At another time in history, depending on who I worked for, I might have been writing my last column today.

You see, I had that milestone birthday last week — the one that used to mean pretty much automatic retirement.

Since I still enjoy what I am doing — most days anyway — I’m glad it’s not so automatic anymore.

In a burst of clear self-interest, I did some research about why and how 65 became the magic retirement number. Why not 70 or some other age, I wondered?

A website I came across in my search, The Journal of Accountancy, had a good bit of information on the subject.

It turns out there’s no actual single reason why 65 got chosen. According to that website, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act in 1935, picking 65 as the starting age was rather random.

Edward Berkowitz, a history professor at George Washington University, told The Journal of Accountancy that selecting 65 “was somewhat arbitrary.” Planners were influenced, he said, by what other nations had done and by intense public pressure to lessen the economic hardships brought on by the Great Depression.

Life expectancy also played a key role. According to the Social Security Administration website, while life expectancy was about 61 in 1935, that number included a high rate of infant mortality. For people surviving to adulthood, life expectancy was closer to 65. There were 7.8 million Americans that age or older in 1935.

I know many people who have retired as they hit or approached 65. My Dad did.

I know many more people who haven’t. Their reasons range from the obvious financial ones to the fact they still enjoy and are good at their jobs.

The COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately, has taken the choice away from some. The economic downturn has meant a loss of work for millions. Many of those in their 50s and 60s will likely find it hard to land somewhere else.

That’s wrong. Self-serving as this will sound, a person should be judged on his or her ability to do a job, not what age they happen to be.

About five years ago, I took a buyout from Gannett, the news company for which I’d worked for more than 35 years. They were reducing staff sizes everywhere, and they offered me an attractive severance package. I took it.

A few months later, I ended up here. I am grateful there was professional life after Gannett and that CNHI, the company that owns The Daily Item and dozens of other newspapers nationwide, thought I still had much to offer.

There are probably some of you out there who’d be just fine if I followed my Dad’s lead and retired at 65. But while God may laugh when humans make plans, let’s just say that’s not my intent.

As it is Father’s Day, though, I do want to take a moment to say how blessed I was to have the one I had.

Having a father who served his country in World War II, who loved my mother and his two children dearly, who worked hard to support our family, and who helped make my sister and I the people we became is a gift for which I will never stop being grateful.

I’m not going to follow your retirement example, Dad. But as for all the important stuff? You nailed it.

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com.

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