John Turner, who runs the Pension Policy Center in Washington, D.C., thinks he has the answer to making Social Security solvent and a more useful factor in our retirement planning.
Turner, who holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago, turns 62 in a week. He recently wrote a book on the future of Social Security in which he outlined two steps that he believes Social Security's reformers should take.
Raise the initial age of eligibility to 63. The benefits that you would get at 63 would be the same as you would get at 62, although contributing for an extra year would raise how much money you'd receive. "People are living longer and healthier and their work isn't as physically demanding as it as in the past, so for many people, it is possible to work a little longer and still have a nice retirement," Turner says.
Add an old-age benefit. This extra blast of cash would kick in at 82 -- just as many people's other sources of income begin to run short, hit by inflation and their increasing need for health care. "It isn't that expensive a benefit because it starts in old age -- and not everybody ends up living that long. It could be limited to people who really need it," Turner says.
Turner, whose book is called, "Longevity Policy: Facing Up to Longevity Issues Affecting Social Security, Pensions, and Older Workers," says even talking about Social Security is difficult because it is so politically unpopular. But he thinks his solution could win hearts and minds because it won't raise taxes and it wouldn't take effect for 27 years -- the first people to benefit are now in their 30s.
Turner himself has no plans to take his retirement anytime soon. "I like to work. And I think as long as you're healthy, work has a place in your life."