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GAO Finds Conflicts In Federal Retirement Age Incentives

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Persuading Americans to work later could help shore up Medicare and Social Security, but the federal government now offers incentives for people to retire early.

Barbara Bovbjerg, a director at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, comes to that conclusion in an analysis of the signals that the federal government gives workers about when workers should retire.

The government is increasing the normal Social Security retirement age to 67, but the Medicare eligibility age is still 65, Bovbjerg writes in the analysis.

In addition, the rules governing private retirement plans encourage members of traditional defined benefit pension plans to retire about 2 years earlier than members of 401(k) plans and other defined contribution plans because the lifetime value of defined benefit plan benefits tends to begin decreasing for pension plan members who retire after age 60, Bovbjerg writes.

Men who have access to private health insurance are 86% more likely than other workers to retire before reaching age 65, and women with access to private health insurance are 139% more likely to retire before reaching age 65, Bovbjerg writes.

Any policy changes that encourage baby boomers and other workers to stay in the workforce longer could increase the stability of Medicare and Social Security by ensuring that there will be more working-age Americans to support each Medicare and Social Security program member, Bovbjerg writes.

“In light of the range of challenges facing the country in the 21st century, Congress may wish to consider changes to laws, programs and policies that support retirement security, including retirement ages, in order to provide a set of signals that work in tandem to encourage work at older ages,” Bovbjerg concludes.

A copy of the GAO study is available


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