Oh brave new world. At this rate, unemployed Shem Davis, 29, of Birmingham will be a great-great grandparent at 58. Last month, the People newspaper reported, he became a grandfather after his daughter Tia gave birth to baby Grace at 14 years old. And though he has promised to ‘get stuck in’ and help with Gracie’s childcare while her parents finish school, one wonders how this will affect his job prospects. If child-minding is to be Shem’s vocation, we must hope his many descendants will support him.
Conversely, supporting one’s descendants has gone out of fashion. The generously pensioned SKI (Spending the Kids’ Inheritance) generation are blowing what they can’t take with them. According to the Daily Mail, Britain’s over-60s have $500 billion in disposable income – and disposing of it they are.
Look, for example, at Gywnn and Gwynneth Davies, two ex-teachers – yes, teachers – who spent four months going round the world last year. Their 31-year-old daughter can’t even save the deposit to get on the property ladder. Then there’s Peter and June Marshall, 70 and 69 respectively, who have released equity in their bungalow to buy a luxury caravan, leaving their poorly daughter Linda, 52, to lump it.
And hereby hangs a hitch. Those of us whose parents are still alive might feel that, if they want to blow their loot, that’s fine. But should they then expect us to pick up the care bills when they can’t look after themselves?
This may be the least of our problems, of course. Unless we’ve been canny, or got rich, or been employed in the upper echelons of public service, our future pension prospects are probably not that rosy. Sure, we can work until we drop – most of us want to, as well – but God forbid that retirement is ever forced on us by ill-health or redundancy (in its wider sense).
According to today’s report by Lord McFall for the National Association of Pension Funds, up to a third of the current British workforce faces a “bleak old age”. People aren’t bothering to save, he says, because the returns are too low and the system too complex. Or perhaps it’s because they have great-great grandchildren to look after and profligate parents to support through their dotage.