Remember when AARP was an organization for retired persons? Remember when the American Dream included a decent job, a house and yard, and retirement?
The acronym AARP was shorthand for “American Association of Retired Persons.” But the organization decided to change its brand. The spelled-out moniker was dropped in favor of just plain AARP.
The capital letters AARP became the full, official name. The letters don’t stand for anything. I’m beginning to wonder what AARP, the organization, stands for.
Did the organization that advocated for retired persons change its identity — and its mission — along with its brand? Has AARP decided that retirement is no longer cool? It almost seems as if they’ve decided to support WORK and give up on RETIREMENT.
The cover story for the September issue of AARP Bulletin proclaims:
“Good News for Older Workers: Keep, Change or Improve Your Job After 50.”
The “RP” in AARP now stands for “Real Possibilities.” I’m not making this up.
“Tens of millions of older Americans are working today at ages when their parents and grandparents had retired.
Nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1991, only about 1 worker in 10 planned to stay in the workforce beyond age 65. Today, that number has risen to almost 4 in 10.
In 1991, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some 30 percent of Americans age 55 or older were working. By 2013, the workforce participation rate for those 55-plus had passed 40 percent, and it’s rising steadily. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the current era marks the first time in U.S. history when four generations — pre-boomers, boomers, Generation X and millennials — are engaged in the workforce at the same time.”
The above quote is from the article, “The Value of Older Workers: Experience makes them better problem solvers and more reliable,” by R.R. Reid in the September 2015 issue of AARP Bulletin. The September issue is not yet up on the website, but AARP Bulletin Today includes many related articles.
The hard copy of the September issue cites excellent sources for the claim that millions of older Americans who would have been enjoying their hard-earned retirement in the late 20th Century remain hard at work in the brave, new 21st Century. So it must be true. People of my baby boomer cohort are less likely to be retired — and more likely to still be working — than were our parents and grandparents, who were probably retired at our age.
I’m constantly reading or hearing about the difficulties of retirement. Many people say they can’t afford to retire; some say they expect to work until they die. They believe they have little choice. For many, the cost of living outstrips retirement income based on Social Security, pensions, and savings. See the results of AARP’s latest survey of workers aged 55-64.
Retirement income is usually fixed income. The amount of our monthly income from Social Security, pensions, and savings is not likely to go up. Monthly income is more likely to go down, as a retiree burns through savings. Even the annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is not guaranteed. See the earlier blog post.
Many people fear that their Social Security benefit will, in the not-too-distant future, be reduced to 75 percent of the present benefit. That fear is based on a drumbeat of negative news. (I personally believe that we can and will find a way to preserve full Social Security benefits, and also ensure that Social Security remains viable for our children and grandchildren. Call me an optimist.)
AARP views the trend to less retirement and more work through rose-colored glasses. But I’m wondering if the American Dream of retirement for nearly everyone has ended. Workers in the 1930s to 1970s era were likely to have pensions and to own houses with paid-up mortgages. But since about the mid-1970s, the trend has been away from guaranteed pensions. In the later decades of the last century, many workers began to rely on home equity loans. People refinanced their homes repeatedly, and never paid off the mortgage.
Only in recent years have many baby boomers started to wake up and smell the burned coffee. The new reality is retirement without adequate pensions and savings. And meanwhile, you’re still paying the monthly mortgage. Is the American Dream of retirement about to become a nightmare?
I can hardly wait to see how Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old intern working for a much younger boss (Anne Hathaway). Watch the trailer. Is it a comedy or a horror movie?