Inside Track LINDA MALLoN
Keeping It Fair
I hAPPEN To hAvE PRETTY GooD GENES. Most of my forebears
led vigorous, long lives, and well into my 30s I was able to enjoy the
company of three of four grandparents and a full helping of great
aunts and uncles.
I’ve also pursued a professional career that hasn’t put me in the line of fire or required me to hoist heavy loads or lay tar in the hot sun. (Hoisting cold ones after the midnight press deadline and before last call used to be a bit of an occupational hazard—but those days are long gone.) Because I may live well into my eighth decade (with my wits
intact, I hope), I’m a perfect candidate for delayed retirement.
And I’m not alone—many in my generational cohort can expect
to enjoy productive years well after the traditional retirement
age of 65.
It was in recognition of this fact that the Academy on behalf
of the U.S. actuarial profession released a position statement
in 2008 calling on policymakers to address Social Security’s
long-term financial issues by increasing the age of retirement.
Tom Terry, chairperson of the Academy’s Public Interest
Committee, reiterated that position this year in a July hearing
of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. Terry told legislators that the program’s
retirement age hasn’t kept pace with improvements in longevity. Life expectancy for a 65-year-old in 2011, he explained, is
approximately 50 percent higher than it was in 1937 when Social Security began.
This is not to say that all of us will still be working our day
jobs at the age of 75 (even if we wanted to). In certain occupations—airline pilots, for instance, or Everest guides—it’s just
not prudent. Because the type of work I do doesn’t require me
to break much of a physical sweat (not discounting the mental
agonies of searching for le mot juste), I’m perfectly happy with
the notion of working until I’m in my 70s. In fact, I expect to.
But it’s important to remember that in a struggling economy,
job opportunities for willing 70-year-old workers aren’t always
thick on the ground.
And there are other considerations. In his commentary
on Page 10, James Kenney points to Japan, where a growing
logjam of older workers who refuse to relinquish their jobs is
forcing younger Japanese to search for work in other countries.
Also, longer lifetimes are by no means distributed equally. For a
number of reasons (including reduced access to health care and
other lifestyle factors) lower-income individuals tend to miss
out on the longevity dividend. Further proof, if anyone needs
it, that life isn’t fair.