Getting Old Ain’t For The Faint Hearted II

Good morning, y’all. I mentally awoke to the hymn, “Up From The Grave He Arose”, this morning. I think it was some sort of subconscious message my brain was trying to get through to me. Kind of like, “You’re old, you need to start taking better care of yourself, or one of these days you’re not going to arise.” Apparently, my self-evaluation, that “I’ve been doing much better”, is being contradicted by the facts. I hate that when that happens.

One of those areas where facts get in the way of perception is the notion that raising the age of retirement is the only solution needed to fix a secure future for the elderly. It’s true, the longer you’re able to provide for yourself the better you should be. Social Security even tilts the retirement income to a higher monthly stipend if you wait until age 70 to begin withdrawing benefits. The reality is that if you start your benefits at 70, it will take you 13 years to “earn” back the money you would have been drawing if you started at age 66. It is simple math. The extra couple of hundred dollars a month looks attractive, particularly if you were planning on working to 70 anyway, but, if you want to get the maximum from your benefit, retire at the minimum full retirement age. Keep working as long as you are able. Changes brought about by the Obama administration greatly raised the amount of income a retiree can earn before being taxed on the income. Good policy for a host of reasons.

The first question you should ask when you’re deciding to wait until 70 to take retirement is “how many of my family members have made it passed 83?” Weigh that answer with your general health before making your decision. Also throw in the fact that the Social Security system uses your last five years average earnings as an index to your monthly benefit.

That last little tidbit is a hook into a greater societal problem that Congress, et al seem to be completely oblivious to. It has been my observation that when the workforce approaches age 50, the worker’s usefulness is under extreme scrutiny in most work environments. Replacing an aging worker with his higher associated costs of salary, health insurance and possibly retirement, with a younger model is extremely attractive idea to management. It happens every day in America. While there are ageism laws in place to prevent it from happening, I’ve never heard of anyone successfully mounting a case.

So now, you’ve got an aging worker with his higher salary expectations, higher health care costs, turned loose on the job market. For those middle-age workers that are able to make the transition successfully, I say, God love you, you are the exception. For the most part, the aging worker takes lower and lower salaried jobs, if he can find a job, until he retires. As you can see, not supporting the ageism laws helps reduce the Social Security outlay because of the indexing factor. The “unwritten policy” of not enforcing the ageism laws is so blatant that even the Bureau of U.S. Labor and Statistics don’t even track age groups after age 54. The message is clear, “they’re old, let them fend for themselves.”

Now I am not naive, I know that for new workers to have a job, older workers have to step aside. I know that for folks out there wondering if they’re ever going to get Junior with his degree in English Literature out of their basement, there has to be a job. I’m just saying there has to be a better way. Our current system puts me in mind of the time me and The Tacky Ones were playing a little venue in Helen, Ga. and a wise young bard in the audience yelled, “hey old man, get off the stage”. Getting old ain’t for the faint hearted, I tell you. Stick around long enough and you’ll see for yourself.

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