An article titled “Talkin’, bout My Generation” by Neil Howe in the September edition of Governing magazine looks at how the Baby Boomers generation will change American life as we know it. There will be substantial increases in healthcare consumption, costs and spending through federal entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Baby Boomer retirement will also affect the workforce and the economy due to changes in retirement age, consumption rates, savings and production. The Boomer generation carries with it a very different attitude on aging, family, community involvement and senior lifestyle.
Baby Boomers are defined by the Census Bureau as those born from 1946 to 1964. Today, the first of the baby boomers are reaching retirement age, with the first boomer born in 1946 turning 65 last year. By 2029, the total population of Americans over 65 will grow from 41 million to 70 million. According to the article, those over the age of 65 will outnumber those age 15 and younger before 2050.
Unfortunately, it is reported that Baby Boomers as a whole do not have a lot of personal wealth. Unlike previous generations of retirees, they are not well positioned for retirement. A Harris Interactive poll last year found “25 percent of boomers don’t have any money saved for retirement, and 26 percent have no personal savings at all”. The poll numbers have many economists fearing that many Boomers will live in or on the brink of poverty through their retirement years.
Since 2007, the number of jobs held by Americans over 60 increased by 3 million, while declining by more than 5 million for those 60 and younger. The number of Americans working longer is due in large part to pure “economic necessity.” With the cost of living and average lifespans increasing each year, many Americans find that retirement is not an option. This trend will continue to make jobs for younger generations less available. Additionally, this trend combined with the current weak job market exacerbates unemployment and underemployment.
With employment decline, government spending, debt and a retirement population on the rise; we will need to continue to redefine the role of government in our daily lives. As we have seen from Illinois pension issues and lack of available funds to pay future benefits, there will need to be dramatic changes in the types of programs that government can offer, especially as the number of seniors who will need Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, etc. rises. Reform to assistance programs cannot be delayed or the solutions proposed maybe more detrimental in future years.
I encourage you to check out the two links below from Khan Academy which will help explain why reform is necessary for government assisted programs.
“Talkin’ Bout My Generation” by Neil Howe; “Governing” magazine; September 2012 edition;p.27-32.
“Social Security and Medicare Sustainability” by Khan Academy.