It’s time for a 21st-century retirement age. If 40 is the new 20 and 50 is the new 30, why shouldn’t 70 be the new 65? The last time Washington politicians tinkered ever so gingerly with the government-sanctioned retirement age, Ronald Reagan was in office and Generation X-ers were all in diapers. Since then, American life expectancy has increased by half a decade and continues to rise — while the “traditional” retirement age (established eight decades ago) has only recently begun phasing up to 67 and the official “early” retirement age (established four decades ago) remains stuck at 62.
There is simply no good reason 21st-century workers should operate under obsolete 1930s-era expectations and 1970s rules. We’re living longer, working longer and, in general, holding down jobs that are far less physically taxing than those of previous generations.
The reasons we should update these relics of our teetering federal entitlement programs are myriad. Demographic, actuarial and fiscal realities demand it. As powerless blue-ribbon entitlement reform panels have warned for years, the number of younger workers supporting Social Security beneficiaries is dwindling. It’s a global phenomenon. The Economist magazine reports that, based on declining fertility rates, “by 2050 there will be just 2.6 American workers supporting each pensioner and the figures for France, Germany and Italy will be 1.9, 1.6 and 1.5 respectively.”
This amounts to a budget-busting wealth transfer scheme whose lousy “investments” cannot be sustained unless basic structural reforms are made. Shared sacrifice means that every able-bodied worker — including federal employees and elected officials — must get with the times. Americans can no longer feel entitled to some 20 to 30 years of subsidized retirement, often collected over the course of many more years than retirees actually spent paying into the system.
_Raising the traditional and early retirement ages will mean extending workers’ taxable earning years, fueling economic growth and putting a dent in our unfunded-liabilities crisis by delaying payouts. Some senior citizens’ lobbying groups fret that today’s workforce wouldn’t be able to handle longer careers.
Tell that to Betty White or Joan Rivers or Helen Mirren.