Americans face a future like Japan’s
Retirement used to mean that after working for four decades in an office or factory, Americans could “spend time with family and friends, and reflect on their life” in a final couple of decades, said Noah Smith. That’s changing, and more Americans over 65 are working. Some see this as a positive trend. It’s not. The main reason Americans are working later is that they can’t afford to retire. “Whether their nest eggs were wiped out in the housing crash, or they just didn’t save enough, or whether their kids don’t make enough money to support them, the decline of retirement seems like an ominous development.” Soon the pressures on Americans to keep working will become much greater. The U.S., which had an unusually high fertility rate for industrialized countries as recently as a decade ago, now has fewer children. We’re at a rate low enough that we will see the population shrink. And the U.S. is restricting the immigration that would replenish it. So, we’re following in the footsteps of Japan. There, too, more older people are working. That’s because Japan repeatedly raised the retirement age, cut benefits, and raised taxes. “It’s true that putting armies of old people to work has indeed helped Japan arrest its economic stagnation.” But is this really the path we want to take?