Every year Gallup surveys Americans about their expectations for retirement. The results for 2012 are in, and they look bleak for defenders of the blue model. The expected retirement age is now 67, a considerable increase from 1996, when Americans expected to kick back and put up their feet once they hit 60. Gallup also notes that a tepid economic recovery from the cataclysmic housing and financial crisis has shaken the confidence of most Americans:
The same poll finds a new low of 38% of nonretirees saying they will have enough money to live comfortably in retirement, down slightly from 42% last year. When Gallup first asked the question in 2002, 59% thought they would have enough. The percentage dipped below 50% during the recession and has remained below since.
To blue true believers the survey is further confirmation of a looming race to the bottom. To some extent, Via Meadia shares this concern—after all, no one would be complaining if Americans were rich enough so that we could all retire younger and live lives of comfortable leisure.But the doomsayers fail to contend with rising life expectancy and better health for older people, which are the most important drivers of change. Incredible developments in science, medicine and technology have occurred since FDR signed the Social Security Act in 1935. The nature of work has likewise undergone a transformation unimaginable to our Depression-era legislators. If you are going to live to be 70, you don’t need as much money to retire at 65 as you would if you were going to live to be 90. And if you are living longer, retiring later doesn’t necessarily mean a shorter period of pleasant retirement. There’s nothing more reasonable—or fair, for that matter—than having the retirement age move up as life expectancy increases, as more work becomes less physically demanding and as more older Americans enjoy better health.