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Aging Workers—

changing economy gives seniors different options

4 May 2012—Bill Roberts does a fantastic job highlighting the importance of continued work later in life (“Idahoans work past retirement,” April 10). The traditional three-legged stool of retirement income — Social Security, private pensions and savings — is wobbly for most older Americans. The Social Security normal retirement age is increasing to 67, defined-contribution plans, such as 401(k)s, have all but replaced more traditional (and more generous) defined-benefit plans in the private sector, and savings are low.

Many older Americans are responding by working later in life, rather than reducing their standard of living. In fact, the average retirement age is now increasing, reversing a near century-long decline that dates back to the Civil War and that continued through the mid-1980s.

This is good news for our aging society. As older Americans remain active in the work force, more goods and services are produced, to be allocated across the entire population. The real challenge for Idaho, and our country, is how to accommodate older Americans who are interested in working longer.

KEVIN E. CAHILL, Ph.D., Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College and ECONorthwest, Boise

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