In the mid-1960s, when the first wave of American baby boomers—the 76 million people born between 1946 and 1962—tripled college enrollments and Medicare legislation was adopted, the Beatles' song “When I'm SixtyFour,” could not, in retrospect, have been more forward-looking.
Since the first Social Security check was sent sixty years ago, Americans losing their hair have been receiving “pension valentines.” Today, as the Beatles' first fans are approaching age sixty-four, American workers wonder if the promised pensions, Social Security, and medical care, will materialize in their old age.
In the face of a crumbling pension system, a badly functioning medical insurance system for the aged, and soaring national deficits, policymakers and leaders can find a way to save retirement—a necessary, if now threatened, feature of all civilized democracies—by combining the appropriate governmental, economic, and social ingredients into a new, and newly imagined, retirement system. By mustering the political will and economic intelligence to do this, leaders will not only spare society the travails of the currently damaged system, but will provide generations present and future a new blueprint for maximizing the well-being and social contribution of elderly people—a win-win formula. This book explains how.
Categorically, everyone admits that Social Security has been stunningly successful at halving the elderly's poverty rate and enabling the middle class to retire. The entire pension system, including employer pensions, has been even more successful. Europeans are often surprised that Americans have any guaranteed income programs at all. Even more surprisingly, given this nation's reputation for “do-it-yourself” financial lives, there is widespread acceptance that older Americans, even those who are healthy and still able to work, deserve to retire.
In 1950, a working man could look forward to seven years of retirement time before he died; for women it was about thirteen and a half years. By 2000, on average, men retired for almost fourteen years and women eighteen. Overall, as a nation, we have constructed steady improvements in a very valuable