Health, Hard Labor And The Retirement Age

There are many ideas being floated about how to get Social Security past the looming funding crisis due in 2034. They range from taxing higher incomes, to increasing the payroll tax, to allowing it to reduce payouts, to raising the retirement age once again.

Whether you like the idea of one or all of them (and it may take some combination to really get things done), one that is seems sensible on the surface is the idea of raising the age of full retirement.

After all, when Social Security was first instituted in the 1930’s, no one imagined that a person might retire at 65 and still be around collecting benefits 30 years later. Right?

Not so fast bucko. The reality is that a quick look at the official Social Security website tells us that a man retiring at the age of 65 in 1940 could expect to live to be nearly 78. And a woman could expect to live to nearly 80. By 1990 those same expectancies had only increased by 2.6 and 4.9 years respectively.

So we aren’t living a whole lot longer, in spite of popular understanding. Maybe the idea of raising the retirement age isn’t as rational it seems, especially when you throw in the fact that studies show that the years we have gained are not necessarily years of good health. For a variety of reasons, for current retirees those extra years are likely to be years of disability.

Even if we ignore that gloomy statistic, there is still the fact that the human body is in some is not infinitely durable. There seems to be a limit to just how much physical labor a body can endure. For those who work jobs that aren’t as physically demanding, and who have made it a point to stay in good shape over the years, retiring at a later date might be a viable option.

For those who have spent years doing physical labor in the trades, or factories, or farms being able to work a job even to the current full retirement age can often be difficult, if not impossible.

Retirement is not supposed to be something that can be enjoyed by a fortunate few, it is a life stage that everyone should be able to benefit from. Just because a few healthy individuals can remain vibrant into their nineties is not sufficient reason to expect someone who is virtually crippled by years of hard labor to suffer a few more years of employment just because there is a misconception about health and longevity.

There are a lot of reasons that the age people start drawing their Social Security benefits when they are 62, and for most people that is not because they have a couple of million dollars in the bank. Some retire when they can, others retire because they have to. And the latter group may be larger than the first, in spite of your 75 year old neighbor who runs marathons on the weekends.

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