Much attention has been drawn lately to the need to raise the minimum wage. One element missing from the conversation is the long-term impact it would have on people’s lives. People working minimum-wage jobs are usually not even able to provide their basic necessities, let alone plan for their retirement.

Raising the minimum wage would help today’s retirees both by raising Social Security contributions and by allowing them to provide better for their families.

Currently, someone who worked full time for 40 years at the minimum wage and retired at 62 would receive a Social Security benefit equal to only $9,039 a year. Even with Social Security, many seniors of color and women are living in poverty.

Social Security provides vital income assistance for 1 in 5 Americans and keeps millions of older Americans like myself out of poverty.

However, despite meaningful contributions to the system during their working lives, many seniors receive modest benefits. With rising health care and housing costs, low-wage earners find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet when they retire, especially when they do not have other sources of income such as pension funds or savings.

Raising the minimum wage can help in the future, but there are also steps we can take to help today’s seniors. Workers with a full career at low pay should not have to face poverty or worse when they retire.

Raising the Social Security Special Minimum Benefit to 125 percent of the federal poverty line recognizes that most workers retire at around age 62 rather than the current full benefit age of 66. This early retirement is often due to poor health and hardship caused by long careers in physically demanding occupations such as construction or manufacturing.

For these and many other reasons, we should raise the minimum wage.

John Bernard

South Portland