PHILADELPHIA REFLECTIONS
Musings of a Philadelphia Physician who has served the community for six decades

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Old Age, Re-designed
A grumpy analysis of future trends from a member of the Grumpy Generation.

Personal Passions
My own personal short list; eight decades in retrospect.

Retire Later

Unions teach their supporters: never retreat. Yell, shout, threaten, roll on the floor in simulated agony, denounce and declaim -- but never give back a single concession you have previously won. The hall mark of ratcheted positions about givebacks, is they are not negotiable.

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Raising average retirement ages to 75 would quickly cure the financial problem. {bottom quote}

By having some personal contact with union officials, who are generally decent enough fellows when not in their negotiating stance, I have learned that, to them, advancing the retirement age is absolutely not negotiable. Some of this intransigence is fake, having to do with negotiating traditions, and some of it has to do with the equally traditional stance that work is some dreadful thing which has been inflicted on the working man by unfeeling employers, or management, or the rich aristocracy or somebody. Reflex belligerence is therefore triggered immediately by suggesting that people are going to have to work more than they expected to. Much as I hate to offend people in their deeply held religious beliefs, I bring the news that retiring later would immediately solve the problem of affording to retire, and that no other proposal under the sun has the slightest chance of solving that problem. But it's like the Law of Gravity. When dealing with demographics, to declare that something is off the table, or unacceptable, or a giveback -- is just bombast. With present data, we are going to have to re-set the retirement age to 70. If medical and demographic trends are unexpectedly extreme, we may have to go to 75. If you think someone has promised you can retire at 55, you had better be in an iron lung, or drinking your meals through a straw.

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Retirement Later

It's easy to see that later retirement cuts lifetime costs in two ways: it increases the duration of earning and saving. And it shortens the years of retirement payout. The later you retire, the better it is. So the less you save, and the more lavish your lifestyle, the older you will be when you can afford to retire.

A lot of things can be debated, and a lot of clever ideas can be worked with. But it is going to take an atomic attack or something similar to modify this particular prediction about the future. And even doomsday predictions just make the future look worse, not better. Because as the insurance salesman tells you, you can have it one way or the other. You can die too soon or you can live too long. Since you can't know in advance which it will be, you would be wise to work a little longer, just in case.

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