President’s Message – September 2010
Most of us look forward to retirement with excitement, and some trepidation. We have to adjust to losing the structure of our work routines. We have to adjust to losing the daily social interaction with our colleagues. And, we have to adjust to losing the security of our work income. This last adjustment is best managed with a well designed retirement plan – a plan with some degree of certainty.
Historically retirement income has been built on the foundation of an employer's defined benefit pension plan, Social Security, and personal savings. Add to the mix a retiree medical plan and you have the makings of a financially secure retirement. This foundation, however, has been breaking down for some years now, with fewer nurses covered by an employer pension plan, Social Security seemingly under constant attack, and personal savings subject to the vagaries of Wall Street.
Since we work all our lives paying into the Social Security system, it should be the certainty in our retirement plan. So, the attacks on Social Security need to stop and the fixes need to start. Part of the problem with fixing Social Security, however, is the myths that always seem to make the rounds when changes are debated. For example, Social Security was never intended to be a pension. Of course it was – from its very beginning. Or that its designers in the late 1930s didn't anticipate Americans would live much beyond age 65. Not true – even back then the average Americans who would have collected Social Security lived into their early 70s. Or my favorite – Social Security is just another government entitlement program. Again, not true. Have you checked your pay stub lately? You pay a 6.2% Social Security tax each and every pay period, along with an equal contribution from your employer – a total of 12.4%.
There is no question that Social Security needs updating and there are a variety of ways to address this. One would be to raise the retirement age – it currently ranges from 65 to 67. Not such a good fix for health care professionals. Can you imagine working beyond 67 as a nurse? Nursing is such demanding work that many of us struggle to make age 62 or 65 as a working nurse. Another would be to increase the cap on income subject to the Social Security tax – it is currently $106,800. Perhaps. Another would be to increase the Social Security tax. Again, perhaps. I am sure there are other viable fixes as well that would secure Social Security's future, and therefore, our future. The time is now to
get it done.
Kathy J. Sackman, RN