Incentive for seniors to continue to work

Repeal earnings limit: Economy needs people eager to work while receiving Social Security benefits.

March 21, 2000

IT NO longer makes sense to penalize senior citizens for continuing to work beyond the time they can collect full Social Security benefits. Our thriving economy is short on manpower and needs their enormous pool of expertise and strong work ethic.

Under Social Security laws, anyone age 65 to 69 who continues to work and earns over $17,000 this year will lose $1 of Social Security benefits for each $3 earned above that limit. This punitive provision was enacted in the Depression, when America had far more workers than jobs and sought to encourage seniors to retire.

More than 800,000 people are penalized for earning too much. That's unfair and illogical. Individuals should be encouraged to remain active. It's good for their health and it's great for the economy. A Republican-sponsored bill making its way quickly through Congress would eliminate this unwise earnings limit. It could have a significant impact on social trends among older workers, 75 percent of whom now retire when they reach age 65.

What if you could pad your future retirement while paying more income taxes to Uncle Sam and giving businesses a fresh wave of older workers?

Companies could actively recruit retirement-age employees to fill jobs requiring skills that only experienced workers can handle.

Businesses could pursue more older workers for part-time daylight jobs as a complement to students who work at night.

The House of Representatives approved the earnings-limit repeal bill, 422-0. The Senate is expected to follow this week. President Clinton has embraced this bill, too.

While there is a $22 billion cost to the treasury over the next decade, that money will be recouped as growing numbers of seniors work more years and continue to pay hefty income taxes as productive members of the labor force.

The message should be clear: Work is good for you and your country. Washington should not prevent you from doing something you like to do -- as long as you are able, willing and productive.

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