Wrestling with retirement
Oct. 25, 2010
by Ivan Raconteur

I am feeling sorry for the French workers today, and for the wet-behind-the-ears students in that country, many of whom have probably never even had a job.

The workers and the students have been protesting recently, and demonstrating their dissatisfaction by going on strike and destroying property.

The reason for their dissatisfaction is that the mean old government is contemplating raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 in order to keep the pension system from going bankrupt.

The workers and the students find this scandalous.

To some in this country, their reaction might appear to be, well, a bit of an over-reaction.

In order to understand the reaction of our French brothers, we must remember that the French are accustomed to being coddled.

The fact that their retirement age is already among the youngest in the world doesn’t really come into it.

They deserve to retire early, so they will have more time to wander about on the beach in their Speedos (eew!) and play checkers in the park.

They spend their careers practicing for this by enjoying what are, by American standards, incredibly generous vacation and benefits packages.

In view of this, it seems a perfectly logical reaction for them to try to shut down transportation, let garbage pile up in the streets, and destroy the property of others.

A few riots and confrontations with police are to be expected when one asks a French person to work until the lofty old age of 62.

This also explains why there are no droves of French immigrants storming the beaches of the US.

There are a lot of people from a lot of places trying to get into this country, but not the French.

You see, the French people are clever.

They have figured out that if they come over here, they will have to work a lot more, and a lot longer.

The so-called “full” or “normal” retirement age in the US was 65 for many years, but it has already crept up to 67 for people born after 1959, according to the Social Security Administration.

And, for many Americans, the real retirement age has been pushed back even further.

Many people who thought they would be able to retire at a reasonable age saw those dreams disappear in a puff of smoke when the stock market took a dive.

There are benefits, I suppose.

Today, many Americans who thought they would be deep into their retirement by now are enjoying a second career and meeting new people in their jobs as greeters at their local Walmarts.

Other would-be retirees are spending their time with their grandchildren and their neighbors’ grandchildren as they work side-by-side with the young people, handing out burgers and fries at their neighborhood fast food restaurant.

The camaraderie and brisk pace of these exciting new careers must surely be better than sitting around playing checkers.

The French don’t know what they are missing.

Of course, the picture is not always this rosy.

Many Americans will have to work beyond age 70 just to survive.

By some reports, nearly half of those age 56 to 62 are at risk of not having enough retirement savings to cover basic expenses and medical bills.

For some, the dream of retirement has become a nightmare.

Not only are many older Americans faced with running out of savings, but the prospect of getting a job to boost their retirement income is by no means guaranteed.

Many experienced workers who found themselves suddenly and unexpectedly unemployed as a result of the recession are now finding that the first to be cut are also the last to be hired.

The fact that there is no age discrimination in this country is no comfort to an experienced worker who has been trying unsuccessfully for months to find a job – any job – to support himself and his family.

Nonetheless, it is the French people for whom I am feeling sorry today.

I am not much of a soothsayer, but I feel very confident in making this prediction: if the French are this whipped up about the possibility of having to wait until age 62 to retire, they are in for a very rude awakening.

And, for those French students who are so worried about retiring before they have even entered the workforce, I predict that the picture will change dramatically by the time they are ready to start collecting a pension.

By then, retiring at age 62 will be the least of their worries.

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