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?