The book combines a policy overview with practical suggestions on how to navigate Social Security and Medicare as well as other programs that affect retirement planning.
Mark translates the intricacies of both Social Security and Medicare into understandable factors to consider in achieving greater financial security, especially in these uncertain and stressful times. His suggestions to improve personal retirement planning will be welcomed by those who need unbiased guidance from a reputable, savvy, and trustworthy source, especially the many older workers who are nearing retirement in the U.S. and are anxious about the future of these core social insurance programs. *
He emphasizes the critical importance of universal risk-sharing programs in providing foundations of income and health security. He also avoids a one-size-fits-all approach by noting the higher risks faced by population segments, especially people of color as “the result of our history of racism in the labor market evident in everything from hiring to pay, promotions, and benefits.” (p.9)
Mark identifies “complexity (as) the enemy of everyday working Americans trying to build toward a financially secure retirement.” (p. 11) He describes a series of difficult decisions that need to be made in connection with both Social Security and Medicare, which will have long-term consequences. The book’s sections on “optimizing Social Security” and “navigating Medicare,” with links to reliable resources and scenarios, are particularly helpful. Its chapter on “Managing Long-Term Care Risk” (pp. 143-159) is thorough though disconcerting, as our nation still lacks a coherent, affordable approach to this growing risk.
The book culminates in a clarion call for “a new social insurance era,” in which he notes that “we need to advocate for changes in these programs so that they can serve us better.” (p.17, pp. 221-252) One of the risks he identifies is the “policy risk that the federal government will fail to continue fully funding Social Security or Medicare.” (p. 24) He also notes that “the very phrase social insurance has fallen into disuse,” adding: “We call these programs social because they bring us together as a society – with the federal government serving as plan sponsor. We call them insurance because Social Security and Medicare protect us from certain risks. Everyone who contributes is protected. Together, we pool our risks and our responsibilities.” He concludes: “Now is the time for social insurance to do more.”
*The Academy’s Task Force on Older Workers’ Retirement Security will soon be issuing its final report on older workers who are working in physically demanding jobs and are not currently eligible for Social Security or Medicare.