Pushing back retirement age to 70 would be harder on low-income workers

It sounds like a simple fix to the nation’s immense problem of funding Social Security and Medicare for an aging country — just get everyone to work to 70 and the math works out a lot better.

But this idea, despite being embraced by a number of politicians, has a long way to go. It’s being challenged in academic circles as a new form of inequality. This one has been dubbed “longevity inequality.”

The argument made against a retirement age of 70 is that it’s not fair to people in the types of jobs that require brawn. Think of a 68-year-old climbing on top of a house to replace the roofing. Then compare that person with a 68-year-old tapping a computer keyboard.

In addition, people with college educations and desk jobs tend to live longer than those with low incomes. Here’s where the money inequality issue gets fierce. If the professional lives a lot longer than the roofer, after retiring at 70 the person who had the desk job could keep getting monthly Social Security checks for years longer than the roofer. So the argument is that a lot more Social Security will go to the affluent people than to those who met their demise at a much earlier point in life.