Monday, January 14, 2008

From Baby to Social Security Boomer


Alyne Ellis of AARP's Prime Time Focus talks with Kathleen Casey-Kirschling about what it's like being the first baby boomer and a spokesperson for a generation.

In February, Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, the nation's very first baby boomer, will become the first in her generation to get Social Security.

The retired teacher, born just after midnight on Jan. 1, 1946, has applied online for early benefits at 62, using a website ( created in 2000 partly to handle the coming influx of 78 million boomers.

Her early retirement foreshadows the strain that fellow boomers will place on Social Security—as well as Medicare. By 2030, there will be 84 million people on Social Security, compared with 50 million now, and 79 million on Medicare, versus 44 million today.

Casey-Kirschling anticipates many others like her will apply for Social Security early. "It's a topic of conversation with baby boomers now," she says.

About half of retirees do take it early, with slightly more women than men making that choice. The consistent pattern defies predictions that more people will work longer.

"You read a lot about people choosing to work and delay retirement, but that hasn't really shown up yet," says Mark Lassiter, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration. Still, Andrew Eschtruth of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College foresees "a gradual recognition of the need to work longer."

As currently structured, Social Security faces a financial shortfall around 2042. But Paul Hodge, director of Harvard University's Generations Policy Project, predicts another, less-noted concern: The declining value of the dollar will create a problem for Social Security by effectively reducing benefits. "Down the road, you're going to have a huge groundswell for a major increase in benefits," he says.

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