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Good news at last on longevity

Good news at last on longevity

Crack open the champagne! At last we have a reason for celebration. The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) bring some good news for those growing old. Britons are living longer. And not only are they living longer, but their healthy life expectancy is increasing as well.

The latest study carried out by the ONS shows that between 2009 and 2012, the life expectancy of the average Briton has increased by 0.9 years, from 77.2 years to 78.1 years. But the number of healthy years that a Briton can expect has increased by 2.1 years from 61.5 years to 63.6 years in the same period.

This is unexpectedly good news, as previous surveys showed life expectancy increasing at a faster rate than healthy life expectancy, leaving us with the rather dismal prospect of having a longer life but spending more of it ill.

If backed up by other surveys, this news will also reduce some of the pressure on long-term care planning, as it appears we will be able to look after ourselves for longer without requiring outside assistance. This will help the Treasury reduce the amount they have to set aside to implement the Dilnot report, which recommended putting a cap on the amount people have to spend for their long-term care with the government picking up the tab for the rest.

On the downside for those looking for a longer retirement, these figures also support the argument for a later retirement age, as it appears that we all will be able to remain active in the workforce for longer than was originally expected.

However, given the changes in the worker to retiree ratio that is forecast for the mid-century and the Office for Budget Responsibility’s recent prediction that it will take until 2061 to return the UK’s debt/GDP ratio back to where it was in 2007, perhaps resisting later retirement was always going to be futile. There is never going to be enough workers to support the amount of retirees that would be around in 2050 if we all retire at the current retirement age.

Before we get too carried away, there remains the issue of private pension savings. The fact remains that most of us do not have enough saved for our retirement and if we are going to live longer and be healthy for more of it, then we’re likely to want to have a higher income level to make use of that fact.

For all our sakes, we better hope that auto-enrolment works to deliver better pensions or there’ll be a lot of fit pensioners about without the means to enjoy their retirement. Perhaps we should restrict the celebrations and just have one glass of champagne until we see how that works out.

Tom Murray

Twitter: @TomMurrayDublin

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