The GFC has added poignancy to Outgoing Actuary of the Year Darren Wickham’s push to scrap retirement, and he hopes the Institute of Actuaries Australia will continue to wield the axe as he passes the mantle to Kaise Stephan, chief actuary at Munich Re. Wickham, who is a principal at Mercer and was the Institute’s Actuary of the Year 2008, has argued that instead of a fixed age retirement for leisure, government should instead develop a Lifetime Income Policy which encourages flexible working arrangements throughout a person’s life while they are capable, and focuses on providing income during disability.

He first proposed abolishing retirement at the American Actuarial Conference in 2007 and the concept has since been taken up within submissions to the Henry, Harmer and Cooper reviews by Mercer and the Institute of Actuaries. Mercer research has revealed that 50 per cent of people are thinking about deferring retirement, and 19 per cent are considering deferring retirement for up to six years. “People no longer have a linear progression to retirement in their working lives, people are healthier,” Wickham said.

“Why can we afford 30 years’ leisure in retirement but not afford a four day working week now?” He said economic crises were pivotal in how people work and the history of retirement. “It’s no accident that in the 1930s America introduced social security federally,” he said. “At that time, the belief was that you needed to remove older people from the work force to reduce unemployment. This time, where possible, employers, instead of retrenching are trying to hold on to older workers and retain them. They’re offering four-day weeks in an attempt to hold on to those skills.”

The Government’s decision to increase the Age Pension eligibility age from 65 to 67 is a “strong signal that people should engage with the workforce longer”, Wickham said. During his tenure, the Institute called for the introduction of mandatory personal ‘stress tests’ to communicate the impact of adverse events on an investor’s whole financial position under certain triggers. Wickham said the Institute has also been heavily involved in a push to include benefit projections within super fund benefit statements to help individuals understand investment and longevity risk in retirement. Stephan, who became the first actuary to swim the English Channel in 12 hours and 34 minutes and raised more than $160,000 for charity, was appointed Actuary of the Year 2009 in late August.