retirement

Is “retirement age” an anachronism?

Yes. And it’s a good thing, because people the same age can function very differently, and functionality should trump chronology. But that makes it harder to wield the blunt instrument of public policy fairly, and the shifting landscape of retirement makes doesn’t help. Some people are cutting cut back on their hours, some retire and then return to the workforce, and some just keep working—some by choice and others out of necessity—and their stories are all over the media this week. 

 

Why older people staying on the job is far from bad news for younger ones

It’s common knowledge that older workers are staying on the job longer, reversing historic retirement trends. Meager savings and trashed portfolios mean that many can’t afford to quit. Social Security no longer penalizes those who continue to earn. And the great majority of older workers is employed in the education and health sectors, which aren’t physically demanding.  This is bad news for those hungrily eying their La-Z-Boy recliners, but “there is a lot to like in this surge of experienced workers,” writes Harvard economist Edward L. Glaeser in an editorial in yesterday’s New York Times.  More salaries generate more tax revenue; seasoned talent is valuable; and it’s not a zero-sum game in terms of the job market.

off on vacation

Last night, friend and chef Diego Felix, who's visiting from Buenos Aires, cooked a superb dinner that turned into quite the send-off. He invited some friends, and it was wonderful to hear more Spanish and Italian than Englisharound the table .  I described our extended family to two sweet Italian guys, one of whom lives nearby, and he asked if I were retired. I said no, slightly puzzled. Turns out that he'd assumed that since I was a "nonna" (a grandmother), I must be retired!

Who’s going to support Granny when she can’t support herself?”

“Women: can’t live with ‘em, can’t kill ‘em.” Men too:  “Can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em.” Same goes for old people, as Susan Jacoby writes in her jeremiad about old age in America, Never Say Die:  “If we are not going to kill Granny, we are going to have to support Granny.”

To work or not to work. (As if baby-boomers had the choice.)

This New Year’s Day two very different stories about the baby boomers’ uneasy relationship with aging caught my eye.  One was a front-page piece of fluff from the NYTimes whose title says it all: “Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65.” Apparently the hallmark of this transition is “a pervading sense that life has been what might technically be called a ‘bummer.’” A remarkably self-absorbed way to describe the logical corollary of the “U-shaped happiness curve”:  that mid-life is a time of reckoning that necessarily sets the stage for contentment in late life.

Workers thriving at 70, 80, and even 100

The poster child of this story on CNN.com today is Jack Borden, a 101-year-old attorney who practices fulltime in Weatherford, Texas. Retirement is the last thing on his mind. “I have to use a walker because of old age, so there's not much else I could do except sit in my house. Why do that when I can not only enjoy life, but help some people?" In Borden’s view, as in Bill and Ruth Stein’s,  limited mobility is a catalyst for staying on the job rather than a reason to take a load off.

"When the golden years include a commute”

A few weeks ago Alison Linn interviewed me for an article called “When the golden years include a commute,” part of an MSNBC series called “Plan C: The new reality of retirement.” The story, which quotes AARP editor Jim Toedtman at length, describes a workforce that’s retiring later and contains many people in their 70s, 80s and beyond. While the income is welcome or essential, many enjoy the work itself and the physical and social benefits of getting out of the house.

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