Ever since I wrote Next – The Retirement Bubble for Barron’s a couple years ago, the end of traditional retirement has been a subject of special interest to me. I have a short post up today at my Retirement Bubble blog that is short and as sweet (or not) as you like. I want to share it here too.
The book is The Changing Body: Health, Nutrition, and Human Development in the Western World since 1700 by Roderick Floud, Robert W. Fogel, Bernard Harris and just published by the Cambridge University Press. Although it provides the impetus for this post, I have not yet read the book, although I have read the research paper which provides the basis for the book. That doesn’t help, as the authors did not address the specific subject that interested me today. They raise a question of importance. I don’t know how they answered it and I only know it was raised thanks to a reviewer at Amazon. Still, it caught my eye. Here is Amazon’s review in whole, emphasising the portion of the sentence that so intrigued me.
Humans have become much taller and heavier, and experience healthier and longer lives than ever before in human history. However it is only recently that historians, economists, human biologists and demographers have linked the changing size, shape and capability of the human body to economic and demographic change. This fascinating and groundbreaking book presents an accessible introduction to the field of anthropometric history, surveying the causes and consequences of changes in health and mortality, diet and the disease environment in Europe and the United States since 1700. It examines how we define and measure health and nutrition as well as key issues such as whether increased longevity contributes to greater productivity or, instead, imposes burdens on society through the higher costs of healthcare and pensions. The result is a major contribution to economic and social history with important implications for today’s developing world and the health trends of the future.
Perhaps the authors do intend to direct this to the “developing world” (aka, the people making money) and not the “developed world” (aka, the people wasting money), but they have neatly summarized one of the critical issues that led me to write Next – The Retirement Bubble for Barron’s.
Looking beyond ourselves and considering the world we will have to live in for the rest of our lives and our role in it, this does pose a challenging question, doesn’t it? I could run on for a couple dozen paragraphs on this topic, but I am not going to do it. Instead, I am going to pass it along to you. I am going to ask you to accept one thing…that you may live substantially longer than you think you will today, let’s say 10 to 20 years longer. Just put aside any doubts about that and accept it. Now, each of us needs to answer two questions. First:
Will my longer lifespan make me more productive or impose a burden on society through the higher costs of healthcare and pensions?
I think you can guess which of the two will make you more popular in years to come and I hope that would be your choice anyhow, but indeed, if your choice is productivity over imposing a burden, then that provides you with the second question:
What am I doing right now or plan to do very soon that will help me answer that question successfully?
That’s it. That is today’s post. Food for thought.