I Turn Old Today

INSERT DESCRIPTIONDan and his wife in 1966.

Back to Bismarck!

Today I am officially old (by definition of the U.S. Census Bureau).

As an economist, I am “hung up” on this age. Why? Because the life-cycle theories of utility maximization that describe patterns of consumption are based on a retirement age; and 65 was enshrined as that age by the Social Security Act of 1935 (even though its predecessor, Bismarck’s legislation of 1889, set the pension age at 70).

The problem that has underlain Social Security and other countries’ public-pension programs is that the time from 65 to death has been rising very rapidly — five years for men, seven for women since 1938 in the U.S. — so that Social Security has been increasingly underfunded.

The U.S. has gone a bit of the way. Sixty-six is about to be the regular age for Social Security, and 67 will be in 2021.

But that is nowhere near enough, given rises in longevity. The solution is simple: raise the age of regular benefits by a year four separate times — once every five years from 2015 until 2030. That removes most of the Social Security deficit; and the average retiree could still expect to live at least as long — and draw benefits for at least as long — as Americans who retired at 65 when the program began.

Ken Johannsen


You make a lot of assumptions.


I'm pretty sure that only a few people can generate that much value in their lives that they can afford to take a vacation that is nowadays almost a third of their lifetime -- the rest is just sponging from the younger generation.

There is nothing wrong with a handout for the genuinely infirm, but most seniors are as healthy and fit as many young people and not in need of charity.

Public pensions should be abolished.

Scott W

Happy birthday, Daniel! At 65 you still look great.


Much more sensible is to allow people to start Social Security when then choose (with perhaps a minimum of 55), and grant them a monthly rate based a fixed sum and the average life expectency. People who can work then have an incentive to delay taking social security (their monthly benefits will grow), while those who can't can take it when they need it. Assigning a single starting age for everyone will be too early for some, too late for others. One size does not fit all.


#3 - the problem is that the system isn't designed to support the number of people living as long as we are.

If you feel that you deserve a longer retirement, you can always pay for your own retirement from your own savings for the first few years before SS kicks in.

As far as I know, SS pays a pittance anyways - you really don't want to count on Social Security as your primary income source in your golden years.


There's an "average American lifespan" with several groups within the population with different averages. Take for instance, this CDC report on life expectancy in the USA.


There is a difference between whites and blacks on lifespan. I'd assume this is a socioeconomic factor at work, and I'd also assume that minorities that are marginalized would also experience a similarity in lifespan differences (ie, white people, a privileged class live longer in the US).

Just keep some of these things in mind when arguing for raising the social security requirements. Some people already get the short end of the stick, be careful you're not advocating giving them an even shorter stick.

Jim DeBlasio

Will anybody read this? I don't believe the conventional wisdom that says that social security is going to run out of money, it isn't for many years if ever. Who the hell knows what's going to happen in 40 or 50 or 75 years? As for young people's having to pay in to support old people, that's the way it's always been to some degree, but there has been a surplus accumulating in the trust fund that has been invested in treasury bonds also, and the demographics are changing slightly and gradually, not catastrophically like you might think listening to the professional alarmists.

The conservatives have always hated social security and would love to gut or destroy the program. Obama's proposal to lift the cap on the payroll tax gives the Social Security Trust Fund a massive surplus "as far as the eye can see" problem solved.

Medicare and Medicaid are in trouble eventually if medical costs continue to inflate at near double digit rates, the way to cure that is, paradoxically, to put everybody on Medicare.



At 29, I honestly don't think I should pay into social security my entire working life so my parents can retire at 65 while I (in all likelihood) won't be able to retire until I'm 70.

My boomer parents paid into the system their entire life, can retire at 65, the same age as their parents.

Why should I be expected to pay more to support my parents than they did to support their parents? It was my parent's generation who made the decisions (or refused to fix the system) that lead us here. Yet I am being asked to bear the burden for their want of lower taxes.

Let's face it - those close to retirement have taken out an interest-only loan they couldn't afford. They ignored the larger future payments, and now are refusing to re-finance or move to a smaller place. Instead, they are asking their kids for the money. In every area of life, our current leadership is looking to the future - my future income - to finance lower taxes and an earlier retirement today.

Thanks you Baby Boomers! You've done a great job at giving your kids the collective short end of the financial stick!



Mike and Mike (10 and 11) hit the nail on the head.


Ms. Johannsen,

Oh, yes, Blame it on the "Entitlement Generation" who pays into Social Security even though we know we'll never see a nickel. The same generation who inherited upwards of 100 Trillion Dollars in federal debt and unfunded liabilities from the boomers. Blame the entitlement generation, who wasn't even old enough to vote.

Where do you think the entitlement generation you speak of learned their ways?


I agree that we need to raise the age limit in order to salvage Social Security. A 20- to 30- year retirement for many, based on longevity statistics, is an extravagant burden on a system never designed to handle such long pay-out periods.

I'm 59 and plan to retire at about 70. Do I deserve an earlier retirement? The short answer is no. The sooner we get over the idea of entitlements in this country, the sooner we'll pay off the rapidly expanding, out-of-control national debt.

steve pesce

It's amazing to me that we have time for this kind of distraction, but not time to cover the NADER CAMPAIGN. Not even one single article nor editorial. Nothing. Not one mention of his solutions to the BAILOUT and financial crisis. His solutions are completely opposite of what's being done and offer real insight and a new way of looking at it. But not one line here.

Let’s be honest. Obama is shockingly inexperienced. And even his supporters will tell you so. Obama is a novice with no chance of handling a crisis (and we have several right now) let alone handle the strongly democratic congress that’s going to run wild without any checks and balances. And frankly, reading these posts here tells me that most all of the bloggers here are closer politically to NADER than they are to Obama. Obama is for offshore oil drilling, nuclear power plants, FISA, escalating the war in Afghanistan and invading Pakistan, and the BAILOUT. Are you?

And Biden thinks Obama is going to attract an international crisis because of his naivete. Biden is not only a blockhead who can’t keep his trap shut, but also the architect of the WAR ON DRUGS which flooded our prisons with non-violent drug users who are a HEALTH problem just like nicotine addicts and alcoholics and don’t belong in prison. Biden was the chairman of the Clarence Thomas hearing who covered up pornography evidence against Thomas and kept Anita Hill’s witnesses out. Biden is also the sponsor of the RAVE BILL to try to stop Burning Man and other desert raves. I’m sorry but you can’t be against Burning Man and then pretend you're for change!

What do these guys have to do to lose Democratic, left wing votes, or at least get people of conscience to open their minds and consider something better? At least go to Nader’s site and listen to some of the youtube videos there. He’s amazing and has completely new and different solutions that you won't hear EVER from the likes of corporate owned and controlled candidates like Obama and Biden. And Nader is saying exactly what most of the people in these blogs are saying here every day. Only with more finesse and knowledge of how to actually make these things work in Washington to fight the corporations and take back our government. It’s not too late to vote your conscience. Did you know the Freedom of Information Act, the Clean Air Act, Seat belts, and fuel economy standards were all Nader's doing? Most of the progressive advances that made me align with Democrats are actually Nader's doing. Go check it out. http://www.votenader.org.



@33 (even tho you probably won't read this)

While they "gave you the collective short end of the financial stick", they also are the REASON you'll live longer.

The baby boomers added time to their lifespans. NOT THAT! How dare they not die earlier, we should punish them for that. If we cure diseases and make our average lifespans to 100, maybe our children should punish us for that too.


Being 41, I'd go for that. You could raise it by six months every two years over a few decades.

K. Johannsen

Oh, yes. Blame it on the Baby Boomers. You of the lazy, greedy, entitlement generation should try doing a little fact checking. Social Security has been doomed from the start. Right from it's inception, people were drawing from it who never put anything into it. And if that were not bad enough; Social Security funds are drained constantly to pay for totally unrelated programs like forest rangers.


It continues to amaze me how much people focus on retirement, as if ending the productive phase of your life is a good thing. I love my work, I'm good at it, and with more experience I get better at it (and my services are increasingly valued by others). If I'm still productive and my skills are still valued by others, why should I quit working simply because I've reached an arbitrary age?

Joe Smith

Reducing benefits is the inevitable consequence of voters having supported politicians who lied to them about the nation's finances for years. Voters get the government they deserve.

martin Henner

Longevity is only one factor.

Daniel appears to think only about white collar workers like himself, who can continue to work after age 65 without ill effects.

That may not be true for miners, longshoremen, and other workers doing heavy labor, especially heavy lifting. When they get past 60, their backs and knees and other body parts begin to deteriorate, and it may not be reasonable to expect them to continue.

Bruce G

Why shouldn’t we get a longer retirement? I deserve it.

You'd think longer life expectancy would be reward enough.

Since I don't reach retirement age for at least another 25 years, I used to say that I'd be lucky to get *any* Social Security. But with the latest economic turmoil, I'm beginning to wonder if I'll even get to retire period. So no whining by current retirees or soon-to-retire baby boomers, please.


Matt, what do you deserve? Your longer retirement would be paid by... other people besides you. Me, in fact. Is that what you deserve? Do you work harder than me? Because it sure doesn't seem fair to me that you can live beyond your means in retirement, spending my hard-earned money.

And it wouldn't seem fair either when your grandkids are paying for my extended retirement. Although, I suppose I "deserve" it.