“Each day,10,000 baby boomers retire and begin receiving Medicare and Social Security benefits.”
–Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), writing in The Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2014
A reader asked about this line in Sen. Portman’s article, which warned of a looming budget crisis because of growth in entitlements. Could this figure possibly be true?
Ten thousand people a day is certainly a big number. Over 365 days, that’s almost 4 million people. But then everything about the “Baby Boom” generation is pretty big.
There were 76 million people born between the years 1946 and 1964, the traditional window for the baby boom generation. That means that they will retire over a 19-year period. Simple math shows that 76 divided by 19 is 4 million, or almost 11,000 people a day.
While a certain percentage will die before they reach retirement age, analysts say that immigrants will actually boost the number of potential baby-boomer retirees to nearly 80 million —and not everyone retires exactly at 65 or 66. Some baby boomers likely retired at 62. So let’s say it’s 80 million over 20 years—which still yields 4 million a year.
Thus, as a simple round figure, 10,000 a day is pretty close. In fact, that a number used by the Social Security Administration in a 2012 report, which Portman spokeswoman Caitlin Conant said was a source used by the senator. She also cited a Pew Research Center report that used this figure.
Indeed, in a 2013 report, the Social Security Administration said that the wave of baby boom retirements was a significant problem for the agency itself: “By 2015, almost 33 percent of our workforce, including 48 percent of our supervisors, will be eligible to retire. In FY [fiscal year] 2011, we lost over 4,000 employees due to retirement and other reasons. We expect this trend to continue. During this same timeframe, the baby boomer retirement wave continues to have a significant effect on our workloads.”
The impact of baby boom retirements will certainly put pressure not only on the Social Security Administration, but on the Social Security and Medicare systems. So this is an appropriate figure to cite when discussing entitlement programs. (For more on Social Security, read The Fact Checker’s popular guide to critical questions about Social Security.)
The Pinocchio Test
Portman is on solid ground with this number. He earns a coveted—and rare—Geppetto Checkmark.
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