Retirement

Retirement should be an individual decision, rather than some arbitrary date set by the federal government. Individuals differ widely in their affection for their present line of work, in their desire to pursue some alternate retirement avocation, in the size of their retirement nest egg, in their current state of health, in whether they have relatives requiring childhood or old age support services, and so on. All of this screams for leaving individuals the widest discretion in whether and when they retire.

One implication of the foregoing is that individuals, not Congress, should have control over their own retirement accounts. Social Security as presently set up has a terrible rate of return, isn’t in any way a “lock box,” and instead is a piggy bank for politicians to raid for pet projects and income redistribution.

A far better option would be for government to encourage individuals to set up diversified, fiscally conservative Keogh-type retirement accounts with up to $10,000 per year income-tax-free contributions allowed and the funds in this account to remain tax-free forever after. Contributions would be allowed, whether one is working or not and even if the contribution is a gift from someone else. Thus, a husband could put $10,000 a year in his wife’s Keogh account to compensate her for years not in the paid labor force — as, for example, when bringing up their young children.

The funds, being held in the private rather than government sector, would contribute to economic growth rather than government growth.

To avoid the kind of demagogery that the Democrats and AARP indulged in when the second president Bush timidly tried to introduce private retirement accounts, individuals — even young people — could be given the choice of joining the low-payout government retirement system or the higher-return individually-owned Keogh account.

The latter individuals would be able to retire when they wished. The former would have to retire when Congress allowed them to.

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