Posted 03/29/2012 - 10:32:31pm by David Bank
We’ve long understood encore careers as a win-win – a windfall of talent for social purposes and a boost to individuals’ financial security through continued income.
An event at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., Thursday explored whether there is a third win as well – economic growth, deficit reduction and the preservation of Social Security’s fiscal health.
I was particularly gratified to hear Stephen Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, say that encore careers that motivate people to work longer would benefit not only the Social Security trust fund, but the U.S. Treasury itself, reducing future deficits.
“If, through encore careers, we can get a greater share of Americans as they age to continue to work, that can really make a difference for Social Security,” Goss said during the event, “Encore Careers: Can Second Careers Bridge the Retirement Income Gap?”
Later, he added, "If you would rather not see the retirement age increased, if it turned out that through encore careers or other approaches, we could improve the status of Social Security and the federal government as a whole, that could diminish the pressure people feel to raise the retirement age."
Goss’ endorsement is important because he’s the one who crunches the numbers that Social Security’s trustees use to forecast the program’s long-range solvency. If he says a policy option can improve those numbers substantially, that option will get attention from legislators and the executive branch.
The house was full – about 85 people attended and another 350 streamed the event online. You can view the webcast at the event's page on the New America site.
“Encore careers are one way to experience the freedom and choice that Social Security with increased benefits could provide,” said Nancy Altman, co-chair of Strengthen Social Security, a coalition of groups working to forestall cuts and enhance benefits. “Encore careers are inspiring people who choose to stay in the workforce. Let people have the dignity and freedom to make those choices.”
Encore careers can complement Social Security benefits in a variety of ways to enhance overall income security, she said, an argument that may get more traction now that Social Security reform is squarely on the table as part of broader debt-reduction discussions. Social Security provides “the freedom to change jobs and start new careers,” she said
Several speakers noted that encore income could enable people to postpone claiming Social Security as well, dramatically boosting their later monthly checks.
Former Sen. Harris Wofford opened the event, saying people wanted to be called to do something greater than themselves, and called encore careers “a transformative idea.”
Debbie Banda, the Massachusetts director of AARP and now on a special assignment at the organization's national headquarters, said, "I see encore careers as one piece of a major transformation in the way we work in this country. They’re going to help boomers and other generations as well. Boomers want to work if the benefits and circumstances are right."
Phil Longman of New America corrected popular misconceptions about baby boomers’ wealth, education and health status, and questioned whether encore careers were viable for large segments of the population. But, he said, “I’m all for encore careers” from personal and fiscal perspectives.