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Retirement Age


And as an addendum to Paul’s post yesterday, it’s pretty easy to talk about the benefits of a retirement age of 74 when your job is to put on a bow tie and pontificate about things you may or may not know anything about. Give Will and everyone else employed by Fred Hiatt’s op-ed page a job cleaning bedpans 10 hours a day and I’m pretty sure we’d never hear about it again.

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  • If you gave them a job cleaning bedpans they’d screw that up too most likely.

    • firefall

      Well to be fair they only have experience talking shit, not cleaning it up

  • Witt

    I realize that for high-profile national commentators there’s actual malice at work, but for a lot of other people I think it’s just astounding ignorance. People are terrible at thinking in large numbers, people are typically surrounded by others who are demographically (socially, economically, etc.) like them, and people are rarely taught the developmental skills necessary to make an imaginative leap beyond their own narrow worlds.

    So you end up with a lot of people hearing “raise the age to 74” and thinking vaguely, Yes, well, everybody IS living longer these days, and I suppose I could keep doing this a bit longer…

    Argh. The whole thing is just infuriating.

    • proverbialleadballoon

      in the ‘regular people’s’ defense, the issue has been framed in one way for so long, there is no wonder they’ve bought in. ‘social security is going broke, it won’t be there when you retire’ is what we’ve been told for decades. insert a ‘that’s not true, social security will pay out at 80% in 2036, and only needs one small tweak to bring it to 100% for generations’ into the conversation, and people won’t believe you because that’s not what they’ve heard, for years and years.

    • Dana

      I have to believe this is true, that if you put things in real-world terms most people will realize proposals like increasing the retirement age to 74 (or even 70) are absurd. People are living (somewhat) longer, but we’ve not figured out how to cure cancer, Alzheimer’s, or arthritis, just to name a few. Two of my grandparents were already engaged in struggles with cancer at 74, one of them for several years. What are the employment prospects for a 70-year-old diagnosed with cancer and facing months of chemo and radiation with no guarantee of survival? Hell, what are the employment prospect for a 60- or 65-year-old in the same circumstances? What about when there’s a 30-year-old ready to step in an do basically the same job for less money? Which one represents a better investment for the employer? How realistic are the employment prospects for any 60-something in a competitive economy? Our retirement policies need to reflect the reality of human life, not empty pontifications about retirement being some privilege only the lucky or wealthy deserve.

  • DrDick

    He is so, so wrong as usual. Firstly, increasing life expectancy was expected and factored into SS from the start and their estimates were really pretty good. Secondly, the average life expectancy for those in the bottom half of the income distribution have barely changed since 1970. Almost all the gains have been in among people like Will in the top half.

    • proverbialleadballoon

      no one has been so, so wrong, so seemingly-innoculously, for longer, than george fucking will. i would say that he’s complicit in the scam, but i’m sure that you already know that.

      the information you link to needs to be shouted from the rooftops every single time one of these fuckers tries to run the scam. life expectancies have not gone up dramatically, due to better medicine and lower infant mortality rates. even if it’s just pissing in the wind, against decades of being told social security is going broke, this information needs to be repeated time and time again. they. are. lying.

  • efgoldman

    WILL: — is simple. I mean the average length of retirement in the 20th century expanded from two years to 20 years. The system was never designed for this. If we had indexed the retirement age to life expectancy in 1935, the retirement age today would be 74 and we’d have no problem.

    Seventy fucking four


    I’m sixty-fucking seven. I have to work to fucking seventy because (1) It gives me a $600/month bump in social security (2) I didn’t get into a [really good] 401(k) until I was fucking fifty (3) like everyone else, my 401(k) went in the terlet in Bush’s recession.
    But seventy-fucking four? I guess Georgie-porgie’s actuaries tell him that’s the median age at which we geezers will croak, two years into social security.
    The first on-line comment I ever left, don’t know how many years ago, was a suggestion that Will spend six months deciding whether to pay the mortgage, or the kid’s tuition, or a medical/dental bill. and see how it fucking feels.

    • Murc

      I’d also like to point out that Will’s statement is a bald-faced lie. The average length of retirement has not expanded from two years to twenty. He’s taking average life expectancy at birth when SS was implemented and comparing it to average life expectancy at birth right now.

      That cannot be repeated enough.

      • R Johnston

        Hey all those kids who used to die in infancy paid a lot of money into Social Security.

        And it’s even worse than you say because Will is comparing life expectancy at birth when SS was implemented to life expectancy at retirement now.

        Will is pushing the stupid/evil envelope here.

        • TT

          Always assume evil with Will–which leads him to write and say a lot of really stupid shit.

  • Malaclypse

    I cannot see what could possibly go wrong when we have 74-year-old long haul truckers.

    • efgoldman

      Or short haul drivers. Or contract electricians. Or cement-mixer operators. Or construction crane operators….

      I used to give Georgie credit, because he called for Nixon to step down very early in the game. But he was young, and not an old, rich Villager, then.

      • DrDick

        Or police and fire fighters or EMTs.

        • Big Dry

          Shit, it’s bad enough with pundits.

        • efgoldman

          Most of those jobs, like airline pilots, have mandatory retirement age.

          Or maybe they don’t. I remember in the deep recesses of my aging brain, age discrimination lawsuits in some state(s) or other(s), but its too late on a work night for me to screw around finding it.

        • R6R

          Police officers and firefighters can usually retire around 55 since they have pensions. It can be costly for municipalities but no one wants 62 year olds on the beat or going into burning buildings.

    • Nice ageism there. Do you mind if I throw around some of my prejudices and stereotypes?

      • Furious Jorge

        You’ve always felt free enough to do it in the past.

      • Beauzeaux

        I’m seventy-fucking zero and I don’t want to see anyone my age running into a burning building. They’re sure not to run out again.
        Cops? Well, they could shuffle them off to desk work at 65, I guess.
        But even Andy Sipowitz was too old for the beat and he was about 52.

  • shah8

    /me shrugs

    It’s just an indirect way of saying that people should work until that work kills them.

    Of course, that sentiment isn’t purely into the economy…plenty of people with vested whatever. However, when it does, demand will go down (if only because nobody needs bedpans for the corpse on the sidewalk). Age discrimination will increase to ever more asphyxiating levels, and old people will die on the street on their own dime, and not the state’s cash, which rightfully belongs to the mayor’s pals.

  • Why is 65 such a magic number? Why not 55 or 45?

    • Life expectancy at 65 is 18.6 years.

    • DrDick

      Because our bodies start breaking down by then and we begin to loose stamina and physical capacity? I say this as someone who is 60. I still take 10-15 mile hikes in the mountains, but I do not have near the strength or stamina I had when I was younger. All of the examples we listed are age sensitive occupations. Also, if you bother to follow the link I provide above, you will see that those in the bottom half of the income distribution have added only a couple of years to life expectancy since 1970. You just want to cheat them out of their Social Security.

    • Murc

      Assuming for a moment that I take you seriously, Fritz…

      If we’re going to have a national pension system (which is what Social Security is) then the line for cashing into that system needs to be drawn somewhere.

      Now, I’d be happy to have an adult conversation about where precisely the best place to put that line is. It is a legitimate issue of public policy, a very important one.

      But I have a hard time taking people like George Will seriously on the topic when they open with a big lie, and then continue with MORE big lies. If you have to tell a series of big lies in order to push a policy position, I immediately think ulterior motives, especially if you’re already someone with a history of mendacity.

      You mention life expectancy AT 65. That’s a decent place to begin. Other things to consider are the quality of life of those remaining years, and the average shape someones body and mental faculties are in.

      Speaking for myself, I feel like if you’re a productive member of society, getting out there, working your forty a week, raising a family, paying your taxes, that sort of thing, then you deserve to retire BEFORE your body completely falls apart, so that you have at least a few years to enjoy that retirement. I think that we, as a society, should subsidize that sort of retirement with a national pension, especially since we tried doing it the other way and what happened was that shocking numbers of people were basically working until they died or were unable to work any more, at which point they retired into abject poverty or drove their families into same.

      I realize that you think that redistributionism is wrong. To which I can only say, most people disagree with you, and you and your fellow travelers have done a real shitty job winning that argument.

      • As long as we’re going to be redistributing wealth (and I would place myself somewhere between “skeptical of” and “prejudiced against”), we should also look at where the wealth is. Since those 55 and older have a higher net worth than younger people, that seems to me to be an important consideration. We wouldn’t want to redistribute from those who are working class to those who are middle class or better, would we?

        So, we can ask, who, exactly, needs social security?

        Perhaps means testing, an examination of wealth (as opposed to income) and need, would be a nice middle-step before raising the qualifying age.

        • malraux

          There’s not a lot of money in that. Very few people have enough assets that not having social security wouldn’t hurt (i.e. enough that you’ll never get it through congress). Either the asset test excludes very few (i.e. millionaires and up) and doesn’t save any money, or it hits a broad range of people and isn’t viable.

          If you want to play the whole game of redistributing money, lifting the cap from social security tax makes a lot more sense. While there’s only a few people who make more than that cap, they do make a lot of money.

        • Murc

          As long as we’re going to be redistributing wealth (and I would place myself somewhere between “skeptical of” and “prejudiced against”), we should also look at where the wealth is.

          Well, in general, most of the wealth in this country is concentrated in ever-greater quantities in an ever-shrinking small cadre of elites.

          We wouldn’t want to redistribute from those who are working class to those who are middle class or better, would we?

          We kinda do that now, thanks to the regressive nature of SSI taxes, but I am broadly in agreement with this.

          Perhaps means testing

          I’m not, inherently, opposed to means-testing in a policy vacuum. I’m pretty skeptical of it in practice, though, and it also seems like in this specific case its an extreme change when much simpler ones will do.

          My policy goal is to have a moderately generous national pension system, for reasons both moral and practical. Now, we’ve got one of those right now, more or less, and its pretty simple; everyone who works pays in, everyone who DID work gets a payout that’s based in part (but not in full) on what they were making during their working years.

          That does a lot of things. It makes bookkeeping very simple. It creates a broad political constituency for the program that makes it really, really hard to demagogue. It completely obviates the need for testing and enforcement mechanisms. And it ensures that people have as little chance as possible of falling through the cracks.

          Given those facts, I would say that, if changes to Social Security are needed (and its not entirely clear to me that they are; the program will remain solvent basically indefinitely if we can fix the underlying economy, which would kill two birds with one stone) I’d prefer them to come from eliminating the cap. That would likely completely solve any possible revenue shortfalls in one fell swoop, while only imposing a moderate tax burden on those who can most afford to bear it.

        • So how many means testers would the government have to hire in order to reassure you that people can’t draw the pensions they’ve paid for without selling their houses?

        • DrDick

          Since those 55 and older have a higher net worth than younger people, that seems to me to be an important consideration.

          Really? That would explain why the average household income of people over 65 is half that of people 55-64. It is indeed the lowest of any cohort over 15. Cherry picking your data just won’t fly, nut I realize that is the only way you can support any of your assertions.

          • It’s a pretty simple three step process, really:

            1. Retire.
            2. Stop working.
            3. Stop drawing an income.

            Of course people over 65 have lower incomes, the question is their wealth and asset base. Do they really need to be subsidized by younger workers?

            • Lee

              Yes because their were a host of rather bad problems when they weren’t. Why are you so intent on inflicting pain?

            • DrDick

              They are not being subsidized by younger workers. They have been paying into that retirement account for 40+ years, and even voted to increase the amount they paid in to cover the additional costs. It works exactly the way private defined benefit pensions are supposed to work. To the extent that there is any subsidization happening, it is high income workers subsidizing low income workers.

              • My father, crazed libertarian, figured out how long he has to live in order to take out more than he put in.

                • So your father can do math. Now he just needs to get God to allow him to pull it off.

                • DrDick

                  I trust he also calculated in the interest accrued to his contribution, since those funds were invested in T-Bills. The actuaries carefully calculated what the necessary contributions were for the projected life expectancy (and they were very close in their calculations). It is true that those who die earlier than average are indeed subsidizing those who live longer, but it balances out within generation.

  • LosGatosCA

    George Will left the realm of being a decent human quite some time ago. Despite he’s practiced smarmy insipidness that he uses to hide his nasty inhumane nature his remarks from time betray his inhumanity.

    For me, the twentieth last straw was back in 2006 or so discussing the 2-4 million displaced Iraqis. He contributed the gem that 20 million people in Europe were displaced during WWII (you know by concentration camps, forced labor camps, running from genocide, the Germans, then the Russians, aerial bombing, other nuisances like that) and most of them found their way home after the war without institutional assistance (except for those that didn’t because they were trapped behind Russian lines, died in the process, or did indeed get institutional assistance (UNRRA)). The last displaced camp was closed in 1955 or so.

    He’s a worthless sack of shit disguised as a human being.

  • We have mandatory retirement here at 60 which is quite young for a university lecturer. Sure people working heavy physical labor should have the option to retire at 60 or 55. But, I think forcing intellectual workers to retire at 60 is outdated. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to teach until I am 74?

    • DrDick

      To make jobs for younger people?

      • I don’t think that is why the law is on the books. It was put there by the British when life expectancy was a lot lower here and nobody has bothered to repeal it. But, there is a labor shortage regarding lecturers now at least in history. For decades qualified people emigrated and one small contributing factor was the much lower retirement age here versus the US.

        • proverbialleadballoon

          beyond drdick’s reply, which seems to be the real answer, i would add that many university professors in their 60’s tend not to give a rat’s ass anymore. i was a history major, coincidentally, and the courses taught by professors at or near retirement age were the least interesting, least informative, and least inspiring of any. ‘read the text, here are some supplemental materials, and try to pay attention as i monotonously drone the same lecture i’ve been giving for 35 years’, basically. i realize that i am making a broad statement based on one man’s university experience, and that there are plenty of professors in their 60’s who do still care and still keep their courses and interest in them fresh. but to get back to making broad statements, something about teaching the same material for decades turns people’s brains to mush. not that i am for forced early retirements, or have any answers, just an observation.

          • DrDick

            Speaking as a very popular 60 year-old professor who has a reputation as challenging and a dynamic lecturer, I differ to disagree. I also had some excellent older professors in college. What really matters is having passion for what you do. While that can dim as we get older, there are a lot of young professors just going through the motions.

            • proverbialleadballoon

              very true, everything you say. the passion for your work is the heart of it, no matter the job or age. that is what i was getting at; no intent to imply that the ability is no longer there, just, oftentimes, the desire.

    • Barry

      J Otto Pohl, I don’t know how it works over there, for people who are not professors, but back here in the USA, people over 40 have problems getting jobs, and people over 50 are in serious trouble.

      It’s not only the fact that the pundits don’t have jobs which break their bodies down that p*sses me off, it’s also that the pundits have guaranteed jobs for life which p*sses me off. George F. Will has been a highly dishonest hack without an original thought for decades now, but he’ll collect those checks until he’s actually dead.

      • Katya

        No kidding. Even if you have a job at a desk, unless you are a partner in that business, you are going to be in trouble when you hit 55 or 60. A remember a large law firm in Chicago a few years back laid off a bunch of older associates. In retrospect, firing a bunch of old attorneys is pretty much a recipe for a lawsuit, but even so, it showed that even people in “elite” professions are not safe as they age. No one wants to hire an older attorney or engineer or doctor or architect or secretary, anymore than they want to hire an older construction worker or janitor.

      • I got hired here after I turned 40 and they hired a couple of guys in their 50s around the same time. But, mandatory retirement from full time teaching kicks in at 60. The 60 retirement extends to everybody working at a public institution. So it includes all university workers, all civil servants, and all public school teachers.

      • Guest

        After he’s dead, actually. His heirs will get his book royalties.

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