REPORT Health and Social Programs

Social Security and the Age of Retirement


June 2010, David Rosnick

Unlike a century ago, people expect their children to live past the age of retirement. This fact has important implications for how workers save for retirement, but has no specific implications for the retirement portion of Social Security. In addition, the increase in life expectancy is not nearly as important as it might first appear. A significant part of the increase in life is between birth and age 20. Including declines in child and teen mortality exaggerate the increase in retirement length. Furthermore, much of the gains in life expectancy come during working years—between age 20 and retirement. This means that workers are not only experiencing longer retirements, but longer working lives as well. Finally, each succeeding generation has been vastly more productive than prior generations—a trend that will continue. Thus, not only have workers on average more years of work over their lifetime, they are better able to save for their retirements.

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