Why Don’t We Offer Earlier Retirement Incentives to Open Up Jobs for the Unemployed?

BY busadmin  March 2, 2009 at 12:02 PM EDT

Employment Guide; AP photo

Question/Comment: Someone must have already considered this idea for the economic stimulus, but I haven’t heard anything about it: Why don’t we offer earlier retirement incentives for people still working at retirement age because they want to get their maximum benefit of social security? If they were able to retire now and therefore open up (millions of?) jobs to the unemployed, wouldn’t that be a great use of our stimulus dollars? It seems like a no-brainer to me and some of my co-workers.

Paul Solman: Let me think about this (lest I not answer thoughtfully). Me, I’m 64, so I kind of like this idea at first blush. But do you and your co-workers really want to be borrowing against the future to pay me and my age cohort? (Unless, of course, you ARE my age and have posed this question as a way for YOU to retire early.)

The facts are these: I could have started taking Social Security at 62 at one benefit level, though if I continued to work, my benefits would have been offset by earnings past an income of $14,160 a year. Waiting until 66 will earn me a HIGHER benefit, regardless of other income. Waiting until 70 will earn me an even HIGHER benefit, again regardless of other income. So you want to pay me even MORE to retire NOW?

Moreover, how would you insure that I don’t take another job, thus occupying the space of some OTHER younger worker? You’d have to do something like penalize me for extra earnings, the way we do for “early retirees”?

I don’t know that it’s a bad idea. Indeed, it’s similar to ones I’ve heard about cutting hours across the board: cutting the work week, that is. But this would seem to favor one group of people at the expense of the rest. It happens to be MY group, but that wouldn’t be much of a reason to endorse it. Not publicly, anyway.