The concept of retirement baffles me. I certainly see why people want to retire if they have unpleasant jobs, fun hobbies, and interesting grandkids. But why is it okay with the rest of society that individuals can simply stop contributing to the greater good?

Retirement is a fairly recent concept in historical terms. When the average life expectancy was 40, it wasn't much of an issue. I think the concept of retirement really took off when people were healthy and productive until about 65, on average, then started the rapid descent towards a dirt nap at about age 75. No one begrudged a few years of relaxation to someone who had put in 50 solid years of productive toil.

Now we have people retiring at 60 and living to 100. Do you still feel good about that? Even if the retiree has saved money for retirement, society is still picking up a big part of the tab. You have the Social Security payments that usually exceed the amount paid into the system, and all the roads, police, firemen, and other services that are being funded by other people's taxes. The list goes on.

I think about this when I hear about young families struggling with childcare expenses at the same time a bazillion retirees watch Jeopardy and wish they had something better to do. Is there really no way to solve those two problems at the same time?

If human life expectancy had suddenly jumped from 40 to 80, instead of gradually increasing, it would have been socially unacceptable to retire before your health failed. But because life expectancy inched up, we drifted into a situation where older people aren't expected to be part of the solution. I think most of them would prefer to contribute more than they are.

People who know me well don't ask when I plan to retire. I'm sure I will stop drawing comics at some point, but I can't imagine a life where I'm not adding something back to the system. I don't think I'm that different from most people.

When we think of how to patch up the ailing economy, we reflexively think about youth. We think about education, and innovation, and getting healthcare for young working people. I think we're leaving some low hanging fruit on the trees with the older generation.

For example, imagine the government coming up with some sort of carbon trading-like plan for healthcare. Under this plan, anyone who uses less than the average amount of healthcare for his or her age, during a given year, wins some extra government funding for their local school system, and that amount would be tracked and publicly reported. You'd feel like a stud to be on the top of the healthy seniors list.

The idea is that retirees would be incented to exercise and eat right, thus cutting their average medical bills. Old people are the biggest users of medical care, so the impact could be huge. And since any savings would not go directly to the retirees, they wouldn't be incented to skimp on medical visits just to make a few bucks for themselves.

I'm making an assumption here that keeping older people healthy saves society money, but I could be wrong if it boosts life expectancy. That tradeoff would have to be studied, but you get the idea that maybe there are some missed opportunities here.

Certainly retired people could be helping with childcare, tutoring, crime watch, and other functions that directly benefit society, at least a few hours per week. Can you think of any other ways to harness senior power to juice the economy?
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+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2008
@ drjdouglas
I don't believe "verbing" is a real word, either. The word verb is a noun that you "verbed"... :-)
Oct 9, 2008
Other ways to harness senior power to juice the economy? How about labor camps with whips?
Oct 9, 2008
I'll tell you why I'm going to retire at 65. Because I can, and I want to, and I've worked for a long time to save the money that will allow me to do things that I'm currently limited in doing by raising a family and working hard to do that right.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2008
Now that the knee jerk response to the work til ya drop idea is off my chest how about a more philosophical response. Where are we going? What is the "greater good"? What is the goal we are all striving for and how will we know when we get there? The economy must continue to grow everyone says but why? To make more money for the parasites that feed and live off the work of others? Maybe the native americans had it right. Hunt some, fish some, farm a little, take care of your little corner of the world, then sit around a campfire at night with your friends and family, smoke a little ,tell some stories, sing a little , dance a little, go to bed, get up tomorrow do it all again. Then the businessmen come along and say " you are heathens and savages. Stop being lazy and get up and go to work so I can have the money to get what I want and do what I will. And while I while away my free time on my yacht or skiing or laying on some warm beach somewhere which I'll be able to afford to do, you can feel comforted knowing you're contributing to the greater good and almost being able to take care of your family with the crumbs I pass down to you in my generosity.
Oct 9, 2008
When the f* did "incented" become a word?? How about "encouraged?" How about "rewarded?"

And while there appears to be an obvious solution to childcare (have geezers take care of the ankle biters), in fact I wouldn't trust my kids with a lot of old people, who are too often of the "a good swat is all they need" school of early childhood education.

Still, at least old people don't screw up our language. You don't catch a lot of old people verbing our nouns.

[Where do you think new words come from? The stork? -- Scott]
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2008
Great idea Scott. Let's invent a cure for laziness. Piece of cake.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2008
Hi Scott,

I have a few ideas. Maybe we make an incentive for people to save a big chunk of money early in life for retirement that will be available capital for financial institutions holding such money to loan out, call it deferred retirement savings or something similar. Then we could tax those benefits, including any benefits the government pays out. Individual states could levy a tax on things they buy, or perhaps tax where they live, like a sales tax or property tax.

Old people purchase lots of goods and services that help drive the economy. You once argued that vapid celebrities make a big contribution to society just by being themselves, living and spending on the leisure side of things. Think of a bunch of old people equaling one Paris Hilton.

I am still a long way from retiring, but looking forward to it.

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2008
It would make MORE sense for our elderly to do the right thing and just wander off into the forest to die so we aren't burdened with them any longer. Think about it...not only would we not have to pay their medical expenses, but we could use the money they've saved in their pensions/401Ks to fix the economy and pay for health care for the young.

They have WAY too much nerve to work hard, save, and then dare to live so long.
Oct 9, 2008
"and all the roads, police, firemen, and other services that are being funded by other people's taxes."

Wow, I didn't know that when I retired I could stop paying taxes! Great news!

Also, the kind of stuff you are advocating, older people helping raise younger people, used to be a lot easier when people weren't as mobile and 3 or more generations lived within walking (or at least driving) distance of each other. I suspect it's going to be a lot tougher sell to get grandparents to babysit grandkids who aren't theirs. Although perhaps there's some kind of internet match-up website opportunity here? You know, you watch my grandkids in Chicago and I'll watch yours in Florida.

Oct 9, 2008
As someone who has just accepted an "early retirement" package, actual retirement is not my intent. What I'll do is use the severance pay as up-front funding for a consultancy business. Based on the contracts I've gotten signed already, it seems there are many good opportunities for my services. I intend to keep working, and volunteering, as much as I want for the foreseeable future. At some point I may want/need to slow down but not ever retire.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2008
"Can you think of any other ways to harness senior power to juice the economy?"

This final comment sent a picture into my head. Nursing homes with seniors on treadmills that are hooked into the power grid. Thousands of people getting exercise and contributing clean power to the community. You could call it Wrinkle Power or Shufflectricity.
Oct 9, 2008
Right, Scott, why is your software blocking the word a-d-j-u-s-t-i-n-g? I've good a passingly filthy mind, but even I can't see a rude word in there.
Oct 9, 2008
The manditory retirement age where I work is 65, however, they have been known to hire some people back afterwards as a consultant if they are still needed. They are currently looking at changing that age higher, but at the same time, people are fighting it. Absolutely people can still contribute after they turn 65, but a good part of getting people to retire at 65 is to allow younger people a chance to move up the corporate ladder. If I was the manager of an office of 30 people, with 2 assistant managers that are 40 years old, and I am currently 60, those assistant managers could feel pretty confident that one of them would have my job when I retire within 5 years. It's like dangling a carrot: more power, more money, just hang in there, he'll retire soon. And at the same time, those 30 employees know that when I'm replaced, one of them could get the assistant manager job, it's all a big tease. You should enjoy your retirement, and do everything you wanted to buy couldn't while you were working and raising a family. Travel the country by RV, tour Europe by bus, spoil your grandkids, grow a garden, volunteer at the food bank, something, anything. Start saving and investing when you are 30, so that you don't have to pinch your pennies when you retire. As an added bonus, since the stock market is going in the crapper, pretty soon will be the perfect time to invest, after all, they can only go up from rock bottom. Cha-Ching!
Oct 9, 2008
We could use them to do all the small jobs that only old people seem to know how to do anymore, like !$%*!$%*! break levers on bicycles so the break blocks don't rub. Or getting your workbench area sorted so that different sized screws, nails and rawlplugs are all neatly compartmentalised and marked, instead of freely mixing like a barn full of incestuous farm cats. Bad analogy, but you know what I mean.
Oct 9, 2008
"I think about this when I hear about young families struggling with childcare expenses at the same time a bazillion retirees watch Jeopardy and wish they had something better to do. Is there really no way to solve those two problems at the same time?"

I thought you had it right there. Promote the extended family. Grandparents help take care of the little ones. People start relying on familial support systems based on love, rather than federal support systems funded by mandate.
Oct 9, 2008
<i>But why is it okay with the rest of society that individuals can simply stop contributing to the greater good?</i>

Because then they're encouraged to work harder while they're at their productive peak to build savings. But yes, the system has gotten out of hand and will have to be drastically cut somehow.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2008
McCain is super old and not retiring. Probably people retire early because there's such a social stigma toward people over a certain age. We make them feel like they don't belong.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2008
I've been productively adding to society since I was 12 years old. How about I'd like a little time to enjoy myself before I die! This is typical of you. How can I drain the last little bit of blood before the carcass goes in the ground and I can't suck anymore from it. If you want more contribution to society why don't you figure out exactly what YOU need to get by and contribute the rest of what you have to society. Say about $50,000 grand a year for yourself and yours and the rest to the national debt or food banks or whatever you think is worthwhile.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2008
How about the concept of Sanctuary from the movie 'Logan's Run'?
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