The Agenda

Early Retirement in Wisconsin

Earlier today, E.J. McMahon drew my attention to an article by Ianthe Jeanne Dugan in the Wall Street Journal that described a wave of retirements among public workers, including two Wisconsin teachers quoted by Dugan: 


Among Wisconsin public employees filing for retirement are Mary and Len Herricks, both teachers in Oshkosh. They put in their papers in mid-March after lawmakers voted to rein in most public-employee collective-bargaining rights.

“Not only am I losing salary and benefits and facing a bigger work load, but now they are taking away my rights,” says Ms. Herricks, a 56-year-old elementary school teacher. A teacher for 35 years who earns in the high 50s, Ms Herricks can now retire and collect nearly her former salary. “Retirement was supposed to be something happy. I’m so sad.”

This does sound very unfortunate. There are many Americans who would welcome retiring at age 56 while receiving almost the same amount in pension benefits as they did when working full-time, but Ms. Herricks is not one of them, it seems. Fortunately, as she explains later in the article, she intends to continue working as a substitute teacher, which will hopefully supplement her income while also giving her an opportunity to stay engaged with her old school and the larger community. 

I will say, however, that I’m somewhat more concerned about the prospects for job creation for less-skilled workers. Many of colleagues seem to believe that the heavy tax burdens required to sustain generous pension benefits have no impact on the ability of firms to hire new employees, which is an interesting point of view. If they are wrong, as I suspect is the case, we’re in a bit of a bind. 



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