Pick a number, any number.
How about 67? Perhaps 68? Does 70 sound right?
See also: Live to 120? No thanks
This isn’t some trick. This is all about figuring out what the official retirement age should be in present-day America.
It’s a seemingly perennial parlor game that is now being played again amid a push by Republicans to reduce the deficit and rein in entitlement spending, in part by raising the age at which Americans can begin to collect their Social Security.
The trustees who oversee Social Security say the trust funds that support the retirement and disability program will run out of money in 2033, unless Congress acts. At that point, payroll taxes would generate only enough money to pay about three-fourths of benefits.
There are lots of factors to consider in any potential solution, not the least of which is nailing down the question of when retirement should begin.
Consider a poll conducted by Gallup in April that asked respondents at what age they retired. The answer was 61, up from 59 when the same question was asked in 2003 and 57 in 1993.
That might seem like a straightforward answer to the question at hand, but the question is more nuanced than that. For instance, a married spouse might stop working at 62 while the partner continues to draw a paycheck.
Regardless, the image of enjoying the post-working years on the beach or golf course often doesn’t match the reality of retirement, not any longer. In fact, many who describe themselves as “retired” still hold jobs, thanks in large part to the ravages on their retirement savings brought on by the Great Recession.
If “retirees” can’t agree on a definition of the term, pulling off the trick of finding the current retirement age becomes that much more difficult.
“It’s one of those numbers that’s hard to get a handle on,” said Sara Rix, strategic policy advisor with the economics team of the AARP Public Policy Institute. “People re-enter the labor force, some change careers.”
“What a lot of people use as the (true) retirement age is the age at which half the population is out of the work force,” she said.
For women, that age is 62. For men it’s 64.