Meet the Very First Baby Boomer

Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue calls it “America’s silver tsunami.”

The name Kathleen Casey-Kirschling likely doesn’t ring any bells with the majority of Americans.  She holds the singular honor of being the nation’s very first baby boomer, born one minute after midnight on January 1, 1946 in Philadelphia celebrating her 65th birthday on New Year’s Day.  A retired teacher, Casey-Kirschling is the first of approximately 78 million baby boomers who will begin collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits over the next 20 years.  The Pew Research Center reports that approximately 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day.  Baby boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1965, are celebrating their 65th birthdays between 2011 and 2030.  Despite a recent Pew survey that found baby boomers feel more downbeat than other generations about their future, Casey-Kirschling is taking a positive approach.  “I’m OK with knowing that I don’t know what tomorrow will bring,” she said.  “I’m going to live for today.  And I’m thankful that I could live for today, and I am healthy.”  Casey-Kirschling retired at 60 and began taking her Social Security benefits at age 62.

In an interview with AARP at the time of her retirement, she said “I don’t work compulsively anymore.  My priorities are now family and friends, and if something’s not fun, I don’t want any part of it.”  Today, the New Jersey resident works part-time, travels with her husband, and spends time with her children and grandchildren.  Because Casey-Kirschling opted to start collecting Social Security at age 62, she receives only about 75 percent of the total amount for which she was eligible –approximately $240 less per month.  If Casey-Kirschling had waited until her 66th birthday, she would have received full benefits; at age 70 she would have received 135 percent of full benefits.

When asked how she deals with her celebrity, Casey-Kirschling said “In the beginning, it was overwhelming.  But I said I’m just going to be who I am and do what I can, especially for Social Security.  They asked me to do public service (ads) for the generation and help baby boomers apply (for benefits) online and get direct deposit.  Whatever I could do, I would try to have a positive impact.  So many things are negative in the nation today.  Like all human beings, we are not a perfect generation.  We certainly created so much, built so much and have an incredible work ethic to this day.”

“Like many of her fellow boomers,  Kathy leads a full and busy life,” said Jim Courtney, Social Security Deputy Commissioner for Communications.  “By choosing direct deposit, Kathy’s benefit is safely and conveniently deposited into her bank account.  No matter where in the country – or the world – Kathy is, her money is as close as the nearest ATM or just a mouse click away through online banking.”

David Walker, formerly the comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ legislative arm, warned that before too long, the Social Security system will have more recipients than it can afford to pay out.  “We face a tsunami of spending due primarily to the retirement of the baby boom generation and rising healthcare costs,” Walker said.  “So what’s happened is we’ve gone from 16 workers paying into Social Security for every person drawing benefits in 1950 to 3.3 to one today, and we’re going down to two to one by the time the boomers retire in big numbers and that’s about where it will stay over the long run.”

“I think I’m just lucky to be at the top of the boom.  I’m just one of many millions and am blessed to have been in this generation and really blessed and to take my Social Security now,” Casey-Kirschling said.