Susan Milligan has been visiting six Election 2012 battleground states to talk with 50-plus voters for a report that will be published in the September issue of the AARP Bulletin. She posted this from Missouri.
It’s easy to see why retired and semi-retired people find Columbia, Mo., so appealing. As a university town, it carries a certain aura of intellectualism and energy. It has independent bookstores, charming cafes and lots to do for a city its size. But some voters here who are nearing retirement wonder if Social Security will be around for the rest of their lives. And full retirement, some say, may not be feasible until much later than they’d expected.
It’s not unusual to hear politicians and others “talking about how there won’t be money for Social Security,” says Mary Sue O’Bannon, 67, a special-education teacher. “Is it going to be there forever?” O’Bannon would like the presidential candidates to address the solvency issue. She’s already planning to keep working after she officially retires to bring in more cash.
Jeanne Abbott, also 67, is continuing to work as a college professor while she collects Social Security. “Retirement isn’t really an option,” she says.
Here in Columbia, older voters seem to be of one mind: They believe elected officials ought to honor the promise of Social Security to retirees but are planning for the possibility that they won’t. “The obligation to the Social Security Trust Fund is every bit as real as the obligation to any other U.S. bonds,” says Mark Haim, 63, who works at a nonprofit bookstore. “We owe the money. The taxpayers owe it.”
Michael Grinfeld, 61, a former insurance executive and lawyer turned professor, wants to see Social Security and Medicare protected and is frustrated that lawmakers aren’t tackling the issues head-on. “There’s no question we need to do something, but that question is so polarizing, so political, that it’s not getting addressed,” Grinfeld says.
In Columbia, older voters are planning to extend their working years, just to be on the safe side. -Susan Milligan