Retirees have a lot to look forward to these days -- walks on the beach, time with the grandkids, and steady Social Security checks to help pay the bills. But a number of Republican candidates in this year's elections think retirees should have to wait even longer to collect Social Security benefits.
In a nutshell, here's how the system currently works: You pay Social Security taxes on your income, accrue enough credits to become eligible for benefits, and collect those benefits once you reach your full retirement age -- which, if you were born in or after 1960, is 67. You can claim your Social Security benefits prior to reaching your full retirement age, but if you do, your payments will be proportionally reduced depending on how early you start collecting (though the earliest you can do so is age 62).
If you're thinking that 67 is kind of old to start collecting benefits, then you may have a tough time voting Republican, because most of this year's GOP candidates want to raise the Social Security retirement age. Here's what the key players are currently proposing (with the exception of Donald Trump, who has yet to put forth any sort of Social Security plan).
1. Jeb Bush
Bush's plan is to gradually increase Social Security's current eligibility age by one month every year starting in 2022. Because life expectancy is increasing, pushing back the retirement age is a smart way to keep up with an otherwise positive trend. According to Bush's proposal, by 2058, Americans will first become eligible for Social Security benefits at age 70, though they'll have the option to start collecting reduced benefits at age 65.
2. Ben Carson
Though Carson hasn't been particularly vocal on Social Security reforms, he does feel that the program's looming depletion of funds needs to be addressed. To this end, he proposes raising the retirement age for those under 50. At the same time, he wants to consider a provision in which those under 30 get the option to contribute money to individualized accounts and have a say in how it's invested, with the goal of reserving that money for retirement.
3. Ted Cruz
Senator Cruz doesn't want to shake things up for those who are in or near retirement. However, in recognition of the fact that people today are living longer, he wants to gradually increase the retirement age for younger workers. At the same time, he wants to allow younger workers to retain a portion of their Social Security taxes, which they can subsequently control and invest for their own retirement as they see fit.
4. Marco Rubio
Like others in his party, Rubio is all about increasing the Social Security retirement age -- but gradually, and only for those under the age of 55. In conjunction with this, he wants to reduce the growth in benefits for upper-income retirees while making the program stronger for lower earners who need those benefits the most.
While their specific approaches may differ, these six candidates can certainly agree on one thing: Social Security needs to change, pronto. And if we fail to alter what is clearly a flawed system, we'll be doing a major disservice to those who depend on it the most.