The Garrulous Jay – Macca Facts

Publish date


At 9.30pm last Saturday night an 80 year-old knight of the realm took to The Pyramid Stage as the headline act at Glastonbury Festival. By the time Sir Paul McCartney and friends had finished two hours 50 minutes later he had played a set comprising thirty-six songs and, I confess, I had gone to bed.

During the course of his performance Sir Paul was joined on stage by Bruce Springsteen, who is eight years McCartney’s junior at 72, and Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl who was born in January 1969, by which time The Beatles had already had nine number one albums.

This remarkable performance says much about changing life expectancy in the developed world, society’s attitudes to older generations, and the challenges posed by both.

In 1942, the year McCartney was born, male life expectancy was somewhere between 60 and 65 years and the State Pension age was 65 for men and 60 for women. A male born in the UK today is expected to live to age 88…and the State Pension age is currently timetabled to rise to 67 by 2028.

This highlights the yawning gap that has opened up between the age at which people are expected to retire and that age at which they may die. Back in the 1940s you could expect your retirement to last a handful of years, whereas today you might be disappointed if it failed to run into two decades.

And while the world of entertainment may welcome performers like Sir Paul and Springsteen, the social system set up to support ‘ordinary working men and women’ reflects historic demographics as well as the burden of political expediency, at huge financial cost to the Exchequer.

According to the old age pension cost £169.4 billion in the year ending March 2022, compared to £46 billion in 2000, increasing to 7.2% of GDP from 6.6% 22 years ago.

While the State Pension age has crept up over time what has changed very little is the mechanism by which one becomes entitled to receive it. As long as Sir Paul had paid his National Insurance contributions, he will have been able to claim his pension for the last fifteen years despite a number of estimates putting his net worth at over $1 billion.

But politicians understandably live in fear of losing the ‘old age vote’. In the 2019 General Election, for example, voter turnout among those aged 65-74 was just over 75%, compared to less than 55% for 25-34 year-olds (source:, with the former cohort growing all the time.

As we live longer and the costs of medical intervention and care rise at rates above long-term inflation this further compounds the financial conundrum.

Such matters may not concern the McCartney clan – daughter Stella is estimated to be worth a mere $75 million – but for many of us relying on State handouts in later life would be very risky, and starting to save for retirement cannot start soon enough.