Archive Hosted by the AFL-CIO

Tuesday Talk: Are you ready for retirement?

August 16, 2011 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

With uncertainty over Medicare and Medicaid’s future, private and some public sector employers phasing out pensions, and stock market volatility, Minnesotans of all ages face a lot of retirement planning challenges. What’s been your experience with this issue?

What policies do we need in place to ensure health care and financial security in retirement?

Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.


  • Ruth A. Robelia says:

    August 16, 2011 at 8:25 am

    I have been retired since the end of the school year 2010.  My hours were being cut for the next school year and I knew this trend was just the beginning.  When you have to pay interest to borrow money because funds your district were promised were held back, it costs jobs, jobs, jobs!  In retirement, I have discovered that between my insurance until 65 and my frugal spending, I am getting along.  Now I will have to pay for Medicare Part B and Part D as well as a supplemental.  Thank goodness I am healthy.  I am looking forward to working for President Obama’s reelection in 2012, along with any candidate that will work for unity across the aisle.  i thank Gov Dayton for holding the line on the reckless spenders now in charge of the state government (they padded the big boys pockets once again).  Let’s all work for the common good by using common sense ........  we need to close all loopholes and raise taxes on anyone making 250,000 or more.  May God Bless Minnesota and keep her strong.  We the people will take back our government in 2012.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    August 16, 2011 at 8:35 am

    I am supremely grateful to have retired in 2003, before the right-wing assault on government’s role in protecting its citizens from anything except crimes against property or the threat of terror anywhere in the world took full flight.

    A couple of years ago, Representative Betty McCollum introduced a House resolution to pass a constitutional amendment naming health care as a human right.  This would be a huge step toward preventing the success of attempts to gut Social Security (which is self-supporting), Medicare and Medicaid.

    The rest of the steps we could, and perhaps must, take are listed in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Second Bill of Rights,” which should also be enacted as amendments to the constitution.

    (I don’t have time to look up the Second Bill of Rights right now; perhaps another commenter would do so.  Thanks.)

  • Carol Michealson says:

    August 16, 2011 at 8:48 am

    The countries that have the highest standard of living and the lowest rates of poverty tax and spend differently from the U.S.  Their money goes towards education, health care, infrastructure and research and development.  Defense spending is a very xmall part of their budget.  Right now in Washington, there is too much focus on the entitlement programs we have all earned by paying into them all our lives and not enough attention to the huge defense budget that has doubled in the last 10 years.  If that were cut in half, we could spend money on U.S. infrastructure and shore up Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  All companies should have a minimum tax requirement which would be higher for companies that send jobs overseas.

  • Mark Freeman says:

    August 16, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Is anyone truly ready for retirement?  It sneeks up on us so fast, that it is here before we know it.  The days of a quality living standard pension for workers (non-professional) has come and gone.  And with the questionable future of Social Security, one must ask themselves if it will take destitute faces and impoverished elderly citizens to wake us up to the importance of caring for each member of our society.

    I have had union and non-union jobs all of my life, and have a pension from a former employer as well as from my current employer.  Will it be enough?  Absolutly not.  I am also putting money into a 403-B, but the rate of return is so abyssmal that it will not help much either.

    I live by the adage that I have on a refrigerator magnet in my home:

    “I can retire today, and be financially secure.

    Providing I die next week.”

    So much for my “Lack of Gold”-en years.

  • John Crampton says:

    August 16, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Warren Buffet’s article in today’s Star Tribune “Please Tax Me.  I Can Take It.”  says it all.  He and the rich pay an effective tax rate of 17.4% of their taxable income, while the middle class pays an average of 36% of our taxable income. 

    The Republican Party has made it it’s #1 and only goal to protect and extend these unfair tax advantages that those making over $250,000/year have.  They and their Tea Baggers wingnuts are willing to destroy the economy of this country in order to preserve these advantages for a small class of people who are vicious parasites. 

    Regarding the writer who cited Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms from his 3rd Inaugural Address, they are

    1. Freedom of speech and expression
    2. Freedom of worship
    3. Freedom from want
    4. Freedom from fear

    Sadly, our country has gone in a direction which is 180 degrees from this—- the world’s bully, protector of the rich and powerful, oppressor of the weak and helpless, destroyer of our planet’s environment….. promoter of religious fanaticism, denier of science, progress and hope for future generations.

  • Charlie says:

    August 16, 2011 at 9:35 am

    My wife and I both are retired at age 62, and we are secure, but we probably aren’t the retirees the question concerns.

    We both worked and made good money (eventually, I started and sold a business). We had one child. We lived below our means, including housing and transportation, and paid off our credit cards each month. We saved, put away the max in 401(k)s and invested, if not wisely, at least well enough. Our retirement home is paid for.

    The world will have to have much worse problems than it has today before we worry about retirement security. We could be poster children for the GOP’s view of how retirement should work — except it won’t work out that way for most people who don’t have our good fortune in life.

    Yet the GOP seems to worry mostly about people like us, who could still get along without government help if we had to.

    We could have paid Social Security and Medicare taxes on more of our working income. We could live with a later start to qualifying for payments and medical insurance coverage. We could have paid higher income taxes while we were working, and we would still be ahead of most retired Americans today.

    But those solutions hardly seem to be in the mix.


  • Paul Harder says:

    August 16, 2011 at 9:42 am

    There have been a couple of comments relative to FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. Please take a moment and read his exact words. I’ll save my comments for later.

    FDR said;
    “It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
    This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
    As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
    We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.”[2] People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
    In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
    Among these are:
    The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
    The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
    The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
    The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
    The right of every family to a decent home;
    The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
    The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
    The right to a good education.
    All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
    America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens.
    For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

    Choose Wisely.

  • Ed Rapp says:

    August 16, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Common guys and gals… get your feet wet! I’ve been retired from teaching for eighteen years, and I’m having more fun than I had in the old days.  As an officer of Education Minnesota Retired and the AFL/CIO Retiree Council I get to edit a newsletter, write stinging editorials, produce TV shows (Voiced of Experience), lobby boards, commissions and the legislature, and even walk a few picket lines.  And I keep busy otherwise with my grand and great-grand children.
    On the other hand in the last couple of years I’ve had a perforated spine, a stroke, Stage 3 colon cancer, six months of chemo, GERD, Open heart surgury and 25 sessions of rehab.  All this cost about a half-million bucks, of which Medicare paid 98%, insurance 2%, and my copays came out to about .08%.  AIN’T MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY WONDERFUL?

  • Amy Wilde says:

    August 16, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Planning for retirement has always been somewhat of a gamble. Property & investments can lose value, and a person’s health and job security is uncertain. I’m going to play devil’s advocate a little here & note that, in the past 25 years, some people have been retiring too early and guaranteed earnings on public pensions have contributed significantly to the current govt deficits. People who say they’ve been contributing to their own pension and SS are correct, but so have their employers and, in the case of govt workers (I was one for 20 years and have a modest pension of less than $700/mo.) so have the taxpayers. Increasing the full retirement age is something we should look at to help balance the shortfall, but we should keep a lower benefit at age 62 to sustain those whose health deteriorates before a later age. Other options include reduced spending on defense (every veteran has told me there’s waste in military operations), higher taxes on the wealthy, getting rid of the mortgage interest deduction on 2nd homes, and the possibility for people without employer-provided health coverage to “buy into” Medicare or some other public option. A switch to only defined contributions or more modest defined benefits in public pensions is inevitable. Personally, I retired a little earlier than expected, and am looking for part-time work to help bridge the gap between pensions & expenses. Am glad I have the health to do so. At the end of the day, however, neither individuals or govts can take all the “risk” out of life.

  • Mike Downing says:

    August 16, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Like Charlie, we are retired and lived well within our means to support our retirement. We are very thankful for our many blessings.

    Being ready for retirement starts 35-50 years earlier in taking full advantage of public education. Being a life long learner helps one remain current in one’s field and makes one competitive in this highly competitive job market.

    It takes a long time of saving & investing to be prepared for retirement.  A “Dave Ramsey” like plan of becoming debt free is key to financial independence and being prepared for retirement.

  • Dan Parker says:

    August 16, 2011 at 10:19 am

    What retirement?  My wife & I have resigned ourselves to the fact that we’ll be working until the day we die.

  • Rachel says:

    August 16, 2011 at 10:27 am

    NPR ran an interesting piece today noting that those retiring today, even though they have been hit by the recession, were generally treated well by the markets thanks to the 90’s, etc. However, those looking to retire in 2020 or later are likely to suffer from this “lost decade” of recession.

    What sorts of policies should we consider to prepare for this?

    Listen here:

  • Sandy says:

    August 16, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Purchasing long term care insurance is vital.

  • randy herman says:

    August 16, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Now that both my wife and I are formally retired and eligible for Medicare, we have been shocked at the ‘overchoice’ of supplemental plans and the complexity of their various benefits. I believe you will only know if you have made the right choice after you are sick and find out what is not covered. I am also shocked at the cost of complete coverage, if you try and do A, B, D and a supplemental and long term care, not to mention dental. There is no way an average wage earner can do this on just social security. We need to actively lobby to extend the social security tax to the highest income brackets. We need to find brokers who can assist folks in making good decisions on what plans work for them and in the long run lobby for a national plan that takes the profit out of health care.

  • One of Many Boomers says:

    August 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I am not ready for RETIREMENT!
    Why? I still have many things to do in life…
    Yes, I lost my Full Time Job due to a manager from Hell and an HR person who lied all the time.

    Iwork a PT job, I like it, now I want to go back to school…
    and do many other things…

    If anyone listened to “Charlie Rose ” last night Warren buffett
    said the Rich should be taxed, which I do agree with…

    When I retire I will not retire in this very HIGH taxable state
    and I will not let Medicare get the best of me and take my
    money that I worked so hard to acheive….

    I do not   have health insurance now, am starting to my retirement at a late age

    Also, the p[oliticians have it so good, they take our money
    and they get $32,000 for Medicare and Social Security!!!!!
    That was according to Warren Buffet, whom I do believe is correct.

    I hope many of you go to an Island and do not let Medicare or Social Security get the best of you

    Take care my Friends

    Love and Peace of Life

    So all I can say is get a canoe or a boat put it behind a camper
    and live by the ocean(not practical yet many Boomers do it)
    or move to PORTUGAL, Spain, or Cuba or some forgotten Island…
    that is what I am going to do after I finish school…
    Also in many states Boonmers can go to school FREE!!


  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    August 16, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Thank you and Amen, Mr. Herman.

    I spend about a fourth of my after-tax income on Medicare premiums (Parts AB and D), co-pays, deductibes and Doughnut Hole drug purchases. There are others who pay even more. 

    A national health care plan like that of Canada would save the U.S. about $400 billion per year in taxpayer, patient and provider expenses coming mostly from dealing with a for-profit insurance bureaucracy made up of many insurers instead of just one non-profit: a Medicare-for-All plan that leaves no one out.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    August 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Too bad FDR wasn’t born about a 150 years earlier isn’t it? maybe some of those words could have been enshrined in the Constitution, but they were not and are not. It is sad that those very words while creating comfort for the truly needy also provide resbit to the lazy and criminal. The biggest problem with the Socialist utopea is it’s willingness to give criminals and the cronically lazy a free ride like medicare fraud. It totally leaves out the right to fail and pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Socialism is incentive for the lazy and disinsentive for those willing to work harder. Everyone does not deserve an equal share unless they are willing to do equal work for it. Our Fereral government has never been able to work out this differance, so return the power of decition making to the local level where we can.

  • Steve Janusz says:

    August 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Having reached Medicare age last year I don’t look forward to 10/15/11 when I have to go through the major task of deciding my Medicare insurance plan for next year.  What a pain!

    What we need is an “Improved Medicare for All”.  This is a program to cover everyone from birth to death that we all pay into as our yearly income permits.  This takes the existing Medicare program and brings it upto date with coverages and keeps administrative costs at much lower rates than our current private insurance based system.

  • Paul Harder says:

    August 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Bill, it’s interesting that you seem to want to roll out the “socialist” tag on lots of things. As I read your comments I was amazed at how much of it we agree on…

    Let me first say this. I grew up in east central Iowa, not far from the Amana Colonies. The colonies were organized as a communial society (socialist) and existed that way for many years. They were completely self sufficient and everyone worked and had a “share” of the “wealth” generated by the commune.

    Not all socialist activities are bad, i.e. highways, police, fire, public works projects and I will include Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid in there too.

    If you have issues with Medicare fraud you need to look at the businesses not the individuals. The Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, ran a business ( Columbia/HCA) before he was elected that admitted to defrauding the federal government through medicare billing. Scott was forced to resign as Chairman and CEO (BTW, he picked up a cool $10M + $350M of HCA stock to walk away.

    Is there such a thing as lazy people living off the government, I’m sure there are, but I would bet that the number is very small.

    For years I have championed a different kind of welfare that would train and support people in jobs and home life. Most of the people that are “living off welfare” are not capable of gaining or holding a living wage job without some kind of support. You and I are lucky in the sense that we grew up in a household where we learned the life skills needed to be a contributing member of society (Hummm that sounds a but socialist too).

    In my position at work I sometimes have to hire staff to fill a vacancy. It has been a long time since I have recieved less that 100 resumes for the one position I have open at a time. There are a lot of people out there out of work and they are not lazy. It’s a full time job to look for work these days.

    I’m also one of the fortunate ones, I should be in good shape when I retire, but then again, I’ll never stop working in some way, maybe I’ll be that greeter in Walmart one day, who knows. But there are a LOT of people that will not be able to retire just because of bad luck. Bad luck to being born to a poor family, bad luck to have lost a house, bad luck because a business went bankrupt and cost them a retirement pension promise.

    I like to look at the Declaration of Independence “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” as follows…

    Life = healthcare. Your life won’t exist or if it does won’t be worth much if you don’t have healthcare. Best solution = Medicare for All (Universal Single Payer)

    Liberty = healthcare, minimum living stipend (Social Security), affordable housing and lots of those socialist programs such as police and fire.

    Pursuit of Happiness = the ability to be happy…  to be happy you need to not worry about healthcare, money, food or housing.

    We need;

    Medicare for All,
    Social Security that provides a livible steipend,
    Affordable housing to a minimum standard,
    Affordable food (the healthy stuff, not junk),

    to do this we need,

    To raise the cap on payroll taxes (FICA) to $500,000 (It’s currently $106K and Change),
    Instutite Medicare for All to be paid for by re-routing current healthcare insurance premiums from the insurance industry to the federal government single payer authority (One huge pool to spread risk, negotiation of drug costs and much lower administration costs),
    Sliding scale cost to housing and food.

    Does this sound socialist?  Maybe it does, or maybe it just sounds like the right thing to do…

    Choose Wisely.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    August 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    First of all Paul, as I have said before, read Franklins autobiography to get an Idea of the structure used for our Fire and Police protection as well as public works. Only Unionization and it’s creating a labor management conflict converted these structures to socialism. I was glad to see you did not include our public school system which was clearly not created socialist either but is now. As for social security, it was a Democrat controled Congress under a Democrat President, (Johnson) that opened pandoras box and allowed the Fed. Government to start putting IOU’s in the SS funds box. No one has been willing to end this practice since it started. Then there is medicare, during our last disscusion you indicated that ONLY $30 billion a year is being stolen, even using that punny figure we have lost over a Trillion dollars so far in this program. This is exactly why we can not afford to allow this structure to be expanded to include all. There is no economy of scale being achieved through medicare and never will. We need to look at other models with stronger price controls and local control of decition making. Medicare is a failed program that you and yours keep trying to convince us is a success. Making it an even larger failed program only bankrupts our county sooner. As for the majority of welfare recipients being truly needy, you didn’t even touch on the families that are 3 and 4 generations on welfare, of course they don’t live in your neighborhood so how could you be expected to know. Then there is SS fraud that is almost as rampant as medicare fraud, but to you and your supporters this is all part of the cost of doing buisness and is acceptable losses. Everything you Woodrow Wilson progressives have touched since prohabition reaks of failure, graft, and fraud yet you push for more with no effort to fix your present failures. I too want to see a healthcare system that covers everone but is patient based not government based, that is patient and healthcare worker controled not government controled, that is flexible not one size fits all, and that is bottom up not top down socialism. We will fight you into hell to stop this second class health care that is more about a public employee power grab than it is about helping us in any way.

  • Carol Michealson says:

    August 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Paul, that was well said and I agree with all of it.  We’ve become a society that’s more about greed than caring, and I hoped that would change would Obama, which it did a little.  I especially want Medicare for All.


  • Paul Harder says:

    August 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Bill, You know, you and I really aren’t that far off. I too think healthcare decisions should be made between doctor and patient, no one should get in the middle of that. We differ where you thing that because the government is the payer in stead of insurance companies that it is somehow socialist. Also, I can tell you for a certainty that the insurance companie comes between my doctor and me all the time. I want them both out of the way.

    Medicare fraud is for the most part a insurance business problem, they are the fradulant ones, not the consumers although I’m sure there are some bad actors in the consumer pool.

    You and I both agree that it was wrong to start pilfering the social security tax pool. I don’t have at the tip of my fingers or brain who the first President was that allowed that to happen, maybe it was Johnson but that should never have happened to cover up the national debt and you are correct when you say there hasn’t been another President willing to close that down. That said, it is backed up by T-bills (the iou’s you mention) and they are part of the debt numbers (unfortunately).

    Bill, you and I aren’t so far apart, I think the big difference is your need to call something socialist, why I haven’t yet heard but I’m sure you have your reasons…  I’d love to hear them one day.

    As far as multi-generational welfare, it’s true that happens, it’s also true that it’s really hard to break out of…  That said, why don’t “we the people” become more proactive in assisting these folks with a hand up.  Job and life skills training coupled with an actual livible wage job and some ongoing coaching so they can break free of that awful circle.

    I’m curious. I don’t know your age, but I think you may be old enough to be retired. Are you? and if so are you on social security and medicare?

    Choose Wisely.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    August 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    We are much farther apart than you realize Paul. First let’s look at what I have in mind when I talk about healthcare; 1. Patient based, the entire system is set up for the best interest of the patient, no using the pateint to bleed the system, or tests to cover malpractice exposure. 2. A system that works at making the medical proffesional the best he or she can be and protects them in return, (no malpractice). 3. A system that covers our health care proffesionals medical training costs in return for service time. 4 A system in which patients and medical proffesionalls jointly own all facilities in which health care proffesionals vested retirement is held. 6. A system whose elements are locally based and controled by a council of it’s owners, while bookwork is controled centrally on all the individual coops behalf.
    This sytem already exists and has been up and functioning since 1963. During that time it has grown from 1200 founders to over 55,000 workers, their families, and their retired persons. I was fortunate to have learned about this structure through a Blandin Foundation Grant in the mid 1980’s. This Coop structure provides the best healthcare system on the planet for less than 1 dollar to 6 we are spending, yet the more big government crowd won’t even allow it to come to the table for discussion.
    As for medicare fraud, there you go again downplaying the reality, ABC, CBS, and PBS have all done documentaries exposing massive organized criminal fraud by groups like the Russian Mafia, African criminal organizations and every criminal organization operating in our gettos. See how fast a drug store that is up for sale in the getto moves on the market. This is our responsibility and we need to lead the charge to fix it.
    Then you go defending these poor useless losers who have learned to play the system to the max and your willing to reward them. We do need a training program modeled after the CCC and aimed at our extremely serious invasive speciecs problem. Same mission as last time with it again being a functional backup for the military during lean budget times.

  • Charlie Quimby says:

    August 18, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    I did a blog post partly sparked by this coversation:

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    August 19, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I do appreciate your making your post know Charley so I was able to respond too it acordingly.

  • Paul Harder says:

    August 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Bill, Your coop suggestion is interesting. Most of it I agree with but still think national single payer is the best approach, that said. I too think it should be patient centered, I too think that GP’s and family practice docs should have their college costs covered in exchange for time of service. I do find it interesting that a central idea of socialism, communial coops, is a notion that you support given your obvious dislike for socialism. I would love to know more about this healthcare coop. If you would please direct me to some kind of online information about it, I may sign on myself.

    As for the russian mafia and other organized crime. I can’t speak to a lot of detail due to my job. What I can say is yes, I know they have their hands in SS and Medicare fraud as well as a LOT of other stuff you and I use everyday. I do not downplay their involvement in medicare or anything else I’m very aware of…

    I also agree that a ccc like program would be very good for people in welfare, but the jobs still have to be there for them once their ccc time is complete.

    Choose wisely.

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    August 19, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Paul, while you are ultruistically correct that coops could be considered a socialist structure, where we part company is on government, top down structures led by the educated elite. I have been an electric Coop member for all my adult life, I have banked with 2 different Credit Unions over my adult life. I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk. These are locally controled people structures, not Top Down government in your face socialism of the political kind. These medical structures are secondary Coops in the Mondragon Industrial Coop system. What they have acomplished free of government intervention turns all the socialist ideals on their heals. These are semi autonamous capitalistic structures that produce tremendouse cost efficiencies in the worlds most succesfull worker owned for profit capitalistict structures. If you can find any example in socialism thay matches what they have accomplished, I would be happy to see it.

  • Dan Conner says:

    September 20, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    WD Billy-to say you belong to a credit union and electrical coop meaning it indicates you are a strong supporter of coops is bobbycock.  First, electrical coiops serve an area, not people you ask for it.  I’m also in an electrical coop.  That’s because they are the only utitlity serving my area.  Big deal!  I guess that means I’m an electrical coop supporter too?  Our electrical coop is more expoensive than the regulated utility close by.  That’s because the coop has to buy its power from the regulated utility.  So, it pays its overhead on top of the purchase price of the power.  So, the regulated utility makes money off the coop.  Consequently, you are supporting a capitalist utitlity afterall.

    You say you belong to a credit union…great.  So do I.  That doesn’t make me a Mondrago supporter.  Also, credit unions are also regulated financial institutions.  I think you need to take a better macro view of things and how they fit into the big picture.  You might watch less TV.