Should Lawmakers Retire at the Same Age as the Rest of Us?

Last Updated Jul 5, 2011 10:19 AM EDT

Last week, Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill, introduced a bill that would tie the retirement age for lawmakers to the Social Security retirement age. This follows a similar proposal by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

While we common citizens must wait until age 66 or 67 (depending on our year of birth) to receive our full retirement benefits under Social Security, federal lawmakers can receive full retirement benefits at age 62 with five years of service, at age 50 with 20 years of service, and at any age with 25 years of service.

And keep in mind that the amount of these full pensions for federal lawmakers is far more generous than private sector pensions -- two to three times more generous, according to the National Taxpayers Union.
Social Security reform is getting a lot of attention in Congress and the media, and a common proposal is to further increase the Social Security retirement age. While this is often justified by improvements in longevity over the last few decades, these improvements apply mainly to affluent, white collar workers. Less affluent, blue collar workers aren't seeing similar improvements in longevity, so increases in the retirement age would hit this group pretty hard.

For the most part, our representatives are part of the white collar, affluent group that is realizing these longevity gains. I say, if they can justify raising the Social Security retirement age for everybody else, they should also raise their own retirement age, as Schilling and Brown are proposing. But I'm not holding my breath for this to happen.

What do you think? Please share your comments below, and also write or email your local representative with your thoughts.

Image from iStockphoto contributor kameleon007
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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Retirement Game-Changers: Strategies for a Healthy, Financially Secure and Fulfilling Long Life and Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck.