The “Big Retirement Risk” by Chuck Jaffe raises timely, urgent issues but draws completely the wrong conclusions. He correctly points out that historically, pension plans “pooled risk” and worked well to protect seniors no matter how long they lived.
He is completely wrong when he concludes, “this is a case where individuals should not be worried about the societal problem so much as their own, where personal habits can determine an outcome that is on the plus side of average.”
No, Chuck. To suggest that millions of unemployed, not to mention those working several jobs and barely making ends meet, need only change their habits in order to retire “on the plus side of average” is cruel and shortsighted. We are in this boat together.
The only way to protect our old age and strengthen the economy, is — as you correctly point out — to pool risk. This means re-establishing a sound pension system.
And for the more hard-nosed among us: Destitute old people are a drain on the economy (reduced spending) and every family (picking up the tab). Let’s not go there.