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Risks of raising retirement age

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Posted: 5 pm ET

Advocates for raising the age at which workers can collect Social Security and Medicare are rarely people who get their hands dirty on the job.

For instance, the Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs from 200 of the country's largest businesses, recently urged that eligibility for Medicare be raised from 65 to 70 and Social Security's full retirement age be raised from 67 to 70. The CEOs said moving eligibility upward in this way would save Medicare $300 billion over the next 10 years and $6 trillion over the next 25 years. Raising the full retirement age for Social Security to 70 would keep the program fully funded for another 75 years with no other changes.

These proposals sound good, but they don't take into account some workplace realities.

The ratio of fatal accidents in the construction industry is 25 per 100,000 workers age 65 and older. That's up from fewer than 15 fatal accidents per 100,000 workers younger than age 65, according to a study of data collected between 2008 and 2010 by the Center for Construction Research and Training and the construction trade magazine Engineering News-Record, or ENR. The highest number of fatalities occurs among workers between the ages of 50 and 59, ENR calculates.

ENR also cites a study from the University of Colorado, indicating that the average total cost of a worker's compensation injury claim for a 65-year-old is triple that of a 24-year-old. The study didn't quantify why that's true, but it doesn't seem like a big leap to conclude that an injured older worker requires more treatment to heal.

Figuring out a way to put Social Security and Medicare on more stable financial ground is vitally important for everyone's retirement planning, but doing it on the backs of those who work at some of the most physically demanding jobs isn't the right approach. Those workers need the right to choose retirement before they are unable to work safely.

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April 03, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Except the author is careful not to mention that the very group she's writing about have the benefit of Social Security Disability. For 4 years now, workers signing up for SS disability have actually outpaced new job creation. Now 14,000,000 and growing rapidly.

People who complain about raising the retirement age always fail to mention that those complaints have been considered and deliberately offset. Low income workers get social security to replace 90% of their income, but higher income workers get enough social security to replace just 15% of their income, and Simpson-Bowles would reduce that to just 10%.

The numbers are quite clear: even after raising the retirement age, the very group the author thinks is being targeted will in fact continue getting the best returns on their social security taxes. Facts matter.

Dave Weaver
April 03, 2013 at 11:05 am

A carpenter cant hold a job at 65. He cant keep up with som one 35 so he has no job. And if he was good at his job he is burnd out by 55. If you are a carpenter you know that .