What's going to happen to Social Security and Medicare?
Humphrey Taylor, chairman of research giant Harris Interactive, has taken a personal interest in the latest Harris poll on the future of Social Security and Medicare.
Taylor, who is 76 years old, has not yet taken retirement. He continues to work daily -- except for 14 weeks annual vacation spent skiing and visiting his children and grandchildren in Europe.
Taylor has led Harris to look thoroughly at retirement planning issues -- as Mel Brooks said, "It's good to be king" -- including examining the future of Medicare and Social Security. As a result, he believes that both are unsustainable in their current form because of dramatically rising costs. Taylor thinks Medicare is in greatest jeopardy, and within the next 15 years, he predicts the need to raise the age of eligibility, increase taxes, and reduce benefits to avoid adding trillions of dollars to the national deficit and having Medicare collapse under its own weight.
If that doesn't sound acceptable to you, join the club. A Harris poll of people over age 18 released today reported that when given these choices about how to fix Social Security and Medicare, and told they had to pick two, most people selected:
- Encourage more people over 65 to work -- 40 percent.
- Increase the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare -- 37 percent.
- Increase taxes -- 27 percent.
- Reduce Social Security benefits -- 11 percent.
- Reduce Medicare benefits -- 11 percent.
- Do none of these things -- 33 percent.
When Harris asked respondents to identify their political persuasion, people who considered themselves Republicans chose the "encourage more people over 65 to work" option 46 percent of the time compared to 36 percent of Democrats.
And when Harris segmented the answer to that question by age, 54 percent of people older than 65 would encourage people to work longer, while 37 percent of baby boomers felt that way. Younger people were even less enthusiastic about working longer, with only 39 percent of Gen Y (ages 18 to 33) and 35 percent of Gen X (ages 34 to 45) choosing that as a good idea.
Taylor said he wasn't surprised by this response. "One of the sad truths -- that we've seen in many of our surveys -- is that the worse your job is and the more eager you are to retire, the less likely it is that you can afford to quit.
"People like me who want to keep on working because it is fun are the only ones who can afford to quit."