I marked my 62nd birthday this morning doing what I do most days: Get up around 3 a.m. or so, scan the Internet sites and Twitter, down a pot of coffee, and head out the door for a self-propelled five-mile running tour of the neighborhood. Why change after all these years?
Of course, something did change today. I’m now eligible to collect Social Security. Woot.
I’m not going to do that now — mostly because I’m making too much money working part time. And I know I am fortunate to be able to say that. I’ve retired from two jobs that I enjoyed immensely: a senior-level management position in corporate public relations at BFGoodrich and teaching public relations courses and supervising students at Kent State in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Many of my fellow Baby Boomers don’t have it nearly this good — and that touches just about every part of our economy and has major implications for jobs and careers for those who are just entering — or attempting to enter — the job market.
For instance, the number of people electing to take Social Security benefits in fiscal year 2009 (ending Sept. 30) hit an all-time high: 2.6 million, a 19 percent jump from the previous year. Why? Here’s from a USA Today article by Richard Wolf:
“There are just not enough jobs for older people,” says Richard Johnson, senior fellow at the non-partisan Urban Institute. “They have no choice but to go on Social Security.”
Well, in days past, most were pretty well settled into a job — or getting ready to retire, if they hadn’t done so already. Whoa, big guys and gals. Not so fast these days. Here’s from a USA Today article by Christine Dugas, “Financial worries dog older workers; confidence falls“:
Faced with increasing job losses, worries about having enough money for retirement and continued difficulty in paying for basic items such as food, those ages 45 to 64 are one worried group, a survey released Tuesday by AARP shows.
•Job loss is rising. Some 12% of older Americans say they or a family member have lost a job in the past year, up from 8% in the April 2008 survey and 9% in December 2008.
•Even many who still have a job are feeling more financial pain. Among workers, 30% say their hours have been cut or they have had to take a pay cut.
•Nearly half, 49%, say that they are not confident about having enough money in retirement.
And one result of all this: For those who have jobs, they ain’t likely to give them up voluntarily — and this limits the jobs available for younger workers. Here’s from a NYT article:
In other parts of the developed world, people are retiring as planned, because of relatively flush state and corporate pensions that await them. But here in the United States, financial security in old age rests increasingly on private savings, which have taken a beating in the last year. Prospective retirees are clinging to their jobs despite some cherished life plans.
As a result, companies are not only reluctant to create new jobs, but have fewer job openings to fill from attrition. For the 14 million Americans looking for work — a number expected to rise in Friday’s jobs report for August — this lack of turnover has made a tough job market even tougher.
Though their pension systems may be strained, people in many countries with stronger safety nets are still exiting the labor force in lockstep despite the global recession. Last year in the United States, almost a third of people ages 65 to 69 were still in the labor force; in France, just 4 percent of people this age were still working or looking for work.
After all, Europe isn’t just the land of “socialized” medicine. It is also the land of “socialized” retirement plans, and like other automatic stabilizers, pensions help cushion the blow of an economic crisis.
I’m not so sure when you accept the fact that you are a senior citizen. In my case, maybe it was when I caved and proudly displayed my Ohio Golden Buckeye card to get nearly free parking at the Kent Student Center. So it goes.
But I do know that as more and more of us join the senior citizen fraternity and sorority, there are going to be big policy issues involving “socialized” medicine, “socialized” pension plans, job growth and availability and so on.
Oh, by the way. And this is a cautionary note for younger workers reading this post — those of you who have to contribute a large slice of your earnings to pay for those who are getting a monthly check from Uncle Sam.
Someday I will start to collect Social Security benefits.
And I plan to live forever.