Life After Full-time Work Blog

Learn about preparing for life after full-time work through posts from Don's upcoming book.

#58 A Personal Update And A Question For You

What I’ve been up to, and a request


Since the last blog post I’ve been involved in a couple of things I thought you might be interested in.  One leads to a question to which I’d appreciate a quick answer, if you’d be so kind.

The first thing is that I’ve written a commentary for the C.D. Howe Institute, a prestigious Canadian think-tank:  It explains the value of having longevity insurance available for retirees, something that at the moment (as far as I can tell) is only available in the USA. While it ends with a suggestion for changing the Canadian tax code, the rest of the piece applies anywhere in the world, and it’s a topic I had planned to write about some time on the website. I also conducted an in-person policy forum and subsequently a call-in session for the Institute, and strong support for the idea was expressed frequently, with not a single voice against it. Whether Canadian tax policy changes, of course, is not in my hands, but I pointed out that it’s simply a change in the incidence of tax, not a call for a tax subsidy.

The other thing leads to my question at the end.

I was interviewed for a documentary being made by Dr Theo Kocken on global old age poverty and solutions.  Dr Kocken, a global pensions industry leader, is also Professor of Risk Management for Institutional Investors at VU University in Amsterdam. I’ve known him for many years, and am an admirer of him as a person, as well as of his book (“Curious Contracts”) on the design of pension funds and his marvelous documentary Boom Bust Boom (here’s a link to the trailer on the history of economic crashes and connected behavioral biases. I can’t wait for the latest documentary to come out (anticipated in 2020), and hope I make it into the main event rather than ending up on the cutting room floor, but regardless, it was a great honor for me.

It also prompted an insight.  At the end, almost casually, he asked something along these lines: “If you were President for a single day, enough time to get one thing done, what would it be?”  And after our conversation in the interview it suddenly occurred to me, for the first time, that I’d see an overwhelming priority connected with retirement: the need for retirement education.

We wouldn’t dream of entering modern life without an education, which prepares us for life as well as teaches us how to think. Well, I think the same applies to Life Two.  We’re scared of it, just as we’d be scared primitives entering the working world (what I now think of as Life One) without any education.  So that would be my top priority: instituting retirement education.

This website is one approach.  But now I think it needs something more focused, which perhaps I can get to in the new year, something that concentrates on the essentials, something that adds homework after each stage – because the best way to get ideas to stay in your head is to apply them to your own situation.

Give me a little time to get there.  Meanwhile I have this question for you.  A friend suggested that I use Survey Monkey, but I’m not ready to formalize this, all I’m looking for at the moment is a sort of “quick show of hands.”

One of these questions applies to you:

If you’ve already graduated from full-time work, would you have appreciated some retirement education while you were still working?

If you’re still working, would you appreciate some retirement education before you retire?

I’m not looking at second-level issues like who would design and deliver the education and how, or anything like that, or what it would cost: assume it’s free, though of course there’s a cost to you, in that you’d have to put time and effort into it.

Click on and say A, B, C or D, where:

  • A means “I’ve graduated, and my answer is Yes”
  • B means “I’ve graduated, and my answer is No”
  • C means “I’m still working, and my answer is Yes”
  • D means “I’m still working, and my answer is No”

Feel free to add any further comments that occur to you.  I won’t quote your name if one day I cite your comment – that’s why I’ve given you my email address, so your response is not made public.

Thanks very much!



I have written about retirement planning before and some of that material also relates to topics or issues that are being discussed here. Where relevant I draw on material from three sources: The Retirement Plan Solution (co-authored with Bob Collie and Matt Smith, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009), my foreword to Someday Rich (by Timothy Noonan and Matt Smith, also published by Wiley, 2012), and my occasional column The Art of Investment in the FT Money supplement of The Financial Times, published in the UK. I am grateful to the other authors and to The Financial Times for permission to use the material here.

2 Responses to “#58 A Personal Update And A Question For You”

  1. Ted Harris says:

    Longer Living Retirees Need Insurance Option for Financial Risk.

    With regard to human behaviour I wonder if a tax free premium accumulation vehicle would help. Withdrawals are taxable unless they are used for the single premium, evidence of an unexpected early mortality is documented or death occurs. Annual contribution rates may be predetermined.

    On the one hand, such a product may encourage healthy living, but with medical advances what happens to calculations if something like a cure to Alzheimer’s is discovered or the number of assisted suicides grows as we live longer. What is the impact of personal DNA testing ?

    Boom Bust Boom

    As my age advances I have seen the world about to end several times. When I watch TV I get the impression that history began sometime in the 1980s. Those who learn history may still be fooled because it doesn’t repeat itself, but only rhymes. This time it’s different – but not as different as you might hope.

    • Don Ezra says:

      Thanks for taking the time to think about both of these things!

      Regarding longevity insurance, my goal wasn’t to promote it or plead for a tax break; it was simply to explain that it’s very useful, and that it would surely help if if were taxed rationally, meaning that those who receive money are taxed and those who don’t receive money pay no tax — whereas the current Canadian system levies tax on potential income instead, regardless of whether the insurance is triggered. What happens if longevity changes unexpectedly, or if we are better informed about our own prospects? Both have been issues that insurance companies have always dealt with.

      Regarding “Boom bust boom,” yes, you echo Hyman Minsky (as the documentary entertainingly reveals), who said that human nature makes us behave less than rationally, hence repeated economic cycles, even if they’re never exactly the same. The documentary makes a strong case for teaching economics as it really happens, to human beings rather than to perfectly rational people.

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