After World War II, the United States experienced a sharp rise in birth rates, a phenomenon that has been dubbed “The Baby Boom” generation. This year, some 78 million “boomers” are hitting 65, the standard age for retirement. The population of people 85 years or older is also growing just as fast. In the United States, when the Social Security program was enacted in 1935 and the retirement age set at 65, life expectancy was just 70 years. Today, life expectancies have risen to about 76 for men and about 81 for women. These “extra” years are putting a huge strain on the social safety nets, such as Social Security and Medicare. Given the longer life expectancy, should the standard retirement age be raised?
I think that people are capable of working longer, and possibly start working later (after attending more college). However, it really depends on the profession. You can do some things well into your seventies, but in some professions you can't. It should be more based on years in the profession than age.
I retired from teaching in the public schools at the age of 51. I had taught for 31 years. Believe me when I say, that is a long time teaching in the public schools. I could have stayed longer, but at the time, I was ready to do something different. With my teacher retirement, I was able to start a different career. I became a flight attendant for American Airlines. Then at the age of 54, I began teaching at the college level...I loved it. Challenging, interesting--I wished I had always been there.
Anyway, after ten years at that, physical problems forced me to retire. I began getting my social security at the age of 62. I needed it then because of broken bones and the inability to drive--I would not have survived financially if I had not been able to retire at that age and after 44 years of working and paying into the system receive my social security benefit.
I believe that the system is as it should be. There are levels of retirement. If a person is able to work until he is 65, 66, 67, or 70, there are financial gains or benefits for that. After the age of 62, the retirement age should be based on the person's ability to continue to work either physically or mentally.
Many people choose to retire when they are eligible for private or public pension benefits, although some are forced to retire when physical conditions don't allow the person to work any more (by illness or accident) or as a result of legislation concerning their position.
Social Security has made a tremendous difference in my life. Since I am now 65, I am able to use medicare and its programs. What a boon for me!
Mentally, I would have still been able to work. Based on certain physical problems, I eventually might have been able to continue, but it was the in between time that made it impossible.
Keep the system as it is. Even though people do live longer, it does not mean that they are physically able to work at the same level that they once did or at all. The staggered age retirement system allows people to work as long as they can and not worry about struggling to get up and go to work when they really are not able.
Retirement can be a necessity or a choice. Most people want to work. It gives a reason for getting out of bed each day and a psychological boost. Few people just want to live off of the system. So again, I say leave the staggered system alone so that people can choose when it best for them to retire.
Social Security was originally designed to pay benefits for only a few years after workers were unable to continue working. Retirement being a new concept in the history of humankind, most people continued working until unable to do so, from the family retainer to the farmer to the dairymaid and even to those infamous Robber Barons of the Industrial Era. Two things strike me as different now from the 20th century when Social Security was born. First, there is no longer any forced retirement as there was for awhile in the preceding century. Second, many people want to exercise their options to continue working either because they love what they do or want to try something new (or simply don't want to be idle or need social contact).
Some important considerations in the discussion are that our current socio-economic environment is very different from that of FDR's time thus the demands made--and about to be made--upon Social Security are equally very different from the expected demands. With that in mind and with the two points I made above in mind, it seems to me that, overall, there would be little objection to raising the retirement age by several years. Of course pohnpei makes the vital point that people nearing retirement should be protected and jumped over while a new retirement age could be applied only to people further out from retirement. In short, I think a higher retirement age would bring Social Security back into line with its original purpose and more into line with what people (in general) want from their lives, which includes continued productivity and the application of experience and excellence accumulated over years of thought and work.
I have a hard time seeing any reason to keep the retirement age where it is for Social Security.
I would say that those people who are already quite near to the current retirement age for the program should be allowed to retire at the current age. It seems only fair to let them retire just as they had planned. However, for people who are more than, say, 10 years from retirement, the age should be changed. There are two reasons for this. First, we simply cannot afford to pay benefits to people for 20 to 25 years. They take out much more than they put in and our changing age structure makes this unsustainable. Second, people do not have any sort of right to be maintained by others when they could easily be working. For these reasons, it seems that raising the retirement age is clearly the thing to do.