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Working Longer: The Solution to the Retirement Income Challenge Paperback – May 6, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"This book is a badly needed wake-up call. With lifetime pension plans dwindling and employer health benefits to retirees shrinking drastically, Americans--especially the Boomer generation--need to face the reality that Munnell and Sass describe: longer lives, higher costs, and inadequate savings in their 401k plans and elsewhere. This means that average Americans are going to have to work longer or face poverty in their so-called golden years." —Hedrick Smith, correspondent, PBS Frontline: "Can You Afford to Retire?"



"The United States has a retirement income problem. This remarkable book examines one potential solution to the problem: increased work by older Americans. Munnell and Sass provide thoughtful answers to the key questions. This is a lucid, thorough, and thought-provoking contribution to a very important debate." —Robert Hutchens, Cornell University



"We have made remarkable progress in improving health and longevity. Now we need to figure out how to finance the substantially longer retirements these gains have produced. In Working Longer, Munnell and Sass make a strong case for moving the average age at retirement from 62 to 65 or 66& #151;and thereby safeguarding the future of most retirees. Anyone who is interested in preparing our country for a better retirement future should read this elegant essay." —John H. Biggs, former chairman and CEO, TIAA-CREF



"The retirement landscape is different from the one you might have imagined just a few years ago. The good news is that you're living longer. The bad news is that health care will cost more, pensions are shrinking, and your investments might not have grown as fast as you'd hoped. Munnell and Sass show you how& #151;by working a little longer& #151;you can overcome these challenges and live the retirement you'd planned." —Jane Bryant Quinn, financial columnist and author of Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People



"As Americans live longer and healthier lives, many seniors will need to generate additional income to remain financially secure. The skills, experience, and expertise of these seasoned workers can only stand to benefit our economy. This book is a timely and comprehensive look at the challenges and opportunities of recruiting and retaining older workers." —U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging



"The books provides a concise summary of a wealth of evidence about retirement decisions and a handy guide for middle-aged Americans on how to stay well-off when they hang up their shoes." — The Economist



"A well-researched, thoughtful explanation of a critical national issue and a well-reasoned proposal to cope with this challenge. Highly recommended." — CHOICE



" Working Longer tackles the issues of surviving one's so-called golden years." —Harry Hurt III, New York Times



" Working Longer offers a prescription that readers may find a bitter pill: keep working.... [The authors] have studded their brief, well-organized book with tables, charts, and graphs." — Wall Street Journal

Review

"The retirement landscape is different from the one you might have imagined just a few years ago. The good news is that you're living longer. The bad news is that health care will cost more, pensions are shrinking, and your investments might not have grown as fast as you'd hoped. Munnell and Sass show you how& #151;by working a little longer& #151;you can overcome these challenges and live the retirement you'd planned." ¿Jane Bryant Quinn, financial columnist and author of Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People

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"We have made remarkable progress in improving health and longevity. Now we need to figure out how to finance the substantially longer retirements these gains have produced. In Working Longer, Munnell and Sass make a strong case for moving the average age at retirement from 62 to 65 or 66& #151;and thereby safeguarding the future of most retirees. Anyone who is interested in preparing our country for a better retirement future should read this elegant essay." ¿John H. Biggs, former chairman and CEO, TIAA-CREF

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 207 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press (May 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815703112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815703112
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,017,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'd pretty much concluded that working longer was likely to be my answer to retirement income cash flow. This book not only shows how millions of others are making the same decision (some voluntarily, most involuntarily due to a lack of retirement preparation) but how manpower shortages from a shrinking population are likely to make it increasingly necessary for companies to want to retain older staff, even if just on a part time basis.

Recommended reading, if perhaps a little dated.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Retirement income prospects for the average American are bleak. One third of households are totally dependent on Social Security as their only source of income. Meanwhile half of Americans are taking early retirement at age 62 which permanently reduces these benefits. Once common, defined benefit plans that assure retirees an inflation adjusted income bundled with healthcare provisions are rapidly disappearing outside the public sector. Less than 20% of the work force has these guarantees. Less than half of the private sector work force contributes to any personal retirement plan. And a Federal Reserve study (2004) finds that those that do contribute have only saved about $60,000.

More could be said about this gloomy financial picture, but in this study retirement is viewed from an employment perspective. The authors argue for reshaping government, employer, and employee attitudes on the need to extend working careers another 3-4 years to improve the odds of living comfortably in retirement. Among their key ideas: Raise the early retirement eligiblity age for collecting Social Security from 62 to encourage more Americans to continue working and contributing to their retirement plans. Allow older workers to opt out of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax to increase their income and encourage them to stay in the work force at a stage when accruing additional Social Security benefits are negligible.

This short study is rigorously organized and amply supported by available research. The key ideas are clearly presented - but there is an academic dryness about it all. The main points are repeated frequently but the treatment is not patronizing. We are convinced. America needs to work to "full retirement" currently age 66.
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Format: Hardcover
Munnell and Sass propose a straightforward way to reduce longevity risk: working at career jobs for an average of three additional years. This would raise the age at which half the age cohort is out of the workforce from today's 63 to about 66 -- which was the corresponding average age of retirement for men in 1960.

A major driver of early retirements is the earliest eligibility age (EEA) for Social Security benefits: 62. Most workers claim at this age, accepting reduced benefits, instead of working till their full retirement age and receiving full benefits. The authors recommend raising the EEA to 65 as an incentive for workers to stay in the workforce. They also suggest exempting workers and employers from the payroll tax after the worker reaches age 62 and extending Social Security's salary-averaging period from 35 to 40 years (130-131). Meanwhile, "The most important thing workers can do to extend their careers is to keep their skills up to date and remain responsive to employer needs" (119). "Workers will also need to stay healthy" (121).

Another hurdle is employers' lukewarm attitude toward older workers. This results mainly from the increasing cost of healthcare insurance as workers age and the tendency of compensation to rise with age even if productivity declines. These factors can largely be addressed by the actions cited above.

An important factor not mentioned in Working Longer is the investment savvy -- or lack of it -- of the worker in managing 401(k) investments. In a world where millions of people invest their retirement money in stable funds while paying high interest on credit-card debt, this is a major issue. A one-semester course in personal finance for high-school seniors could help future generations of Americans manage their financial lives more effectively.

For additional perspectives on this important book, see the reviews in The Economist and The New York Times.
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