Awaiting my delayed flight home after facilitating a funding longer lives dialogue session in Zurich yesterday, I'm reflecting on the discussions and some fresh ideas that my enthusiastic group put forward.
I started with some preconceptions. With most of the participants hailing from Switzerland, I expected a heavy emphasis on private solutions. With the Swiss being the least supportive - of 19 markets surveyed - of publicly-funded healthcare for all ( http://riskwindow.swissre.com/risk-window#qst=18;cnt=9;age=1) and the most willing to pay more into private pensions to ensure a financially secure retirement ( http://riskwindow.swissre.com/risk-window#qst=15;cnt=9;age=1), perhaps these preconceptions were understandable.
Certainly, there was an enthusiasm for market-driven solutions and a justified view that we're not doing enough to adjust our economies, products and innovation towards the ageing consumer. But one idea was a public-private solution which I personally hadn't heard before. It sounds radical ... abolish the state pension at 65 or even later!
Instead, the taxpayer essentially becomes responsible for the 'peak risk' - outliving one's income. In essence, people are personally responsible for their retirement income - be it through working, a private pension etc. But, if people live beyond a certain age based on life expectancy, only then does state support kick in. Professor Harper of the Oxford Institute of Ageing made the point that Bismark's pension would kick in at 103 today if you compare life expectancy between now and then.
This gives certainty to other parties - like individuals themselves and insurers - about how long they'd need to personally fund income for. I'm not saying the idea is right, but what I liked was that it was radical.
The overall consensus is that the answer lies across generations and changing the paradigm under which we currently live: More flexible working lives, different methods of support, lifelong education and a new economy.
It was a wonderful experience to hear people speak so passionately about one of the most important topics the world faces. My fellow facilitators (pictured) I know felt equally honoured to have been involved.
They've just delayed my flight by a further 15 minutes, so I have time for further reflection.
Category: Funding longer lives: Pension/retirement
Location: Zurich, Switzerland