The focus in the retirement industry centres around there being enough reserves in the pension pot to go the distance, but a crucial consideration is the kind of environment that will be waiting to retire into.

With the world changing rapidly through advancements in medicine and technology, what does a sustainable retirement plan look like?

Cleaner and greener investing has become more urgent to achieve. The Covid-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder of the social, health and environmental issues South Africa faces. Pension funds have the ability to influence these issues through sustainable and impact investing. There is a growing need to invest responsibly in a world that is worth retiring into. If the environment is inhabitable, what will retirement savings be worth?

For long-term investors, retirement funds being key among them, sustainability should be the key objective. An unhealthy and unsustainable economy cannot serve investors who have a multi-decade investment horizon, and who are concerned about the livelihoods of future generations.

Projections can help to quantify how much we might need as a pension, but these don’t account for the havoc facing our ecosystems and planet due to climate change. Sometimes, imagining a dystopian future helps us to face harsh truths.


Imagine if due to technology, the government increased the national retirement age to 85, for those who are able-bodied. Technology is already changing the narrative in real time for so many sectors of the economy, so it could conceivably contribute to see us living even longer.

South Africa will be a large, aging population 30 years from now. Ages 55-65 may be the common retirement range today, but many are retiring later if given the choice (some out of financial need), and if you have access to technology to keep you healthy, this is likely to grow.

Imagine a bionic hip and the extension it could bring to your working years. Imagine if there was a caste-system according to how much you’ve managed to save for retirement and if you didn’t meet a certain threshold, you could end up in a labour camp, farming waste into fuel for others to use.

We recently tried to hit home the impact of today’s decisions on our financial futures through storytelling. A story within our anthology, Upshot, in collaboration with renowned authors, called Last Shot, paints such a picture, and goes on to prove the dangers of inflation – retirement saving’s traditional worst enemy, now a close second to environmental risks.

We must consider these risks, both the cost-of-living years from now, and the cost to our environment if we don’t invest appropriately.

If we are living longer and can work harder, anything is possible. The future impact of today’s investment decisions matters most. It may have been a persistently low-return environment in South Africa for some time, but we believe that investing for developmental impact can drive sustainable returns and help tackle the imbalances that characterise our country.



– Adam Bennot
Senior Associate, RisCura