Every now and then, evidence emerges about how fantastically wrong the experts were in their predictions of a decade or two ago.
It has been a few years since the disappearance of “Freedom 55,” either as a goal, a movement or an advertising pitch.
In the 1990s, it seemed certain that a life of leisure could begin at age 55 or so, enabling hard-working people who planned for it to spend winters on the beach and summers doing whatever they wanted.
It turned out to be fantasy. In hindsight, it sounds similar to the expectation in the 1970s that, by the turn of the 21st century, cars would be obsolete and we’d all fly around in miniature private planes like the Jetsons.
The reality is a lot colder than the Florida surf.
With the exception of teachers and some other public employees, very few people shuck the shackles of employment by their mid-50s.
In fact, the trend is in the other direction, proving yet again that the prognostications of experts are occasionally just cheap hucksterism.
The majority of Canadians — 53 per cent — say they will continue working after retirement in their 60s.
(On the plus side, the minimum wage is trending upwards.)
A survey — conducted in July for CIBC by Leger Marketing — found 29 per cent of Canadians said they might work after retirement. Only 14 per cent of Canadians said they would actually retire when they retire — a statistic that should shock and appall any Freedom 55er who hasn’t slunk away to a cave in shame.
In this age of jargon and buzzwords, retirement no longer means retirement.
But there are hopeful aspects to all that work.
Of the people who said they would not retire when they retire, only one-third said their decision is based on financial necessity. The other two-thirds said they would not retire when they retire because work keeps them active, involved and socially connected.
Of course, there is a natural suspicion that at least some of those two-thirds of respondents are, shall we say, being less than forthright, and don’t want to admit — either to themselves or to a researcher — that they can’t afford to retire when they retire.
But let’s take the Freedom 75ers at their word. Two-thirds will keep working for fun and pleasure. This presents a dilemma of a different sort.
Looking farther back than the Freedom 55 nonsense, there once was the expectation that we were advancing toward a “leisure society.” This did not mean a Sea-Doo in every driveway.
Rather, it referred to an economy that would be so mechanized and so productive that people would have unprecedented amounts of free time, due perhaps to three- or four-day work weeks, six-hour workdays and such.
How did that work out?
In comparison, the prediction of flying around like the Jetsons was reasonable and probable.
Today, the predicted leisure society sounds like black humour. Thanks to free trade policies, corporate greed, corporate largesse and corporate government, we now live in an age characterized by enforced “leisure” for some and lifelong toil for many others.
Let’s accept that some Freedom 75ers really do want to continue working after retirement. An obvious question springs to mind: why?
Don’t you have any other interests?
Has your life been so dominated by work that you can’t imagine doing anything else? Are you going to get up, have breakfast and head to work on the last day of your life?
Old people aren’t the only generation that has been misled by
jargon-jammed propaganda. Here’s another whopper: “Children are our most precious resource.”
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at email@example.com.