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Is it time to consider gradual retirement?

hainesIndisputably, people are living longer. The graying of the population will require a change in our thinking about traditional retirement.

Thanks to medical advances, cleaner air and water, and improvements in nutrition and lifestyle choices, the average human lifespan has steadily lengthened for as long as records have been maintained. Barring the wholesale implementation of the Trumpian social agenda, this trend will continue well into the future until we finally attain ages where cells fail to accurately replicate themselves, a ceiling that scientists currently project to arrive somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 years of age.

The longer lives of those in the pool of retirees will present actuarial consequences for retirement funds across this nation since the predictive assumptions have generally been based on current life expectancy. Currently, employees are forced to make a binary choice between continuing in full employment or collecting the full retirement benefit, but the payouts on retirement funds by those living significantly beyond the anticipated mean for life expectancy could conceivably be forestalled.

The choice to retire is a simple one when poor health is involved. However, a legislative initiative is in order for those who have achieved eligibility for a pension, but would also prefer to remain active in a chosen vocation while not working themselves to an early grave. Allowing workers the option of continued partial employment while collecting a partial retirement check would result in several positive outcomes.

First, workers would continue to contribute into the retirement system and accrue partial service credits. Second, retiree health care costs would be reduced for local budgets since access to benefits for active employees could continue. Third, remaining employed would postpone applications for Social Security. Productivity might even be improved.

Nowhere would such changes be more advantageous than in the classrooms of our public schools. Retention of proven educators, even if only for a handful of years, would be of benefit not only to the long-term health of the retirement plan, but to children across this state.  

Even after decades in the classroom, full-time educators currently devote countless hours beyond the contractual day in order to meet the ever-increasing demands to reach every child. That is why teachers leave the profession early and why, in many cases, teachers struggle physically at the end of a stress-filled career spanning three decades.

The effects of aging are undeniable and we are all destined to slow down during the age of inevitable decline, but those who desire to continue making meaningful contributions should be encouraged to do so for as long as they are inclined, and workers should be afforded the option of managing earned benefits to meet their needs across the potential decades of retirement.

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