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HSBC report on the future of retirement over does the ‘sunset’ metaphor

by on May 7, 2015

I was interested to read this CNBC summary of a recent HSBC survey on Life after Work, which samples 16000 people across 15 countries.  CNBC highlight a key finding in respect on the US is the assumption of many people that they will be able to fund their retirement via an inheritance, which seems a pretty risky strategy to me!  Indeed according to the CNBC summary: “Among working age people, nearly half expect to receive a legacy that will support them later in life. Of those who’ve received or expect to receive an inheritance, some 3 in 10 believe it will fully or partly fund their retirement“.

Given this taster I then went in search of the full report from HSBC but became rather distracted by the use of photographs throughout the document.  Nearly every page features a shot of a sunset (or sunrise it is a bit tricky to tell though I’m sure there are experts out there who could let me know).  In most shots there are silhouetted figures – fishing, leaning on a gatepost, walking a dog and I’m afraid to say the seemingly compulsory ‘beach stroll’ stock photo that accompanies most press articles with pension in the title.  There are a couple of non-sunset/rise photos, but one of those features a couple in deckchairs.  On the other hand there are shots of scuba diving, mountain climbing and trekking in the snow – seemingly suggesting that ‘Life after Work’ is either one of relaxation or adventure.  These visual representations of retirement are a particular ‘bug bear’ of age at work, they present images of ‘the right’ sort of retirement that are at odds with the issues debated in the report itself.  Moreover they perpetuate problematic stereotypes of what successful retirement might look like.  So HSBC, an interesting report – but lose the stockphotos!

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