Longevity Policy: Facing Up to Longevity Issues Affecting Social Security, Pensions, and Older Workers Longevity Policy: Facing Up to Longevity Issues Affecting Social Security, Pensions, and Older Workers
John A. Turner
First Chapter | Table of Contents

159 pp. 2011
$40.00 cloth 978-0-88099-378-4
$18.00 paper 978-0-88099-377-7

The life expectancy of Americans continues to increase, and each day 12,000 baby boomers turn 50, expanding the ranks of our older population while ramping up the pressure on public and private retirement programs. At the same time, public policy has failed to keep pace with the challenges this aging population brings of how to pay for the living costs of those added years; many of our current social policies and employee benefit policies were designed during an era when people had shorter life spans.

John A. Turner addresses these policy issues and makes the case that longevity policy should be recognized as a distinct area—as we do now for climate change. Instead of treating issues relating to older age, Social Security, and pensions separately, we need to recognize the interrelationships among these areas and adopt a unified approach toward policy. Doing so, Turner argues, would make for much more effective and efficient policymaking.

Turner begins by documenting the overall increase in life expectancy, the ensuing distributional issues observed in the United States diverse population, other related demographic changes, and the costs associated with increased longevity. The remainder of the book is divided into four parts:
  1. issues relating to the labor market for older workers, including changes in the health of older workers and in the job requirements by employers;
  2. an examination of how Social Security policy is affected by increasing life expectancy, and a proposal for a new benefit that Turner dubs "longevity insurance;"
  3. a look at how private pension policy is affected by increasing life expectancy, including issues for 401(k) plans and defined benefit plans; and
  4. a set of five policy recommendations based on an integrated approach to solving the problems arising from increased life expectancy.
Turner not only makes the case for a number of distinct policies, he goes further, expressing the need for a package of complementary longevity policies. These policies would reinforce one another in accomplishing several things: they would help encourage work at older ages, move Social Security toward solvency, provide more efficient targeting of Social Security benefits, increase annuitization of 401(k) accounts, and encourage employers to offer defined benefit plans to their workers. Taken together, Turner argues, they would facilitate the adjustment of workers and pension systems to the costs and benefits of a longer life.