AARP is no friend to Baby Boomers

I saw a TV ad from AARP, a grim gray man, squared jaw, warning politicians that there are 50 million of us old geezers, and they had better keep their hands off Medicare and Social Security. The argument is that we have earned those benefits and we will vote out anyone who tampers with them.

Are we – the boomers and the silent generation – really that craven? Are we actually so small, so self-absorbed that we don’t hear the echos of Greece? Are we really that stupid?

“Yes,” the Gen Xers say.

Well, include me out, as Yogi Berra said. They are not speaking for me. You baby boomers, do they really speak for you? Am I the only one?

I am not the only one. I recently talked to an 80 plus year old man who is not on Social Security and not on Medicare. I asked him what he does for major medical, and he admitted he runs a risk. But, he affirmed, as long as he and his wife have any money, they ought to pay for their own medical care. He admitted that a recent medical emergency was expensive, but they took care of it. After all, he pointed out, he is still working. He is still productive. Why should he need welfare?

His children understand, and can help him and his wife financially and otherwise. He is a rare bird, the rugged individualist.

“But he earned those benefits,” some cry.

Actually, he didn’t. None of us did. We paid taxes, but we didn’t earn anything. The Supreme Court has established that there is no equity there. The taxes were supposed to be for Social Security and Medicare, but in reality, Congress could end those programs at any time. We have no right to be on government help. And more importantly, if all of us are on government help, whether we need it or not, doesn’t that raise the risk of losing it for the truly needy?

Aren’t we actually more compassionate by being committed to pay for whatever we can on our own?

So what shall we do?

I resent being forced onto Medicare because I turned 65. It embarrasses me. I still work, but I don’t have the courage my friend has to go naked, without insurance, and my own insurance company no longer wants me.

Because I am self-insured, I face penalties if I don’t get onto Medicare. If you have a group insurance plan, you are able to stay on that past the age of 65 without any penalties.

I don’t have to take Social Security, and as long as I can work and bring in an income, I should not take it. I don’t resent people taking such programs, for government welfare is a wonderful thing. People who need it should have it. I look at the taxes I paid not as an entitlement to me but rather as my contribution to help the needy. When these programs were set up, the incoming taxes paid for the current covered people.

But that was in the past. It used to be there were plenty of people working to pay for the needy. Today there aren’t enough wage earners to continue to pay for all us geezers to coast. AARP is willing to saddle our grandchildren with huge, unmanageable debts so there won’t be any discomfort in geezertown.

I am one geezer willing to tolerate discomfort.

Our society needs a change of heart. We need to see the consequences of our actions. May I suggest some things that each person approaching retirement age do?

First, don’t retire. Unless you are physically disabled, keep working. You are smart, you have tremendous experience, and you can continue to contribute. Golf is over rated. Don’t retire.

Second, don’t take Social Security unless you really need it. Means test yourself. Are you still productive? Can you live without it? Then you should.

Third, if you have group medical insurance (which I didn’t have), you can stay on that past 65 without penalty. Do it. Don’t go on Medicare. If you have to be on Medicare, exercise, eat less, eat mostly vegetables and little meat, and don’t go to the doctor if you can avoid it. Remember Jack LaLanne’s rule for eating: If it tastes good, spit it out.

Finally, most importantly, do not join the American Association of Retired People. They have no concern about your grandchildren nor about mine, and that makes them anathema to me. It should make them anathema to you too. Throw their magazines away. If you have energy for it, write them a nasty letter about betraying our grandchildren.

You’ll be happier for it.


PS: Ken Dychtwald has some good books about the unsustainability of our current system. I recommend him.