The so called 'retirement age' is nominally thought to be 65 years old, but to get your full Social Security benefit the age is inching up each couple of months to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. And who knows where it will go from there?
With the post WWII baby boomers retiring at about 10,000 per day now, the number of people tapping into the Social Security Fund is growing exponentially. If imports and the maturing age of robotics keeps eliminating human jobs in the USA, who will pay into the system to keep it alive-for as long as the beneficiaries are alive?
In my latest novel, 2039..."Chapter 5", Jon and Ida Kadish are having a conversation about retirement age with their handyman/driver, Rollie, in the FAV (Federal Automatic Vehicle) as they take a lunch break on their drive to the Canadian border... The year is 2039.
Rollie climbed the folding door stairs to the passenger compartment... Ida is speaking...
... I motioned him to the rear-facing seat, opposite us. His tall lanky frame sank into the leather and his legs stretched into the long space between the seats. I offered him a sandwich from my basket. He looked at it and looked away. He opened a package of bologna from the refrigerator, took two slices of white bread added a slice of cheese and some mayonnaise, mustard, catsup and relish. He popped it in the wave oven. He put in a fresh pod and brewed a cup of coffee from the maker in the door. I gave him an apple and a few small cookies.
Jon returned and took his seat; hit a button and the stairway retracted as the gull wing door closed...
After an awkward silence, Jon asked Rollie, "How old are you now, sixty-four or five?"
I thought Jon hoped to break the tension with a bit of small talk.
"Sixty-seven," he answered, "turned sixty-seven in November. Should have been my retirement age but it's not!" He shook his head. "I should have been eligible for Medicare by now too," he continued, "but I'm not! You know my health isn't perfect. I have diabetes, a family heirloom and my back never fully recovered from the skiing accident twenty years ago. If I had Social Security, Medicare, -and with some odd jobs like I do for you-the wife and me could be comfortable. But I still have eight more years to work and wait."
"They're not called Social Security or Medicare any more," Jon said shaking his head. "Those titles were dropped years ago. SS is now Senior Stipend and Medicare is now SHS, Senior Health System."
In the 2020s, Social Security and Medicare were reformed and those titles dropped. Retirement payments, the FDR plan retitled Senior Stipend, began at age 75. The rest of the benefits, widow, dependent children, disability-those LBJ era tack-on programs-were moved to Welfare where they belonged. The payroll taxes from workers again only supported the Senior Stipends.
"And I have four more years to reach SS too," Jon answered.
"But you're retired Navy and you only had to do twenty years for that. Now it takes thirty to retirement with full benefits from the military." Rollie seemed irritated. "Are you going to ski on this trip?"
I thought, maybe Rollie was trying to change the subject. But Jon didn't catch it. He ignored the question.
"You know, Rollie," Jon continued, "The whole idea of a 'retirement' is a new thing, a twentieth century idea... From ancient times until just 100 years ago, the rich never worked and the rest never stopped. People worked until they died or became disabled. The idea to enjoy a few years without working, a so-called 'retirement' was invented in the 1930s with Social Security-when most people only lived into their fifties! It was a hope for the people in the "middle" to have a few years to live like the rich. But now, a hundred years later, we live much longer and expect a respectable retirement-mostly paid for by the government. But they don't have enough money to pay everyone a decent, livable stipend."
Jon relaxed back into the leather and I spoke up.
"People today are working beyond seventy-five too. Few can afford to retire at 65 or even 75. Most don't have enough savings to last 20 or 30 more years and SS isn't enough to cover it."
"Maybe the government should just stop trying to kid the people about 'retirement,' and do away with SS as a short term experiment that didn't work!"
Rollie was visibly shaken and I wasn't sure if Jon meant that or was just saying something to be outrageous. Sometimes I couldn't tell... And the pensive quiet returned.
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