I celebrated my 65th birthday last week. A bunch of assumptions sometimes are made about that particular milestone. In the fairly recent past, many people were forced to retire once they reached 65. Many big companies had mandatory retirement ages for their workers. Even now, successful CEOs leave their jobs when they turn 65.
In January, I received a packet of forms from the corporate office of my employer, pertaining to my approaching retirement. Even though for me, a Baby Boomer, full Social Security retirement age is 66, the Company operates on the assumption that you will be retiring at 65. Fortunately, there was a section of the form for me to indicate that I would be working “until further notice”. I did that, since I’m not planning on retiring. For years, I have subscribed to the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Theory of Retirement: Don’t.
Since late last year, I have been receiving packets of advertising material from a host of insurance companies, urging me to choose their Medicare Advantage, or Medi-Gap plan. The assumption is, of course, that the minute I turn 65, I will register for Medicare. Their literature informs me that I have a special “open enrollment” period extending from three months before my 65th birthday, to three months after my birthday, where I may sign up for Medicare and choose a plan. The big clinic where I receive specialty care for my chronic disease has a policy of only accepting Medicare Advantage plans, and not traditional, fee-for-service Medicare for their eligible patients. I received a brochure from them, listing all the plans they accept, and inviting me to check their Web site for dates of Medicare Seminars describing all their plans. Funny, though, I have received nothing from the Government which sponsors Medicare and Social Security. They don’t seem to care whether I register for either program.
I’ve heard that “65 is the new 40”. That may, in fact, be true. Most of the people I work with can’t believe I’m 65. It’s nice to appear younger than your real age. But still, the background assumption is that soon you will quit work entirely and retire. Saving for Retirement is a big deal almost everywhere. My favorite local conservative radio station runs at least three different programs on the weekends dealing with retirement. One huge theme emphasized all over the radio and the Web is “maximizing your Social Security Benefits”. Many financial and retirement advisors run seminars, to teach you how to extract the maximum dollar value of your entitlements from Big Daddy Government. I just did a Google search, and it returned Nine Million, Eight Hundred Ninety Thousand results! For some reason, the idea of maximizing the dollars of the dole makes me cringe. Perhaps it’s because I know that every dollar a retiree receives in benefits is confiscated from a worker TODAY. No “lock box” exists; you just rack up “credits” while you are working, and these determine how much you may be eligible to receive in retirement. I’ve had an often-interrupted working life, with more than my share of unemployment, so I haven’t accumulated as much retirement savings as those who work continuously. But I think it’s enough, given that I don’t intend to retire.
Now to the “risk-taking” part. The older many people get, the more they anticipate not being tied to a 9-to-5 job, and being able to relax or travel in retirement. They look forward to the day they can kiss the working life goodbye, and live off their investments and Social Security. When they turn 65, they register for Medicare and Social Security. They usually don’t think about what that means. When your primary health insurance provider is Uncle Sam, what “Medicare will pay for” determines what treatments your doctor may employ. Before ordering a test or prescribing a medicine, your doctor must consult a manual to see what the Government will “allow”. I love my doctor, and I just can’t accept that she will always have the Government in Washington, DC looking over her shoulder. So I am taking a big risk. I will not register for Medicare or Social Security. Right now, I’m on my husband’s insurance (which is much better than my own employer’s plan), and unless something horrible happens, that will be true for the foreseeable future. I’ll remain a productive member of Society, earning my own way, and telling Big Government to take a hike.