Chatterbox Economicus

Chatterbox is having difficulty this morning calculating his economic interest in whether baby boomers retire at an early or late age. According to today’s New York Times, a new study by a market research firm called NPD Group, Inc. says that people above age 50 read an average of an hour a day, “nearly double the time of people in their 20s and below.” Presumably, the reason is that they have more free time. Since Chatterbox’s livelihood depends on people having as much reading time as possible–an hour isn’t really enough, but at least it’s a start–he put down his Times rooting for the miracle economy to make boomers so rich that they’ll retire as soon as they join AARP (which the oldest boomers started doing three years ago). But then Chatterbox picked up the Wall Street Journal, which has an article today that says the retirement age has stopped falling. Eighty-one percent of all 62-year-old men were working in 1950; today, only 54 percent are (even though in the aggregate they are probably in better health). But in 1984, only 51 percent were. Economists disagree about whether this data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the retirement age is going up or down. If boomers retired early, Chatterbox (and, especially, Chatterbox’s children) would end up paying more taxes to support them and the rest of society. But these boomer retirees presumably would also be reading more, which would put money in Chatterbox’s pocket. On the other hand, if boomers retired late, Chatterbox would pay fewer taxes, but would also have less money to pay taxes in the first place, because fewer people would be reading.

The only way Chatterbox can see out of this conundrum is for Chatterbox himself to retire early. Assuming other boomers who made their living by the written word made a similar calculation, retiring boomers would face a dearth of reading matter to amuse themselves with during their sunset years. Which means those few writers who were left would make a killing. Which means maybe Chatterbox should reconsider, and never retire at all.