Something occurred to me the other day. Let’s say it was whilst I was on the train, because that’s the tenuous hook upon which I hang this occasional column. It occurred to me, on the…let’s say the 7.48, and give myself a lie-in…that I am getting old. Yes, this is now a column by a middle-aged man, talking about the dawning realisation of his premature senescence.
So far, so Martin Amis.
This thunderbolt, that I’m still pretending happened on a train, was triggered by the fact that I recently issued not one, but two pieces of advice to people much younger than me. The fact that there are adults with jobs who are two decades younger than me thoroughly confuses me. That I have become the sort of man who gives them advice, is a source of terror and shame.
But what were these pearls of wisdom, you grey-bearded sage? I assume you ask. Well, the first, and most depressing, was about pensions. Yes. I advised a room full of people to put as much into their pension whilst they are in their twenties as possible. You see, compound interest over time makes their contribution so incredibly valuable that it dwarfs the money you put away when the prospect of actually drawing a pension becomes a reality. Terrible, isn’t it? You’ll be glad to know that I was greeted with exactly the dead-eyed contempt I deserve.
The second piece of advice was bourn of a traumatic experience involving a toddler and the boardgame “Risk”. My daughter got into the board games cupboard, took a shine to “Risk” and threw it to the floor, scattering battalions of tiny soldiers to the four corners of the living room. As I scrabbled around trying to collect a thousand multi-coloured choking hazards, like a game of “Hungry, Hungry Hippos” where the prize is a trip to paediatric A&E, it occurred to me I would never ever have the time to play “Risk” ever again.
It was because of this experience that I advised a young person to “spend as much time as you can playing board games, or computer games, or just staring out of a window”. Again, I was treated to a blank expression, a vague smile humouring the old man’s wistful advice.
I’m not sure I’d want to spend seven hours playing “Risk” these days, despite my advice. It would be nice to spend seven hours sleeping occasionally, but I’ve got far too much to do. In fact, the older you get, the less time you actually want to spend doing nothing. Most retired people I know are extremely busy, and many resent having to retire. Our current government are planning to relive us of that burden by raising the retirement age to 75, but until then I think I have a more elegant solution.
I propose an exchange scheme, young people can arrange for a retired person to cover their job for a period of time, say a year, and receive the state pension to live a life of leisure. They may choose to go travelling, or simply get up in time to watch countdown. We get a huge amount of experience into the workforce, and after a year of living off the state pension the younger people will be much more careful about investing for their future.