STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
But in a new book called "Generation Ageless," co-author Walker Smith says the situation might not be so dire. And Mr. Smith, why not?
WALKER SMITH: Well, baby boomers are going to approach retirement in a very different way than we have seen prior generations. They're more likely to work past the traditional retirement age of 65, and quite frankly, they're in a little bit better financial position than were they parents as they are approaching these ages. So I think while there is a lot of concern that is legitimate, we tend to exaggerate the impact of baby boomers as they're getting older.
INSKEEP: Are you saying people won't retire as soon, meaning that they won't be claiming Social Security benefits quite so soon?
SMITH: So as opposed to living longer as a retired person, I think we're going to see baby boomers live longer as people in the workforce. It's going to be a longer middle age instead of a longer old age - and that, I think, is the kind of transformation in an approach to retirement that isn't accounted for in the kinds of economic models that are being used today to assess the impact of baby boomers on the Social Security system.
INSKEEP: When some analysts or even lawmakers talk about raising the Social Security retirement age a few more years, are you saying that eventually that's going to be a very big deal for many people because they'll be working anyway?
SMITH: I think that's true.
INSKEEP: When accountants in the government and outside look at the Social Security trust fund and see a massive shortfall in the coming years, are they not taking these trends into account?
SMITH: Most boomers don't expect to be working full-time; they really expect to be working part-time.
INSKEEP: And that does - I think there is some income threshold; you can earn up to so much.
SMITH: That's correct. That's correct. And boomers are probably going to earn more than that, even working part-time. You know, there's a lot of speculation about what the nature of part-time work will be. You know, will it be 20 hours a week, or will it be full-time for six months and no work at all for a year, and then full-time for three months? And it's probably more likely to be some kind of a cycling in and out of the workforce like that.
INSKEEP: What does it mean for younger workers if older workers are going to spend an extra five years around the workplace?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SMITH: So there's going to be a continued demand for baby boomers in the workforce that can't be met by the generation immediately behind them. So I don't know if there's going to be as much conflict as we expect, just because we're going to need for baby boomers to stay in the workplace.
INSKEEP: Walker Smith is president of Yankelovich, a research firm. Thanks very much.
SMITH: Thank you.
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