We wouldn’t be able to pay the pensions

I’m sure the pension argument may seem the secret weapon of the opponents of rejuvenation, probably together with the dreaded spectre of overpopulation. However, that of pensions is an argument for of rejuvention, not against.

Let’s recap what’s the deal with pensions as things stand. When people reach the age of 65 or so, they retire (that is, they stop working and produce zero wealth) and receive a pension (aka free money) from the State. In theory, a pension is something you’ve already earned when you were young and working, and the State only gives you back the money it has kept on a side for you all your life; in practice, it seems the pension system may run out of money fairly soon both in US and possibly in Europe, and it may face a serious crisis around 2050, when the number of 80-year-old people and older is expected to be around five times as high as it is now. We’re gonna have one hell of a hard time paying all those pensions.

As a matter of fact, we are already having problems paying pensions. Retirement age is slowly getting higher all around the world, both for men and women, and not just because people in their sixties these days are a bit better than they used to be when my grandfather was young. Obviously, the later they retire the longer they will produce wealth for, and the later the State will have to start paying them money for the rest of their lives. Since human healthspan is not going to increase much at all until we implement rejuvenation therapies, the deal boils down to this: You work for longer in an increasingly crappy health condition, and retire and start receiving your pension later than people from previous generations did. Now that is one pretty bad deal.

Naturally, you can’t just keep pushing retirement age up if people’s healthspan stays the same. Even without rejuvenation therapies, we can still expect people to live for a little longer time in the future, because of progress in geriatrics and technology. Living to see your 100th birthday may become more common, but your health will still be sucky once you hit a certain threshold. The elderly won’t be able to support themselves for much longer than they currently can, and all we’re going to achieve this way is a longer time during which the older generation will have to be supported by the younger generation. The bottom line is, people may well end up consuming wealth for longer than they produce it. Unless we can draw money out of nowhere, we have only two ways of dealing with the problem: Either we stop paying pensions, or we make people able to work regardless of their age.

Having people still sick and crippled by ageing without paying them a pension is not an option, so we’re left with making people able to keep working. Now, before you complain that after having worked for 40 years you have all the right to sit down all day long and do nothing, let me remind you that in a post-rejuvenation world being 30 or being 90 makes no difference. You’re still healthy and energetic regardless of your age, so it’s unlikely all you’ll want to do after age 65 is twiddling your thumbs. (To anyone who would actually like that, I can only say they probably hate their job and should consider changing it, or they’re just lazy. Anyway, if the choice is between twiddling your healthy thumbs and your sick and decrepit thumbs, why not go with the former?) In such a scenario, it’s more likely that people will work for, say, 35 years, and then retire for maybe five years, during which they’ll receive a pension just like they do now (or they’ll live off their savings if they have enough). After this relatively short retiring time, they’ll get back to work and produce wealth again rather than getting money for free from the system. The State will have much less money to pay to people, and much more money coming in from the work of the elderly people who are back to work.

So, in case anyone thought rejuvenating people would mean having millions of perfectly healthy 100-year-olds playing cards and getting free money from the State for eternity, the answer is no, that’s not what would happen. If anything, rejuvenation would improve the economy, not make it worse, and that’s a very good reason to expect that rejuvenation therapies will eventually be subsidised by the State, either partly or entirely. Doing otherwise would result in having around a lot of people who can’t afford rejuvenation; these people would end up becoming too sick to work and produce wealth, and they’d also become an economic burden, since the State would have to pay for their pension and (pointless) expenses for geriatric care. In the long run, the economic loss would be astronomical. It seems rather obvious that paying for people’s rejuvenation treatments once every few decades would be more convenient than paying for their pensions for a few decades, especially when you think that during those few decades, the people for whom the State paid rejuvenation would be fully healthy and capable to work and produce wealth.

NOTE: This article explains why rejuvenation is likely to solve the problem of pensions in general by making them redundant, but it does not claim that it would necessarily prevent the expected 2050 pension crisis. The time left between now and 2050 is likely too short to have full rejuvenation up and running already, and to reorganise (or tear down) the pension system accordingly. During this timespan, what is more likely to happen is that first-generation rejuvenation therapies will be able to buy us a few more years of improved health, so that pushing retirement further is feasible. In this way, we may be able to mitigate the worst of the 2050 pension crisis or postpone it by a generation in a best-case scenario (unless someone comes up with another way of fixing the pension system that doesn’t involve preserving people’s ability to work). However, once full rejuvenation is up and running, the nature of pensions will necessarily change: As we discussed, they will either become limited to a few years only or completely unnecessary, making any pension crises highly unlikely or impossible (if there are no pensions, there can’t be any pension crisis either).

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