Government benefits and pensions: personal good vs. common good


I wasn’t sure whether to post this question in Social Justice or Moral Theology but I think I’ll try it out here first.

If you work for a state or federal government and have the possibility of receiving generous health insurance or pension benefits that are supported by taxpayers but generally not available to most of those who work in the private sector, is it wrong or selfish to take advantage of those benefits? (I am speaking of doing so legally, by following the rules that are currently in place; I am NOT talking about a situation where one deliberately “games the system”, for example, by filing a false or questionable disability or worker’s comp claim.) Does one have a moral obligation to avoid or delay claiming these benefits as long as possible in order to minimize the burden upon taxpayers?

I recently turned 50 years old and have begun to think more seriously about retirement and my family’s future. For the past 7 years I have worked for the State of IL. Under the current rules of my job I could retire at age 63 and receive fully paid health insurance for myself (I’d still have to pay for my spouse or any dependents) because I would have worked 20 years. (Others who started working for the state earlier in their lives can retire sooner and many do.) I could also wait until I am 65 and can get Medicare (in which case, the State insurance would become the secondary policy); until 67 which is my full Social Security retirement age; or until 70 when I have maxed out my Social Security benefit. The longer I wait, the less of a burden my retirement benefits will place upon the taxpayers. However, it might not be good for me personally or for my family to put off retirement longer than necessary – particularly if, God forbid, I get sick or my husband gets sick or dies before we have a chance to enjoy life free of the “daily grind”.

Perhaps I am overthinking this, but with all the talk about the huge burden of unfunded pension liabilities I find myself beginning to feel a little guilty about it. I suppose if I really wanted to do the “right thing” for the good of society I would quit my state job and look for a “real” job in the private sector and start paying for my own retirement, or at the very least, put off retiring as long as possible. (This is also one reason that I keep putting off applying for Social Security disability for my daughter who is autistic; I feel that as long as I can support her we don’t really “need” it and should not be sponging off the taxpayers.) On the other hand, I have a husband who has had frequent health problems and a disabled daughter depending on me, and my first duty is to them; they would think I was utterly foolish to walk away from retirement benefits that I can’t get anywhere else. Plus my husband believes I should apply for SSD for our daughter since we won’t be around forever and she will have to have SOME source of income. So I am torn. How does one balance your personal good with the good of society in general when you know the two conflict?


Yes, you are overthinking it, IMO.

My DH worked as a police, beginning about 50 years ago. He ALWAYS made much less than people who worked in the private sector, even though he had good educational qualifications and a much more demanding job than most people. The trade-off was good benefits and a good pension. Year after year, the public employees gave up large raises in order to secure those benefits. The local government agreed to these arrangements because low salaries kept municipal budgets in check, and by the time it became necessary to pay for the deferred benefits, those politicians would not be around to make good on their contractual obligations.

Our state pension fund is now in chaos. Why? Now because people who worked for the state for twenty, thirty, or more years are being paid too much or don’t deserve the benefits but because our politicians dipped into the pension funds over and over and/or skipped pension fund payments in order to balance our budget and make themselves look good. No one gave local or state employees the option of skipping their mandatory pension payroll deduction because their car needed new tires. That money was taken out of every single paycheck.

You had a contract with your local or state government. It stated that if you worked for them for X number of years, you would get certain pension and medical benefits. It is completely moral to expect the government to honor its part of the contract. If that causes a hardship to the taxpayers, they have the option of electing government officials who will make the hard choice of raising taxes or cutting other programs, even if it means they aren’t re-elected, not reneging on the obligations they have incurred.


Secret Square, if everyday that you go to your job you are giving the people of Illinois a full day of honest work, then you should continue at your job and collect your pension - which is actually deferred compensation - whenever it is most beneficial for you to do so. If you are not giving the people of Illinois full value for every dollar that you are paid, then by all means quit your public sector job and find a job where you can make an honest living.


Well must likely there will be no pensions from the State of Illinois, Social Security and Medicare will no longer be functioning by the time we get into our 60’s. It is estimated about 50 million people will lose their jobs due to machine automation in the United States in the next ten years. Today in China thousands of robots are being made to permanently replace 100,000 computer factory workers.
A few years ago GE built a manufacturing plant in the Mid-West. it only was 150 workers mostly to maintain all the computer automation equipment.


I wanted to add that you need to talk to a financial planner before you make any decisions on your retirement. My DH’s Social Security is reduced by the amount of his pension, leaving him with only a couple hundred dollars a month, even though he worked for many years before, after, and during the time he was a PO and SS was always deducted from hi
Is pay.


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