Lessons from a 95-year-old money manager who cycles to work every morning

Meet Michael Robbins.

The Boston money manager was born in 1926. He remembers the Great Depression. His father was wiped out in the Crash of ‘29. He uses old-fashioned language and refers to “hosses,” not horses. He still wears a bow tie to the office.

And yet he’s a very modern face of the future economy. That’s because Robbins is still working full time at the age of 95.

He even cycles into work every day. (If you know Boston, that is pretty frightening—not as much because of the weather but because of the city’s notorious roads and traffic.)

It’s not news that we in America — and much of the world — face an alarming demographic crunch. The numbers of older people are rising much faster than the numbers of the young and middle-aged. The math of the current retirement system doesn’t add up. Investing Social Security in the stock market, and encouraging more high-skilled immigration, would both help, but those in power are not interested in either step — for reasons best known to themselves (and their lobbyists).

One of the inevitable results is that more of us are going to need to work for longer. And this needn’t always be a bad thing: Hanging up your suit and tie and going fishing at 65 doesn’t make total sense if you’re going to live for another 30 years.

Which leads me to the case of Robbins, a senior wealth manager at Mayflower Advisors in Boston’s financial district.

It is almost surreal at this point to be talking to a full-time office worker who can give you chapter and verse not only on what the Great Depression was like–“It was as bad as they say it was—people really starved” — but also on his memories from that era of how and why FDR screwed up his handling of it. “I thought he handled it very poorly,” Robbins says. (The memory is so vivid to Robbins that at one point he joke-mimes strangling someone to show his frustration.) 

He repeats a long rhyme from the 1930s about all the New Deal’s…

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