“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” — Is retirement obsolete or just politically inconvenient?

When we were young we did the same work as adults but at half the rate of pay. With the current economy, many of us are now working for half what we used to earn. Photo: (AP Photo)

DOTHAN, AL, October 12, 2012 — After listening to all the recent political wrangling over Social Security and Medicare, I decided to take some action of my own and cancelled my subscription to UURP, a second-tier program for retirees and anyone over the age of 50. Their membership benefits include discounts for hotels in Rwanda, rental cars in Uruguay, restaurants in Malaysia and private golf courses in Hawaii.

They also offer health insurance programs that start at $983 a day to cover routine checkups — a bit more if you need surgery. They do however offer exclusive hang nail coverage for a mere $25 extra a month. After reviewing the details, I realized that I simply didn’t fit the UURP profile of a typical retiree or person over the age of 50. No one in their pictures drives a Kia, eats at McDonald’s, has wrinkles, sags here and there or has trouble staying awake for the ten o’clock news.

I also didn’t realize there are qualifications for retirement that I fall far short of. Did you know that you must be able to play 36 rounds of golf, non-stop, in a hot climate like Arizona? Tennis will do as a substitute for women, but you have to look like Maria Sharapova with grey hair. Did you also know that you must drive a BMW, Mercedes or Lexus?

Other requirements include having your own business and grown children to run it for you, downsizing from a single large estate to three or more villas in various foreign countries, and having a personal banker. I don’t have a personal banker. I have a personal teller and she is very nice, but our conversations are mostly just about deposits and withdrawals.

My final decision to cancel came when I used the online “retiree calculator” UURP has on their website to determine retirement eligibility. I eagerly entered all the information asked for, thoughts of exotic travel flashing through my mind, and hit the “calculate” key. The result said that I was just over a million dollars short of what I would need to retire, but if I contributed just $17,473 a month to a high-yield investment, I would have a chance of making that goal by age 113.

My other option, according to the chart they showed, was to simply die in another few years and save the politicians a lot of trouble. Obviously, the idea of retiring (or dying) in the manner promoted by UURP was just not for me.

All of this, plus seeing two politicians in a TV debate attack each other with chains and knives, made me think about the whole concept of retirement. I know some people who are retired and they seem happy enough. They don’t run around to exotic locales and sip mojitos on the beach with a gorgeous sunset in the distance, but they don’t have to work either. What if I do have to work? What work will there be if Democrats keep running the country as they do now?

I know a former corporate executive who works as a bagger at the grocery store. He is old enough to retire but can’t because he spent all his money raising kids rather than investing it. He muses that the money he spent to buy 27,000 toy cars required to raise his son could have paid for a small villa in Spain.

I turned to the New York Times for answers. You can always count on the Times for insight into the deeper meanings of life because they are liberal and have opinions about everything. I found a long article on whether the retirement age should be pushed back further than the current age of 66.

A panel of distinguished young academics, obviously immortal themselves, pointed out that the benefits of delayed retirement would help relieve the burden of social security payments on the working young, who are rapidly dwindling in numbers. Apparently the number of young people isn’t declining, just the ones who work. According to one expert, by the year 2020 most social security payments will rest entirely on the contributions of just seven fast food employees.

Since I can’t retire until I reach 113 anyway, this doesn’t seem like a big deal to me, but apparently there was a strong reaction by NY Times readers to the idea of pushing back Social Security payments to around age 93 or so. Irate baby boomers wrote in protest that they were due their share of social security after paying for the benefits of the current retiree generation, golf in Maui and BMW’s notwithstanding. There were even some comments from current retirees pointing out that not everyone over the age of 65 belongs to UURP, drives a BMW or travels six months a year to exotic places.

In short, it’s all a muddle.

One Times reader, sounding quite despondent at his prospects, asked the question, “if we can’t retire, who is going to give us jobs?” That is a good point since these days companies generally don’t like to hire anyone who is old enough to subscribe to UURP. It’s illegal, but age discrimination is rampant these days and is nearly impossible to prove.

Employment ads often give it away though. I saw one recently that offered free time for video games as a sign-on incentive, and yet another touted acne treatments as part of the health benefits package. So, to paraphrase Jethro Tull, a pre-hip hop, non-techno artist who could both read and play music, “he’s too old to work but he’s too young to retire.”

It seems like just yesterday I was too young to get a job and needed something called “working papers” that entitled me to do the same exact work as an adult but at half the rate of pay. With the current economy, a lot of people who can even find jobs are working for half what they used to earn. Things really haven’t changed that much have they?


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Rick Townley

Rick Townley was a bookseller before switching to electronic publishing with The New York Times, Reuters, Grolier and others. He is the author of a humor book, For Boomers Only – Exploring Life in the New Millennium, a supernatural novel, Stepping Out of Time, and numerous short stories. In addition to contributing to the Washington Times Communities, Rick is working on a fiction series called Stigma and resides in southern Alabama with his 7-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.

 

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