Thursday, December 30, 2010

Yeah, the Boomers Did It

In preparation for cutting Social Security and Medicare, we're going to have a spate of articles like this, blaming the Boomers for not saving enough for retirement, for being self-absorbed, for spending with abandon, for [whatever sin of omission or commission is being used to bash us and justify cutting benefits].

But if we look, for example, at the article above, it's a simple matter to figure out what's wrong with the argument. First, the featured Boomer used to make $100K a year--that's twice the median income for the United States, so this poor sacrificial lamb isn't representative at all. Anyone who has bothered to do the simple arithmetic (you know--counting, addition, subtraction) has figured out that the Boomers didn't spend oodles of money on consumer electronics, fancy clothes or vacations. The largest increases in spending were for housing and health care, and one need only prepare a simple budget for a household making the median income to find that, once you've acquired the basics, there wasn't a whole lot left over for other stuff, whether a boat or retirement. If you don't believe me, look at this. (What amazed me is that there's a government agency that collects this information.)

More important though, are the factors entirely beyond the control of most Boomers. Yeah, we really wanted to give up pensions for 401ks. Why have professional money managers take care of your retirement when you can receive the "services" of self-serving, and often incompetent, financial advisors? We all collectively decided that we didn't want pensions. Uh huh. And then, having put our money into the stock market, we caused it to crash. Uh huh. And then, we all decided to crash the housing market after we'd been told, for like 30 years, that our houses would fund our retirements. Oh, please!

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