Did Boomers destroy the world?

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By Caitlin Kelly

Here we go again…

How Americans of the Baby Boom generations — born between 1946 and 1964 — have totally screwed everyone younger.

True?

From The Atlantic:

 

Below, I show a reasonable projection of the share of national income that will have to be spent paying for these obligations in the future if there is no substantial restructuring of liabilities. It’s based on consensus forecasts from groups such as the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget for economic growth and for programs such as Social Security and Medicare where such forecasts are available—but in some cases, such as state debts and pensions, no such forecast was available, and so I developed a simple one.

Making these payments will require fiscal austerity, through either higher taxes or lower alternative spending. Younger Americans will bear the burdens of the Baby Boomer generation, whether in smaller take-home pay or more potholes and worse schools.

Furthermore, the basic demographic balance sheet is getting worse all the time, increasing the relative burden on young people. Working-age Americans are dying off in alarming numbers.

As someone in this cohort, I have a real problem with this.

I would never argue that younger workers and voters don’t face tremendous headwinds, economically and politically. They do!

I look at the current cost of American university education and find it absurd that schools you have never heard of are demanding $40,000 to $60,000 a year to educate their students. Get real! Nor do many state schools offer a much less expensive alternative.

I paid all of $660 a year to attend University of Toronto — the annual fee for an equivalent course of study is now 10 times as much. But it’s $6,000, not $60,000.

That’s also a nation with different political and economic values, more interested in the common good (yes, higher tax rates) than individual wealth-building.

 

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Blaming Boomers for every impediment to financial progress is so appealing. Intergenerational warfare is such a shiny little distraction from the heavy hand of capitalism, forever demanding “shareholder value” (i.e. return on institutional investments) instead of recognizing everyone’s need to save and invest and hope for a better financial future.

I know many many people in this cohort who are struggling mightily financially — hardly sitting on their thrones of gold, their private jet awaiting their flight to their fourth home. The truly wealthy are so rich it’s beyond comprehension at this point, leaving the rest of us to beat the hell out of one another.

Many people in their 50s and beyond who do not have a well-paid or secure full-time job, let alone one that offers a pension, are scared and desperate, facing:

 

— a possible next recession, having barely recovered from the 2007-2009 recession

— the costs of paying their children’s college

— having their adult children (and grandchildren) needing to return home for food and housing.

— the costs of paying their parents’ health care aides or nursing home

— the fear of those enormous costs for themselves

— facing widespread, rampant and illegal age discrimination, leaving them/us financially impotent to earn, save and invest for all of the above if we are shut out of decent, full-time employment with (in the U.S.) the subsidized health insurance everyone needs.

 

Some alternate facts:

 

Half of Americans over the age of 48 have no money saved for retirement.

 

From Bloomberg Businessweek:

 

“Social Security provides most of the income for about half of households age 65 and older,” the GAO said.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute estimated earlier this month that 41 percent of U.S. households headed by someone age 35 to 64 are likely to run out of money in retirement. That’s down 1.7 percentage points since 2014.

EBRI found these Americans face a combined retirement deficit of $3.83 trillion.

 

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “Did Boomers destroy the world?

  1. Blaming Baby Boomers for bad decisions–like their fascination with packaged convenience foods whose packages are still with us–might be reasonable. But it’s not reasonable to think young and middle-aged people bear no responsibility for caring for elderly members of society. We did not spring out of God’s head like Athena. Those are our parents and grandparents.

  2. dmtdamor

    I’m a baby boomer also and I think we had it really rough back in the days. Today there’s more money to spend and more crisis to bare that’s a fact. The more lending money the more debt. Young people today are getting more and more in debt that’s the real problem. And in the future, there will be lot’s of issues and crisis also, so we humans have to learn to cope with those problems and come with a better understanding of solutions. Remember everything has a solution, the only thing without a solution yet is death.

  3. BOOM! I’m a boomer and I am a free market, laissez-faire capitalist. The heavy hand of capitalism has pushed human civilization from the stone age to the space age, and no mistake. If you look at the Soviet Union/ Eastern Bloc, you can see the heavy hand of socialism pushing it back.
    Your house, your car, the clothes on your back, the food in your belly, your favorite Hermes scarf and the antique cup you like to drink your tea from are all the products of capitalist enterprises. Capitalism is not the problem. You don’t to have to buy into someone else’s greed and no one has to set fire to themselves to keep me warm.
    I believe in sacrifice. I think it’s good for you. I’ve missed more than one lunch making sure that a homeless person has something to eat today and that sacrifice fed my spirit, so it’s all good. But a sacrifice is made willingly.
    If you are going to be a capitalist, one who didn’t start out with a million dollar handout from dear old dad, you’re going to have to be smart, resilient, persistent and more than a little bit lucky. I put smart first for a reason.
    With all the furor surrounding the student loan problem, I felt that smart had to come first. I used to sell cars and every customer who bought one and financed it wanted to cover the terms of the finance agreement very carefully before signing. I’ve bought two homes and you can bet your bottom dollar that there were some loooooooong closings with lots of questions. I studied interior design back in the ’80’s and borrowed money to go to school. Cathy and I took the loan contract home and read it carefully before agreeing to the terms. Why? Because we didn’t want to get stuck with a big fat debt. Smart, right? More like not so dumb. There are laws against usury and as long a lender abides by them, they can offer any terms they like. There’s a pretty good reason for this, too. It’s risk management. Say, like me, you took out a loan to study interior design and, also like me, you didn’t get a job in the field but had to accept something else, a bit less lucrative.
    So now what? If I default, my credit score goes down the toilet, which It should, and the lender has to come after me with a collection agency or a lawyer, both of which cost money the lender shouldn’t have to spend. This is their only recourse, because there is no car to repossess or house to put into foreclosure. There is only my promise to pay.
    I have no right to expect my money back because my dreams didn’t come true, and far less of a right to expect my neighbors and friends to pay a debt I accepted willingly. This is where that sterling character trait of resilience comes into play. If you have to take the first crummy job you can find (Done that) so you can pay your bills and live up to your responsibilities, so be it. You are not the first. Your parents may have told you that you can do anything you set your mind to, but I’ll bet they never said you would never fail or that you wouldn’t have to try. So, big girl panties up.
    One last thing about capitalism: The capital is YOU and the value of anything, including you, is what the market will bear. When 90% of the working population is writing cell phone apps, shovel jockeys are going to be making a hell of a lot more money, as it should be. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life and fallen flat on my ass more times that I can count, but those are my messes and it’s not up to anyone else to clean them up.
    Good one, Caitlin.

    1. Well, I disagree with some of this and agree with some.

      Some people have lousy educations (thanks to an American public school financing system that makes some neighborhood schools fantastic and others useless) — if they cannot read or fully understand the (rapacious) terms of many financial agreements, they are screwed.

      I have had it, completely, with being “resilient” and “smart” in the face of rampant corporate greed — with CEOs making 300x their lowest paid staff (who also contribute to profits) and stagnant wages.

      1. Some people do have lousy educations. I got one of those, but I didn’t just go home and smoke a joint. Your school doesn’t educate you, you do. One thing I have learned over the course of my fifty eight year education is this: If someone is willing to sign a contract they don’t understand because they don’t want to look stupid, they need to let that go because they are being stupid. There is help for these people. Here in WNC we have Pisgah Legal Services. It’s made up of local attorneys, paralegals and administrative professionals, all volunteers, who help people with all kinds of legal matters for no cost (Donations accepted). If you are too proud to go and see the free lawyer, go to your bank. They know all about financial contracts. These are not complex financial strategies and I imagine we will never know how many people may have been saved a lot of problems in their lives had they done a little bit of leg work. Don’t have a bank account? Why are you trying to borrow all this money?
        “Shareholder value”: If all the shareholders were rich people sitting in leather wing chairs, drinking Glenlivet and Coke because they can’t drink cheap Scotch straight, we would be in agreement, but they are not. For lots of people, ones who put off luxuries to build a modest portfolio, showing both smarts and resilience, these stocks are what they are counting on to fund their retirement, support their spouse after they are gone, and maybe leave a little something for the kids, Saint Jude or the ASPCA. Even that is no guarantee. And if the CEO did his bit to preserve and grow the value of my stock so I’m not eating cat food out of the can when I’m 80, I’m gonna be OK with whatever he earns.
        No matter what, you can never count out luck.
        I’m lucky as all get out. So are you and so is everyone reading this, because somewhere in the Congo, there is a young girl with a large, heavy bag of illegally harvested charcoal on her head, walking miles through the jungle to load it on a truck, then turn around and do it again. If she ever gets out of that life, even if she doesn’t make it here, let alone get a degree and a lucrative, fulfilling career, she will still be one of the lucky ones.
        “Big girl panties” I don’t know what our relationship actually encompasses, but I want you to know that the term “Big girl panties” in no way refers to your, or anyone’s actual underwear. Sometimes it’s best to preserve the mystery.

      2. You are more than welcome. And HAPPY CANADA DAY! This goes for Lynette, Geddy, Alex, Neil and everyone in the Sunnyvale trailer park. R.I.P. Jim.

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