Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The End of Retirement

"The years 1965–1999 were the closest thing to economic 'golden years' ever seen by this nation for those moving into retirement, and they will likely never be matched again for the bulk of the population unless savings behavior changes radically."

Those chilling words were issued last month by Dallas Salisbury, president of the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute, in support of the PBS Frontline documentary "Can You Afford to Retire?" The documentary examined how prepared baby boomers are for retirement (answer: NOT) as defined benefit pension plans become scarce and savings remain shockingly low for the minority who participate in defined contribution plans such as 401(k)s. If you haven't seen the Frontline show yet, you can watch it online through the PBS website.

The documentary concludes with the ominous warning that the retirement of the baby-boom generation is, in fact, the end of retirement because most boomers will find they cannot retire and maintain any semblance of their middle-class standard of living. Consequently, most will be forced to work to make ends meet. What are the political implications of the impending downward spiral of today's comfortable middle class? What will happen when disability overtakes working boomers in old age? How will younger generations respond to the growing destitution of their aging parents?

Stay tuned, because that appears to be the next installment in the boomer narrative.

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