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Its Off to Work I Go

I recently received a letter from the Social Security Administration. This outlined how much I had paid into the program. Also, the amount of my monthly payment from the fund that I would get when I retire was also stated. This amount would depend upon the age for which I will choose to retire.

I assumed erroneously that the full retirement amount would be at 65 years of age. Based on my date of birth I need to work until 66 years of age to qualify for my full retirement benefits.

When Social Security got its start in the 1930's, many of the people did not reach the retirement age or died shortly thereafter. Therefore, the scales were tipped in favor of the fund and not to the receivers of the benefits with respect to cash flow.

Those who are well versed in this subject have been hashing it out so as to offer tentative solutions to keep an ample cash flow in both directions. Because the demographics have changed since its inception, a second look at how it operates is not without merit.

People are living longer in the United States and life expectancy is currently about 78 years of age. However, this accomplishment with the unparallel advances in medical science is in stark contrast to other parts of the globe. For example, in some African nations life expectancy is about 35 years of age and is actually declining. This sad note is attributed to the chronic debilitation and eventual death of those with the insidious AIDS Syndrome.

For those nations the age groups that historically have been relied upon for economic productivity are dying. Wealthier countries, of course, can lend a hand to bolster these nations in their time of dire need.

Nonetheless, the demands to stave off the infection are great. The social consequences are devastating when one looks upon a society that has to dig their own graves much too soon. Besides the economic paralysis that this may cause, they have to cope with the inheritance of an orphan society.

If other catastrophic events in the world such as floods, earthquakes, famines and wars are considered, who has enough resources and manpower to provide the humanitarian aid? This is an ongoing juggling act of what and who values more. Who is going to give what to whom? The accusations of arrogant favoritism or disdainful neglect may abound. How is the United States going to strike a fair balance with taking care of the needs of its own aging population and to support those who are not our citizens who are truly struggling to survive?

In the United States birth rates have declined through the years. Infant and childhood mortality was higher then also, thus families may have had more children with the expectation that some of their children may have died of disease. The shift from an agrarian to an industrial, technical and urban centered society could not support the justification of having large families to provide for help around the farm.

A drifting away from a more family and community focus to one that placed a stronger emphasis on the individual with his or her self-interests has increased in popularity. Self has triumphed over other.

With a dwindling recognition and appreciation in some circles of women for their role in taking care of the children and the home, women have aspired for an education and demanded equal rights in the workplace.

Consequently, as they have developed competitive skills, they have moved into the office and men have moved out. Yes, there has been an undeniable shift in the workplace composition in terms of gender. Yet, many contend not enough has been done to assist women in their quest for equality in the job market and in the workplace.

Education was instrumental in this. Years ago an inadequate education could be used to lock the door that opened to a life of financial freedom and respect based on performance. Women now can say that they fought hard to get everything they have. They did it their way and not the way society and in particular men may have wanted them to do it.

Until recently Afghanistan had a literacy rate in women of only 15%. Measurable psychosocial changes occur when a population becomes educated. Among other things a rational way of thinking using facts replaces one based on myths. These changes will occur in other developing countries as well. For example, if the women are educated in a predominantly poor country, they are in a better position to fend for themselves and their children if their husband deserts them. Then childcare programs will proliferate to take care of the children while their mommies earn a living.

Much emphasis was given to getting a good education as the panacea for eliminating or at the minimum for reducing the turbulence in a person's life. Yet even with intellectual and technical sophistication in the United States, many formally educated females as well as males, are underemployed. They have settled for taking lower paying service jobs. Has this been a slap in the face of those who were educated and trained by a society who has had to apologize that there are insufficient job positions in their discipline?

Another reason why people gravitate to a job outside their discipline of expertise is that they can actually make more money in some fields requiring less formal education or they are more contented. Motivation plays an important factor in this along with demand for product or service. A small businessperson who develops a career starting from a hobby of many years may do better financially and psychologically than had he pursued being a certified public accountant working for a major financial institution.

Matching up the person with a successful job is as vital for the individual as for the society as a whole. A businessman needs to manage his inventory wisely and have the ability to decide what products are likely to sell. Why should he invest heavily in a product that does not move from the store shelves and merely collects dust? If that is not enough, the warehouse is stacked to the rafters with the same product nobody wants or does not know why it should have it. To make matters worse, his contractual agreement with the supplier means next week he'll receive another shipment of the same item.

The similar scenario can be applied to a society that is churning out workers for which there is no market for their skills. Society should bear some of the responsibility in guiding workers to fields for which there is a need. If the inventory of mismatched workers increases to a critical level, who is going to solve the problems in the world? Both the individual and society suffer because of lack of forethought.

Part of the dilemma arises when needs and desires are out of synchrony. If what is produced either in terms of a product or a workforce is congruent with what is needed by the individual or society, the incoming and outgoing flow into the Social Security fund should be adequate. Ideally, the goal should be to create products that are both needed and desired. That will keep the people working happily, earning a decent income and living healthier lives.

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