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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Social Security: Raise the Retirement Age?


Updated for November 2012--- with no changes; everything is still true:


Should we raise the retirement age for Social Security?  Aren't we living longer?

Some people, concerned about the financial future of Social Security and concerned about the national debt, are suggesting (again) that the retirement age be raised.  They say that we now live 16 years longer than we did when Social Security was first implemented; therefore, we can certainly raise the retirement age a few years. 

Except that this is not really true.

Life expectancy at birth vs. additional life expectancy at a given age:  Two different things.

That 16 year difference is based on life expectancy at birth, which has gone up about 16 years since the late 30's.    But, for people who survive birth and young adulthood and make it to 60, their life expectancy has not increased that much.


People who live to be 65 now only have about 4 or 5 more years of life expectancy than people who lived to be 65 back when Social Security was established.   And we've already raised the retirement age by two of those years!   

We last raised the retirement age in the early 80's for those born in 1938 or later.  The people these changes were going to hit, the Baby Boomers and the WWII kids, were decades away from Social Security at the time.  

 When they raised the retirement age in the 80's...
We need the younger people to realize that you don't stay young forever.  When they raised the retirement age a couple of decades back in the 80s,few Baby Boomers made a peep because we were strong, young, healthy, and thought we would keep our high-payin­g jobs forever. Hah!
Now many Baby Boomers have been hit hard by the recession.  Some are among the saddest victims.  These older people in their 50's and 60's have been tossed out of work after decades of fruitful labor.  Many are experiencing long-term unemployme­nt; many have gone through their savings and 401K's and don't have health insurance. 
Those extra years until full retirement are weighing heavily on many of us.  Retiring with full benefits at 65 is now just a dream.

So, with that in mind, let's look at the numbers on life expectancy.

Based on tables found at Infoplease, which are based on data taken from the US Census Bureau, the additional life expectancy of a 60 year old in the mid 2000's is somewhere between four and seven years more than it was in the late 30's.  For 70 year olds, the additional life expectancy is between two and six years more now than it was in the 30's when social security was establishe­d. What this means is that, in the late 30's, someone in their mid 60's could expect to live to about age 78, give or a take a year or two depending on sex and race. Now (data from the mid 2000's), someone in their mid 60's can expect to live to live to about 82 or 83, give or take a year or two depending on sex and race. That's a difference of 4 to 5 years, and we've already raised the retirement age by 2 of those years. So that means that people now have, on average, TWO ADDITIONAL YEARS of living after they qualify for full retirement than people did in the 30's. TWO YEARS, not 16.  

Also, these figures don't account for extra "workable" years. People may be living two years longer than the retirement age than they were in the 30's, but that doesn't mean that people are able to work for two more years. 35% of people over 65 are considered disabled, but it is safe to assume that many of the other 65% of people over 65 have minor disabilities that would make it difficult for them to work full-time demanding jobs... and also make them less desirable for employers.

Those figures also don't account for the simple fact that older people can't get hired. People over 65 have a low (about 6.7%) unemployme­nt rate, but that is because so few of them are in the work force (less than 20%).



Raising the retirement age, even a year or two, really isn't practical, and it will leave many seniors without any income for years before they can collect social security. 

But many Republicans couldn't give one hoot about that now, could they? They already consider Social Security an "entitlement" and that Social Security recipients are "takers" instead of "makers".  If Grandma hasn't saved enough and "planned" well enough to allow her to survive without the "governmen­t dole", she deserves whatever she gets.  Charming people, aren't they?

O.K., people:  Write your Congresspeople and write the President.  Hang tough.  Don't mess with Social Security and Medicare!  

1 comment:

  1. Boomers are finding out now that they are retiring that those pensions that they worked for years for haven't been funded since the 1970's...my pension was promised to be about $700 per month....I am getting $142 and was told that I was "lucky" that I was "getting anything".... SS is the only thing that they have to live on since their 401K took a hit (if they had one) and their savings are gone due to illness or unemployment. And they have no prospect of a job because there just aren't any for them. But these multi-millionares and billionaires are so blase about saying how we should be means tested or work more years...let them give it a try...and I mean real work, not sitting on their asses pushing paper around and whining how it sucks to pay taxes while us peons live on "entitlements"...Oh I frigging hate that word now!

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