Gerry Harvey. Photo: Nic Walker
The billionaire executive chairman and co-founder of Harvey Norman, Gerry Harvey, has baulked at a minimum retirement age, saying people should be able to work for years after they turn 65.
Mr Harvey, who is approaching 75, says he can work just as effectively as he did 20 years ago and will do so for as long as he can.
His comments come after the Abbott Government attracted ire for proposing to lift the pension age to 70 for workers born after 1965 in an effort to rein in spending on a rapidly ageing population.
While Mr Harvey said he was ‘‘happy to work forever’’ he was adamant that everyone else shouldn’t be forced to do the same.
He said his work was important in keeping his mind active and ensuring that he can still enjoy recreational activities such as golf and tennis.
‘‘The people I know who have retired, so many of them lose interest and die. They just become nobodies over night. Not everyone, but many of them,’’ Mr Harvey said.
‘‘I’m just turning 75 so for me there is probably nothing more important in my life than to be able to think can I still do what I’m doing now – can I play golf, can I play tennis, can I go to work – and can I do it at 80, 85 or 90?’’
Mr Harvey’s comments come after his former business partner Ian Norman died last month aged 75.
He met Mr Norman when they where still selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. They then opened their first store together in 1961 before establishing Harvey Norman in 1982.
Mr Harvey questioned Mr Norman’s decision to retire early.
‘‘He retired over 30 years ago. I have gone through his lifestyle with him many a time.
‘‘His lifestyle and the amount of money he had, I could just never understand it, it never made any sense to me. And I’d think to myself would I want his lifestyle or mine? There was no contest.’’
As Mr Harvey enters the so called twilight years, he said he made a point of speaking with anyone who still fit and active and over the age of 80 – the most notable being Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
‘‘I was fortunate enough to go to the races with the Queen a week ago and I was having a good chat with Prince Philip, who’s 93.
‘‘I said ‘what do you do for recreation or exercise?’ He said ‘well I’ve got these fell horses and I get out there and I drive my carriage with my horses everyday and that’s my passion’.’’
Fell horses are used in the hazardous sport of competition carriage driving.
‘‘I said to him ‘I’m standing here talking to you and you’re 93 and don’t think I can think of another person who is 93 who is as good as you’,’’ Mr Harvey said.
‘‘It was quite amazing. For me, anyone who is over 80, I generally sit down and have a chat to because he is over 80 and he is going OK.’’
Mr Harvey admits that while he can still work as effectively as he did when at 65 or 55, sometimes he struggled to get out of bed – but the feeling never lasts too long.
‘‘I’ve got a little whipping boy who gets me out of bed every morning. I have a whole heap of things to do everyday.
‘‘Maybe sometimes I’d like to sleep in and not come to work but by the time I get to work and I’m active and doing things, I think to myself that I’m lucky that whipping boy is there.
‘‘I have no argument that I can think of that says I should have retired 10 years ago.’’