Remember this date—October 31, 2011, for on this day a child was born—the 7 billionth person on the planet, in the Philippines.
And, as reported today in the Washington Post, the world is not just growing. It’s growing gray.
The aging of the human race has been faster than anyone could have imagined a few decades ago. Fertility rates have plunged globally; simultaneously, life spans have increased. The result is a re-contoured age graph: The pyramid, once with a tiny number of old folks at the peak and a broad foundation of children, is inverting. In wealthy countries, the graph already has a pronounced middle-age spread.
The implications for those living in the United States are already being felt, especially among members of my generation. We baby-boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, are enjoying longer life-expectancies, thanks to improvements in nutrition and the miracles of modern medicine. The number of Americans age 60 to 64 jumped from 11 million to 17 million, according to the most recent census. But consider this: if we’re living longer, chances are we’ll also be working longer.
The Washington Post article notes that when Social Security was established in 1935, life expectancy in the United States was just under 62 years. Today it is 78 and rising. But before I write another word about Social Security, I should take a deep breath, tell myself not to hyperventilate, and instead refer to Jane Bryant Quinn’s new article on the AARP website: “The Truth About Social Security Myths.”
Okay. I feel much better already. Especially after reading Myth-Buster Number 1:
Myth No. 1: Social Security is going bankrupt. No, it’s not. Even in the unlikely event that nothing changes and the program’s entire surplus runs out in 2036, as projected, checks would keep coming. Payroll taxes at current rates would cover 77 percent of all the future benefits promised. That’s true for young and old alike, and includes inflation adjustments.
I trust Quinn implicitly; I’ve referred to her book, Making the Most of Your Money, for years, and see that a new edition,”revised for the new economy,” is now available.
Michelle Singletary, a columnist for the Washington Post, noted earlier this year what those of us slouching toward our 60s already know: you can take an early payout from Social Security at 62, but you’ll get far less than you would if you wait until you’re 70, when you qualify for the maximum payout. One useful tool that she recommends is the AARP online calculator, which helps one estimate Social Security benefits and the best time to begin claiming them.
And although I’m not frantic about the solvency of Social Security, I’m also not in any great hurry to get bad news. I began my career late in life—I was in my 30s when I started to earn in earnest—and, as I’ve noted earlier on this blog, I retired (but in name only) after nearly 20 years on the job in order to relocate. It’s no surprise, then, that money matters are weighing somewhat heavily on my mind. Retirement? Is it only a dream? And a fading one at that?
Do we all really want to work into our 70s? It would be nice not to have to, but quite frankly, I think that I’m fine with it, as long as I would be able to work at what I love. In fact, I couldn’t imagine not working at what I love. If I’m fortunate enough to make my living by my pen and keyboard, and if I can do that from the comfort of my own home and in my fluffy slippers, then why not? The new normal for me has changed, as it has for everyone in this economy. But the thing is, it would be nice to have a choice. And it would be nice for my husband, who works incredibly hard, to know he could look forward to a winding down and a slowing pace in the next 10 years or so. We got such a late start on our lives together; it would be nice to be able to enjoy the years that we have.
And so. We’ve started meeting with a financial adviser. With her guidance, and with some of the tools I’ve noted here, we will most definitely be taking a proactive approach to all of these money matters. I also plan to share some of her expertise with you in an upcoming Monday Morning Q & A, so please watch for that.
In the meantime, Happy Birthday to the little babe in the Philippines. Welcome to the world.
About the video: Pamela Myers singing “Another 100 People” from Stephen Sondheim’s Company, one of my favorite musicals. This footage, found on YouTube, is from filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker’s 1970 documentary about the making of the original Broadway cast album.