| ||How Federal Pension Laws Influence Individual Work And Retirement Decisions |
Jonathan Barry Forman*
* Professor of Law, The University of Oklahoma College of Law; Northwestern University, B.A., 1973; University of Iowa, M.A. (Psychology), 1975; University of Michigan, J.D., 1978; George Washington University, M.A. (Economics), 1983. Delegate to the 1998 National Summit on Retirement Savings. The author wishes to thank Patricia L. Scahill, Kathryn L. Moore, and Beverly J. Orth for their comments on earlier drafts.
Millions of Americans retire while they are still productive. Of those, many will have the resources to enjoy all of their golden years. Unfortunately, many others will face economic hardships if they exhaust their resources after they have become too frail to return to work. The current pension system is fraught with financial incentives that push able-bodied elderly workers into retirement just when instead they should be encouraged to remain in the work force to accumulate additional retirement assets. This article considers how federal pension laws should be changed in order to encourage elderly workers to remain in the work force.
Part I of this article provides some background on the aging of America and its implications for retirement policy. Part II explains how specific provisions of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and related provisions of the Internal Revenue Code influence the work and retirement decisions of older Americans. Part III considers the appropriate role of the government in regulating the pension system as it affects the timing of retirement. Finally, Part IV recommends modifications to ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code in order to encourage elderly workers to remain in the work force.