after 40-odd years in work. As recently as the 1960s, a man would expect to spend no more than a handful of years in retirement with life expectancy at around 70.


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Changes in the law in 2011 have seen the pension age increase, especially for women as part of the “equalisation” process, and it’s currently 65 years for both sexes, rising to 66 in October and 67 by 2028. It is realistic that people in their 20s today will be working until they are at least 70. Coupled with the fact that average life expectancy has risen by two years each decade for the last 50 years, the net result is that we’re all going to be living and working a lot longer.

What does this mean? According to the Centre for Ageing Better, employers will need to review recruitment and employment policies for over-60s. Some are already doing this with mid-life MOT mentoring programmes, three-month sabbaticals and flexible working for older employees, as the line between work and retirement blurs.

Is retirement all it’s cracked up to be anyway?

The Centre for Ageing Better’s view is that some early retirees embark upon a frenzy of big holidays, ticking off their bucket list within two years, and then find their life lacks purpose while realising at least 20 years may still lie ahead.

Having plenty of money is not always the issue. This was highlighted recently in Bill Munro’s employment tribunal against the agency he founded, Barrhead Travel. Finding himself sidelined, he protested: “They didn’t pay much attention to me – nobody did. I was being put out to grass”.  Travel Leaders Group, which acquired Barrhead in 2018, had a different view of what the judge ruled was an unfair dismissal. They said:

“We thought he was going to spend more time on his boat.” The outcome? A moral victory, at least, for Bill, who said: “I don’t care about the money, I just want to work again.”

Example of John and Irene Hays

Bill is not alone. Other industry veterans don’t want to stop working. Take John and Irene Hays – they may be past retirement age but, far from slowing down, they are speeding up! Negotiating the leases for 553 former Thomas Cook stores, they have embarked upon a programme of recruitment and transformation with a zest and energy that would wear out most people half their age.

And working on is not a trait exclusive to our industry. I’ve been marvelling at the advancing ages of some US presidential candidates. Incumbent Donald Trump, at 73, may well find himself up against 78-year-old Bernie Sanders or 77-year-old Joe Biden. And look at our Queen. While Harry heads away to a new life in Canada, Her Royal Highness keeps calm and carries on. She’s 93.