A rant against forced lifestyle choices

Do you like it when others are in charge of your money?

In The Netherlands, most people are forced to save for their retirement.

Companies take a percentage of your paycheck and invest it for you. Some people can choose from a handful of options to take more risk for a higher potential reward. Others have no say at all in how their money is invested.

If you work here, chances are you can’t access these savings—your savings—before you reach the official retirement age, which is currently set at 67. Even when you do reach that age, you don’t get your money back all at once; you receive monthly payments.

There’s something to be said for this system: it helps people who are not financially literate or who don’t have the discipline to save. By forcing everyone who works to save, fewer people will be broke when they reach old age.

But there is also something unfair about forcing people to save and not letting them spend their money as they wish. What if you want access to your savings to buy a boat when you’re 40? Too bad. What if you never reach retirement age? Tough luck.

I wouldn’t say it’s theft—taxes aren’t theft either—but this scheme does share the characteristic of theft that someone else takes your money and that you no longer get to spend that money as you wish.

More generally, this pension system perpetuates the notion that it is normal and good to work forty hours a week most weeks from your early twenties until your late sixties.

The more I talk to people, the more I’m convinced that this standard work schedule causes a lot of unhappiness. It stresses people out, it bores people, it doesn’t allow for enough rest to reach maximum productivity, and it wastes an awful lot of time by forcing people to simultaneously commute in huge numbers every day.

Of course, in The Netherlands as in most places, you can save extra money in addition to the forced savings. And that’s exactly what I’d recommend to anyone who lives here and who has a job.

Don’t let others decide how many years you have to show up to an office before you “deserve” to get your money back. Take matters into your own hands by saving extra money, so you can do what you want with your life when you want to do it.


— Peter

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