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Helen Thomas (AP)

Helen Thomas R Us (In A Few Years)

Jun 11, 2010

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Frank James

One of the most unusual takes I've come across in the wake of legendary Washington journalist Helen Thomas' implosion has nothing to do with her controversial views on Israel and Palestinians.

Instead, it's a piece in The Wall Street Journal that employs her as a symbol of a reality facing many Americans, to wit, that we'll be working well past the age of 65. Very well past. And not because we'll want to but because we'll have to from financial necessity.

Not to say that Thomas was working until age 89 because she needed the money. But the WSJ's Brett Arends is on to something when he says that many Americans will be spending their golden years still in harness.

The biggest, but most underreported, financial story in America is the looming retirement disaster. Eighty million baby boomers are approaching retirement, and most have absolutely no idea what's going to hit them. For them the financial crisis isn't over. It's just about to begin.

Here are seven reasons we're about to become a nation of Helen Thomases.

1. We're going to live longer than we think.

If you make it to 65 today, you don't just need enough money to last you another 10 or 15 years. Government data show that the average person will live nearly another 20 years. And that's merely the average. If you want to make sure you don't outlive your savings, you need to plan for much longer. More than a quarter of 65-year-olds will live to 90. Among white women who make it to 65, one in seven will live another 30 years.

Arends ticks off six additional reasons: the lack of pensions, relatively miserly Social Security payments, paltry savings, higher medical costs, unrealistic faith in the stock market and low interest rates.

Seems to me Arends is probably right about much of this.

It should be fascinating, millions of older people in the workplace saying pretty much whatever's on their minds because that's just the way many older people can often be, isn't it?

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