Many years ago, back when we were closer to the tipping point where 401(k) plans replaced pensions for the majority of employees, there was a great deal of discussion about whether employees could possibly be financially ready to retire at age 65 absent pensions. I argued at the time that the discussion was wrong and that the age 65 attribution for this analysis was archaic and distorted the conversation. I was correct about that, and the realities of the interaction between retirement funding and pushing retirement dates back a decade are now a mainstream topic, as this excellent article from the BBC, which in turn is responding to BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s much discussed commentary on the subject, shows.

However, my past comments on this issue were criticized by some commentators as possibly being true for professional and managerial workers but as ignoring the fact that extending working life another decade or so for people with physically demanding jobs may be unrealistic. I have come over the years to think those critics were correct. While John Kerry may be able to say with a straight face these days that, with regard to his work, “80 is the new 60,” I highly doubt it is for the painter working out in the hall of my office building right now.

I mention this now only because, while the BBC article is an excellent discussion and demonstrates a renewed focus on this issue, it too assumes that most people work at desk or similar jobs that are not too physically demanding for someone to continue working at into their late sixties and early seventies. I would now suggest that critics of my views from a decade or more ago on this subject were correct when they argued that the solution to retirement readiness for people with physically demanding jobs cannot simply be the advice “work another ten years.”