Ezra’s Controversial Proposal to Change Pension
Twin Oaks has an unusual pension system. Members need to work 42 hours a week to satisfy their labor obligation to the community. In exchange for this work the community agrees to cover all the basic costs associated with their living (and in some cases extraordinary costs as well). These include housing, food, medical and dental (for full members), clothing as well as some recreation, education, transportation and entertainment.
At age 50 you start to accrue one pension hour a year. I am 56, so i get 7 pension hours a week. Currently, the 93 full members of the community have just over 200,000 labor hours in a year, which includes about 9,000 total pension hours for our “aging” population between ages 50 and 89. There are about 20 members getting some type of pension.
Ezra had an interesting idea. What if we changed the pension plan so it started later (he proposed 60), grew faster (he proposed 2 hours per year) and retired people completely earlier (he proposed 80). Some quick math showed that this system was disadvantageous to people under 70 and better for those over. It also added several thousand hours of labor to the community’s budgets (given the current distribution of ages).
The initial comments on Ezra’s paper were quite positive (despite Ezra’s own pessimistic forecast about the idea’s chances for success). They noted that communards are quite vital at 50 and starting pension then seemed to many to be too early. That while they started early we were finding even with reduced quota our population over 70 was having trouble making quota, which indicated that they might be advancing too slowly. And that the existing pension policy was actually designed somewhat arbitrarily before the community had anyone who qualified for pension at all, so for a long time its fairness and reasonableness were untested.
But few good ideas go unpunished in my community (which might not be a bad thing, since we should be testing their veracity) and soon the critics started coming out on the paper. The loudest complaint being “i have worked long and hard for this pension system which i have been promised and now it seems like the rug is being pulled out from under me.” It is this sentiment combined with the general unwillingness on the part of almost all pensioners to voluntarily increase their own labor obligations which will likely shoot down this proposal (certainly in the current form it will not become policy).
And it brings up interesting questions about aging in community and how we insure quality of life for our older members who start slowing down. One of the things i observe is that on average we are more healthy than our mainstream counter parts. This should not really surprise anyone, we eat better food (much of it organic, most of it home grown, fairly small amounts of highly processed food, far less sugar, fat and salt than out mainstream counterparts), we have a more active lifestyle (with plenty of walking, biking and physical work) and much less stress (no bosses, relaxed work environment, relatively few deadlines, easy to switch jobs, no fear of unemployment).
Ezra’s proposal also makes us ask bigger questions about ourselves and how we want to treat our aging population. We will likely form a focus group to look further at this issue and see what types of changes we can actually agree on. Stay tuned for more details.