I’ve always known that our situation is risky. I thought, though, that risk was about the chances of suffering ill fortune, like dying unexpectedly. It didn’t occur to me that it might be about the chances of enjoying good fortune, like escaping death unexpectedly. Risk is the downside of chance, not the upside, or so I assumed.
My insurers gave me no reason to think otherwise. Their life insurance isn’t against life. It’s against death. Their home insurance isn’t against homes. It’s against the perils that threaten homes.
So when some bureaucrats raised the alarm about longevity risk, I thought they meant that we might not live as long as expected. I never dreamt they could mean that we might live longer than expected. But they could, and they did.
Living longer than expected is a risk, they warn, and we should protect ourselves against it. Otherwise, they say darkly, we could outlive our assets. Outliving our assets, apparently, is a fate worse than death. We’d be better off if our assets outlasted us.
Does this make sense to you? It doesn’t to me. It seems to defy the law of self-preservation. Maybe some activist judge has found the law unconstitutional and struck it down.
But suppose a gun-toting robber demanded your money or your life, and the money in your pocket was all you had. I suspect you’d give it to him. I know I would. What’s more, I wouldn’t waste time worrying about outliving my assets. Before I made up my mind, he might waste me.
I don’t brood over increasing life expectancy. I celebrate it. Increasing life expectancy is a key indicator of social and economic wellbeing. Worldwide, average life expectancy at birth has increased from around 40 years in the early 20th century to 70 years and counting today. In Canada, it has reached 80 years for men and 84 years for women.
As you may have noticed, there’s a gender gap of four years. I thought that feminists, being champions of equality, would deplore the life-expectancy gap as discrimination against men. You know, the way they deplore the income gap as discrimination against women.
Alas, I thought wrong. But I reckon I know why. If they earn less than men but live longer, women are more likely to outlive their assets. Like lower wages, higher life expectancy could appear to feminists as yet another instance of male oppression. We’re to blame for their living so long.
If my reckoning is right, they might logically choose their money over their lives should a gun-toting robber give them the alternative and the money they carry is all they have. This may strike you as beyond belief, but most feminists, being pro-abortion, are practiced in choosing death.
Why, they even revealed a preference for it after the sinking of the Titanic. Leading suffragettes decried the policy of women and children first. The men who gave up their lives, one suffragette suggested, gained a swift death and eternal glory; the women who survived faced a lifetime of bereavement and economic hardship. Of course they did. They outlived their assets. The men, devilish fellows that they were, made sure their assets outlasted them.
The difference in life expectancy is narrowing and could disappear by mid-century. The reason is not that men are advancing toward the female average. It’s that, as women adopt male lifestyles, they are retreating toward the male average.
Feminists, no doubt, consider this good news. It could mean they are less likely to outlive their assets. Other women might think differently. But what do they know? They’re as benighted as I am.
A declining ratio of workers to retirees drives the concern over longevity risk. The ratio has fallen from eight to one in the 1950s to five to one today and a projected two to one by mid-century. What the figures portend is that, as retiree pension and health care costs increase, fewer workers will show up to pay them.
That’s a heavy burden to put on our children and their progeny. Oh, yes, if we live long enough we depend on our children to support us, either directly, as in earlier times, or through the state or other agencies. Unfortunately, we forgot to produce enough children to bear the burden.
Never mind, the bureaucrats have crafted proposals to manage longevity risk. They include raising the retirement age, increasing the taxes that fund public pensions while decreasing the benefits, and teaching us how to invest privately.
Silly me. I thought the obvious solution was to stop preventing the conception and birth of the workers we need to support us when we retire. But that’s not one of the proposals. I guess I don’t have a bureaucratic mind.