The Normal Retirement Age (NRA) in the Social Security system is the age at which full benefits are received upon retirement. Retirement before the NRA results in a reduction of benefits, and you cannot retire before 62. Since the beginning of the program, age 65 as been the NRA. This was a fixed and constant number. Recently, in 1983, legislation was past that would gradually increase the retirement age to 67 by 2027. How it works is starting in 2003 the age for full benefits will be increased by 2 months. Each year after than an additional increase of 2 months will be added on. It results in those born in 1960 or later getting full retirement benefits at 67. The Early Retirement Age of 62 still remains the same.

There is a debate going on regarding this raise in the retirement age. Many disagree with raising the NRA at all, stating it is not fair to future retirees. The one truth people cannot deny is that life expectancy is dramatically different now than it was at Social Securities beginning. Since 1940, when the system was created, the life expectancy after retirement age 65 has increase by 4 years for men and 6 years for women and to top it off, we are healthier than ever before. In addition, a trend has emerged where people are deciding to retire earlier than 65. Thus, Social Security is paying out benefits over a longer period of time, while the payroll taxes are collected for a shorter period of time. People are essentially spending a fourth of their life in leisure. It is unreasonable to expect each of these additional years of longevity should be spent working, but is it not also unreasonable to expect these years should be spent in leisure?

The benefits of raising the NRA are numerous. It would add on years of solvency to the system, it would increase the number of workers in the system, and encourage older adults to continue working. To soften the impact of such a change, a gradual increase like the one implemented, is key. Therefore, people are retiring later little by little. Raising the NRA, however, could negatively affect low-income workers who, because of lower skills, poorer health, and physically laborious jobs cannot continue to work. Therefore, to help these individuals perhaps the disability definition can be altered to include these workers over age 62, or vocational jobs perhaps will be exempt from the NRA raise completely. In addition, raising the NRA is essentially cutting benefits. However, if individuals are working longer they have more time to save. Regardless of how you look at it, raising the NRA to help restore Social Security’s long-range solvency should at least be considered an option in our struggle to fix the system.

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