Too Old to Work, Too Young to Retire?

Jun 19, 2018 / Amanda Chase, Horsesmouth Assistant Editor

It’s taken as a given these days: The current state of affairs with respect to Social Security solvency and Americans’ retirement savings rates inevitably means that Americans will have to work longer, whether that’s to the Social Security Full Retirement Age, or to age 70, or even later. But’s it not that simple: Workers will need to be healthy enough to continue working, and they’ll need jobs available for them.

To the extent that Americans choose to retire just because they’ve reached an arbitrary age at which it’s traditional to do so, is all well and good. If it’s reasonable to spend a given portion of your adult lifetime working, and the remainder out of the labor force engaging in rest and relaxation, it’s fair enough that as one’s life expectancy increases, so too should your working lifetime. It may even be that the current fears of roadblocks in the form of employers who age-discriminate will fade.

But that gets us to the greater question, will American workers be healthy enough to continue working? It is, after all, important to recognize that increases in life expectancy are not necessarily paired with the number of years of “healthy life expectancy.” In fact, the data is mixed.

A metric developed by the World Health Organization, the Healthy Life Expectancy, or HALE, is intended to measure the average number of years of "healthy life" at birth, or at a given age. According to this measure, the data for which is available beginning in 2000, Americans’ HALE is indeed improving. But another study reported that, “Adults in their late 50s today are in poorer health than their parents’ generation was at the same age, even though the younger group will have to work longer to collect full Social Security benefits.”

The bottom line is that there is no ready answer to the question of how successfully Americans will be able to work later. But what is clear is that the question of Social Security’s financial stability, or of Americans’ retirement security in general, can’t be looked at as its own silo. Instead, it’s interconnected with a number of larger issues around the broader economy and culture.

You can find the full article at Forbes #RetireWell.


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