There are some groups starting to surface advocating that Congress should move the retirement age to 70 or even 80. The leaders are the American International Group, whose CEO, Robert Benmosche, has stated retirement ages will have to rise because of the debt crisis.
Well, wait a minute.
Since the average age of life's end was around 78 in 2007, wouldn't that mean thousands of people would die before ever drawing a cent of what they paid into Social Security all their lives?
Then maybe that is the whole plan.
The rationale put forth seems to be, that if government keeps people working longer it would make pensions and medical services more affordable and take that burden off the youth.
While U.S. life expectancy was at an all-time high in 2007 (77.9 years), doctors are now saying that because of the economic downturn, which has taken a toll on health and life expectancy, they expect that rate to drop significantly.
Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, said that he wouldn't be surprised to see the life expectancy drop in the future because of the extreme economic stress people are now under.
Many senior advocacy groups are totally against raising the retirement age, citing studies showing that most 80-year-olds have health issues that would make attempting to work extremely stressful and even dangerous. They say that 45 percent of workers in the 62-69 age range work in physically demanding or difficult jobs.
Other studies also indicate that people whose jobs require more physical activity and manual labor tend to retire earlier; thus the retirement age going to 80 would impact these people disproportionately. It would be pretty difficult, say, for a roofer to be on top of a house putting down shingles at 80 years of age. What kind of liability would that be for a company?
If some seniors can stay healthier and live longer and voluntarily retire later, I am sure that is what many will do. An incentive to motivate people to work longer and not retire would be to lower the rate of income tax levied on seniors still working. Those of us still working at retirement age are paying 4 percent of our gross salary into Social Security and 1.5 percent into Medicare. Then on top of that, we pay up to 85 percent in taxes on what we get in Social Security.
My tax preparers tell me that I paid the government more than $8,000 last year in contributions to Social Security, Medicare and tax on Social Security received, and have for years. That is on top of the amounts I've paid into the system over the years. Somehow I don't think this makes me a burden to the government. Regardless, we must be very careful that we not force seniors to work beyond their physical capabilities, especially in manual labor jobs. That is almost like meting out punishment to a senior who certainly doesn't deserve it. Stay tuned!
• Janice Ayres is immediate past president of the Nevada Senior Corps Association.