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The Memo: What to know in business this week for March 19, 2018

The Number: 45 percent That's how many American workers have no retirement savings of any kind, according to Maya Rockeymoore Cummings of Global Policy Solutions. Yet people who reach 65 are expected to live another 18-20 years, and Social Securi...

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The Number: 45 percent

That's how many American workers have no retirement savings of any kind, according to Maya Rockeymoore Cummings of Global Policy Solutions. Yet people who reach 65 are expected to live another 18-20 years, and Social Security will stop being able to pay full benefits within that timeframe, barring major reform. So the trend of working longer seems to derive in part from a financial need ... except many of those working or even living past 65 are already wealthier, healthier and better educated. And those who save the least for retirement - due to work situation and/or personal choice - are already historically the most economically disadvantaged. That means as of now every other worker has "nonexistent savings to fund bleak golden years," Brookings Institution economist Gary Burtless said.

The Word: "Employers really shape whether employees work longer or not. It's not just up to the employee," said Peter Berg of Michigan State University, who added that collective bargaining also doesn't focus enough on "flexibility and options for older workers." He said best practices include phased retirement that encourages knowledge transfer to younger workers, flexibility over working hours and recognizing diversity when it comes to age.

The Lead: If you couldn't tell, I'm opening up my notebook from last week's working longer conference I attended in Washington. One big takeaway is that just like the computer I'm composing this on, retirement is a modern invention. In 1910 Americans routinely worked into their 70s, if they lived that long, but the average retirement age fell for decades until it started moving up again for, as you've seen and will continue to read about, various reasons. The retirement experiment was driven in large part by hard-won, defined-benefit pension plans and longer life expectancies stemming from great success fighting cardiovascular disease and cancer. But as University of Illinois at Chicago economist S. Jay Olshansky finds, there are diminishing returns to living longer. By studying ways to slow aging itself - no snake oil, it's happening, folks - then our final years can be more pleasant and productive.

The Happy Hour: Oh, jeez. I'm almost out of room, so here's something quick to quench your thirst: Earth Rider Brewery in Superior has released its beer in 12-ounce cans, which are now available at retailers around the Twin Ports. Refreshingly concise, no?

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The Memo is a weekly roundup of things to know, ya know? Send business news of all kinds to biz@duluthnews.com and give working-longest reporter Brooks Johnson a call every now and then at (218) 723-5329.

Brooks Johnson was an enterprise/investigative reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune from 2016 to 2019.
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