First, the good news: we are all living longer. According to the latest figures, men in Britain will on average reach the age of 85 and women will live to 89.

Lifestyle factors like diet, exercise or smoking will have an impact, of course. But the overall trend has been rising since World War Two.

The bad news is reserved for those born between 1970 and 1978. They are going to have to wait until they’re 68 before they receive the state pension.

Around seven million people in their late 30s and 40s will be affected by the rise in the pension age.

But longer lives have an impact on the public purse. The argument is that if we are going to enjoy longer lives, then we are going to have to endure longer working lives as well.

Cynics may wonder why the Government waited until after the general election to announce this change. And with the latest research showing that rising life expectancies have stalled since 2010, others ask whether it is fair.

Matt Slessor is a chartered financial planner at Armstrong Watson in Carlisle and a pensions specialist.

Matt is 44 and therefore one of those affected by the proposal to make millions wait longer for their state pensions.

“Is it fair?” he asks. “It’s probably fair in the sense that many more people are living to 65 than when the state pension was introduced, so something has to be done. It just doesn’t feel fair.”

Matt Slessor But he concedes: “Something has to give. The people that haven’t claimed yet will have to wait a bit longer. In a lot of ways we’re sleepwalking into retirement. A lot of people see pensions as a dry subject so they don’t want to think about it.”

Matt advises them to wake up and take control of their retirement, as much as their finances will allow.

“There’ll be haves and have-nots. There are people with gold-plated final salary workplace pension schemes which are inflation-proof. And people who will rely more on the state pension. It’s up to people to take responsibility for their futures.

“People need to take professional advice. They should probably pay as much as they can afford into a workplace pension. Putting money aside into ISAs would be a good long-term plan. A stocks and shares ISA is an option. But it’s what people can balance with living right now.

“A lot can change in the next 20 years. I don’t think people need to worry unnecessarily. The worst option would be to scrap the state pension. It would be a brave politician to make that change.”

Matt accepts that the state pension age could be extended yet beyond 68. But he believes this would be difficult to justify if life expectancy drops.

“I don’t think my generation will live as long as our forefathers. The latest figures show there’s been a drop in people living longer thanks to poor diets, stressful jobs, driving everywhere. We’ll be getting our pensions for a lot less time. If life expectancy drops the Government might roll back on increasing the pension age.

“They’re kicking the can down the road to be dealt with by another government. The state pension of £160 per week is the equivalent of having £250,000 to purchase an annuity.

“That places the Government in a hard place, as a few years ago £100,000 would have purchased an equivalent. The rise is due to mortality rates and very low interest rates.”

Paul Wilson Paul Wilson, 42, works in the quality department at Carlisle’s Pirelli factory.

“I’m not surprised,” he says of the proposed change. “By the time we get to 68 there’ll be a state pension but it’s not going to be worth anything. It’s unsustainable when people are living into their 90s. It can’t carry on. If you ran a business like that you’d go bankrupt.

“It’s our generation that are going to have to pay for it. Our parents are going to be the last people that will have big pensions.

“Everyone knows now. You’ve got to be short-sighted just to think: ‘Sod it – I’ll worry about it later.’ For our kids it will probably be older than 68. You’ll get a big proportion of people that probably won’t live to what the pension age will be.”

Paul recently took financial advice and has started a personal pension as well as his workplace pension. “I’m putting enough away that I’ll be able to retire before I’m 68. I want to retire by the time I’m 60.”

He knows, though, that predicting the future is impossible, whether for government policy or individual lives.

“My dad, grandad and great-grandad all died before they were 68. So I hope I don’t follow that pattern.”

If life expectancy was increasing uniformly across the country, then increasing the state pension age would make sense.

But Beth Farhat, northern regional secretary of the TUC, explains that it’s not as simple as that. A UK-wide later retirement age overlooks one crucial fact.

Beth Farhat “The north has a lower life expectancy than the rest of the UK,” she points out. “So hiking the state pension age risks creating second-class citizens. A decent retirement is a right for us all, not a privilege for the few.

And if people are going to work longer, she adds: “Workplaces and working patterns need to adapt to their needs.

“Rather than hiking the pension age, the Government must do more for older workers who want to keep working and paying taxes.

“And the Government must follow the independent review’s recommendation to give more help to those unable to stay in work until retirement age.”

Retirement used to benefit young people in one obvious way: it created job opportunities. As older people left the labour market vacancies opened up. But if we’re all expected to stay in work longer, then those vacancies won’t be coming up in the same way.

So the Green Party have a radical proposal to tackle unemployment and improve health and well-being: a four-day working week. And Cumbrian candidate Jill Perry says of the pension age increase: “This is the wrong way round.”

She explains: “A four-day week would allow work to be spread out more equally.

Jill Perry “The situation at the moment means there are lots of people who are working far more than they need to or want to, and lots of people who are not working at all – or are working in unsafe jobs, on temporary contracts or zero-hours contracts. It would be an attempt to even everything out.”

Working for longer may be bad for us. Average life expectancy may have risen, but that doesn’t mean that we no longer become weaker or more vulnerable as we age.

“If you are doing a job that is physically relatively easy and you are in good health, or if you’re in a job that is not at all stressful and you are in good mental health, that’s fine,” says Jill. “But if neither of those apply it’s a really bad situation.”

Many people at 65 still feel perfectly capable of working, but Jill suggests: “There are plenty of things you can do that are of value to society and don’t involve remuneration. Voluntary work and charity work are very useful.”

But can we afford to leave the retirement age where it is? She believes we can. “We have to put up taxes for the wealthy, there’s no way round it. There are many things we can afford. They say we can afford £1bn for Northern Ireland to prop up Theresa May’s minority government. They say we can afford HS2, they say we can afford Trident. And we can’t afford to look after our old people?”

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