Next week, French union workers will stage a big protest against their government's plan to raise the retirement age. They don't even know yet what age it will be raised to from its current level of 60. The details won't be released until June.
You've got to love the French for their moxie. They love life, and they have their priorities straight. For instance, the French take 35 vacation days a year, versus 11 for Americans, according to an Expedia survey I wrote about a couple of years ago. Over a working career of four decades, French vacations amount to a whopping 1,400 days, or 3.8 years.
Meanwhile, here in this workaholic country of ours, we often take our Blackberrys and laptops with us when we get away from it all, and keep up with e-mails so that we're not barraged on our return to the office. How screwed up is that?
Our Social Security system, which has been in place now for nearly 75 years, is also set up to encourage us to postpone for as long as possible that everlasting vacation known as retirement. For example, those Americans born in 1960 or later won't get full Social Security benefits until they reach age 67. If they begin drawing benefits early, at age 62, they take a 30 percent pay cut. If they wait until age 65, their benefits are reduced by 13.3 percent. If they wait until age 70, they get a bonus.
Now there's talk of further delaying Americans' retirement ages. The official Senate Special Committee on Aging report on Social Security was released today by Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., committee chairman. In the 99-page report are 30-odd proposals designed to shore up the Social Security system. Many of these proposals have to do with raising taxes.
Delaying retirement again
Three of the most objectionable solutions, in my opinion, involve raising the retirement age. This already was done during the Reagan administration, back when we were too young to care.
The first "solution" in the new report changes the current schedule. Those born in 1953 wouldn't reach full-retirement age until age 67 (instead of 66). Then gradually, the full-benefit age increases so that those born in 1977 or later would reach full retirement age at 68.
The second solution continues this schedule going forward so that full-retirement age becomes 70 for those born in 2025.
The third solution doesn't change the current schedule (which as I mentioned has age 67 as full-retirement age for those born in 1960 or later), but does increase full-retirement age to "68 for those born in 1984, to 69 for those born in 2008 and to about age 70 for individuals born in 2032," according to the report.
I personally am opposed to the first and second solutions, as they would affect me directly. I'm not too concerned about people born in 2025 or later because, after all, they haven't been promised anything. Heck, they're not even scheduled to be born for another 15 years.
The most radical proposal in the report recommends investing 40 percent of trust fund assets in equities. Yup, the stock market. Maybe that's a fine idea, but after the recent "flash crash," I wonder if this solution to Social Security's solvency problem might wind up deep-sixing the system altogether.
What do you think? Should the full-retirement age for Social Security go as high as 70? Should the trust fund be invested in stocks? Do you think Social Security will be there for you?