Retirement is not a game…The Choice

by reader coberly


The reason for offering this post is that it has become very fashionable among Serious People to propose that raising the retirement age is the “obvious” solution to the “Social Security Crisis.”

In a recent exchange I accused an otherwise intelligent and decent person of cruelty by stupidity for proposing an increase in the retirement age.

That person replied:

“I think we need to ask that poor old lady who scrubs floors whether she would rather have her payroll tax raised or work one extra year so that she can be retired for three extra years. Would she rather work harder for 40 years or the same for 41? As you said elsewhere, she is going to have to pay for it one way or another. If she is already working two (or three) jobs, she may feel that coberly is the one being cruel.”

I think the reply is incoherent on a number of counts: I cannot see how the old lady is going to be asked to work harder for forty years. Or how working an extra year magically turns into three extra years of retirement. Or why working two or three jobs for an extra year or two or three should be counted as an argument in FAVOR of increasing the retirement age. But what about asking that poor old lady about her choices?

In the first place she would not understand her choices unless someone patiently explained them to her.

More important: she will not be given the choice. It will be made for her by lazy minded intellectuals who have done the aggregate math, without a thought about what it means in human terms.

Here is the choice:

An increase in the payroll tax of twenty dollars per week for the average worker will pay for the projected extra six years of life expectancy. That means each “extra” year of retirement will cost the average worker about three dollars per week. That average worker would be making 1000 dollars per week at the time we are talking about. (The extra payroll tax would cost the low income worker about a dollar and a half.)

Rough check: 3 dollars times 52 equals about 150 dollars
Bosses contribution doubles that to 300 dollars per year
times 40 working years equals about 12,000 dollars
which is a little more than one year of Social Security benefits.

So our intellectual is supposing that given the choice of saving an extra three dollars a week in order to be able to retire one year earlier, the average working person would say, “no thank you. i need the three bucks this week.”

This might well be what a poor person would say at the age of twenty. It is most definitely not what she would say at the age of 60.

The very intelligent and decent people who are going to decide this question forget several things:

The old lady is paying for her own retirement. Not “the government”.

The average life expectancy will not be the same as the actual life span of any particular individual. If the average span increases by six years, something like ten percent of the people will still die in the first year. In the traces, if our “on the average” experts have their way.

No one knows for sure that the average life expectency WILL rise. Nor that if it does, peple will remain healthy and “young” enough to work. Think about 70 year old saw mill workers, or policemen….or school teachers… or your boss.

No one who has a job he likes can imagine the hell people face who have the jobs that poor people have.

No well off person can say what a poor person should be allowed to do with the last few years of her life if she has paid for the costs of retirement. She may want to see her grandchildren, or write a book, or just live life for herself for a few years instead of having to make money just to survive.

If thepeople can save enough of their own money over 40 years, and will, if given the chance, pay for the full 20 years of post-retirement life expectancy, why should some “non partisan expert” say, “No. You can’t do that. We have determined that it is against God’s law for poor people to be allowed to pay for their own retirement. Retirement is a privilege of the rich.”

Because some clever intellectual has had the brilliant thought “Gee, we could count backward from average life expectancy to determine a “fair” retirement age. And that will save the worker 3 dollars a week for every year he is not allowed to retire.”
by reader coberly