Retirement Fears for the 2020’s and 2030’s

The Road

by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, September 15, 2018

I’ve been retired for five years. I’m almost 67 and the Social Security Longevity Calculator claims I’ll live to be 85. That will be in 2036. I need to financially survive another 18 years (or 216 months since we pay bills by the month). Of course, I could die this afternoon, or live to be 116. Judging my own health and psychology, I tend to think I can make it to 78, which would be 2029.

My financial security comes from a pension, social security, and a 401K. All three are under threat from conservative political ambitions. Plutocrats want to siphon off all the remaining wealth they do not control. As long as Republicans run the government, anyone who is not wildly rich should worry about their economic future, even the moderately wealthy.

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic for years, but what I’m really worried about wealth siphoning. The insanely rich are looking for large pools of money to target for acquisition. All the main sources of traditional capital investments are within their control, so they are looking at large social pools of money like Social Security, Medicare, pensions, welfare programs, public healthcare, and so on. If you look around to any large body of wealth that’s not in private hands, it’s in the crosshairs of the plutocracy.

I tend to believe, and hope, that Social Security and Medicare will be around for the rest of my life. However, the success of the greedy under Trump has been startling. Trump quickly transferred a tremendous amount of social wealth to the rich, and he’s working hard to do it again as often as possible. The conservative’s goal of shrinking the government is really a way to siphon off trillions of dollars by the wealthiest of citizens.

If they get their way, we’ll lose Social Security and Medicare, two programs I depend on, as do tens of millions of other people too. I could survive without Social Security. But I know plenty of people who couldn’t. I could survive without Medicare as long as I was willing to die when I got expensively sick. Without Medicare, having a heart attack will kill either me or kill my 401K.

As a consequence the rich siphoning off social wealth, the federal deficit is skyrocketing. Ultimately, this will destroy the economy, which will destroy everyone’s 401K savings. Without Social Security and 401K savings, I could probably still survive in the poorest part of town with just my pension as long as I didn’t even need moderate healthcare.

As the federal government comes apart, it puts the squeeze on state governments. That will threaten my pension. Of course, by then, almost everyone will be destitute, and it might not matter.

The one thing I hope comes out of the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections, is stability. Of course, this is like wishing I’d win a billion dollar lottery. Too many people are casting votes simply because they don’t want to pay taxes. I don’t like paying taxes either, but all those deductions I made for fifty years is now providing me an income and medical care. I bitched then, but it’s truly wonderful now.


7 thoughts on “Retirement Fears for the 2020’s and 2030’s”

  1. Jim — I think about this a lot too. I really think that if Social Security were to fail, the whole country would collapse. There are just too many depending on it. I live in a retirement community. I would imagine that were it not for Social Security, at least half of the folks here could not afford to stay. The place would have to close down, and everyone here would be out of work. This would be true of all the retirement communities, except those for the very rich. When a large segment of the population becomes impoverished, there will be a revolution. I am old, older than you. I don’t think I care to be around to see it. Anyway, this is why I am spending the money I have now.

    1. Carol, can you imagine how people younger than us feel? Back in the 1960’s, I had tremendous hope for the 21st century. I thought society would always improve and progress. I wonder what it’s like to be young and worry about decay and collapse?

      1. Hi James, I am 52. I used to worry about decay and collapse in my early 20’s. One of my favorite topics of nonfiction reading was ecology (environmental change, population pressure, etc.). At that age, I thought I would not have children because it made no sense bringing them into a world that was doomed. I was also a huge fan of speculative fiction, so I could readily imagine a world gone to shit. I did end up childless but for a whole bunch of other reasons as well. I am now only slightly less pessimistic, but I also wonder about what will happen during the rest of my lifetime, which promises so far to be looong, given my excellent state of health.

        I find that my younger acquaintances who are now having children are absolutely not thinking about such things (or would not admit to it if they did). What I see around me is a willingness to be upbeat and to think that you can get the best that the world has to offer. Maybe I am surrounded by too many young, educated professionals. Maybe other social groups have a different outlook.

        1. Sylvie, I’m reading “No Immediate Danger” by William T. Vollmann, volume one of a giant two-volume work on climate change. It’s a fascinating book. He writes it as if he’s talking to the people of the future, explaining why we didn’t do anything to stop the apocalypse. Vollmann quotes all kinds of people about their view on the future and climate change. It’s surprising the many kinds of logic people use to ignore the issue. One person said as long as people are suffering she didn’t care about animals or the environment. Many just disbelieve. Others believe but assume fixes will be found. Few want to do what it takes to change our direction.

          Our problem is we can’t agree. Vollman takes an interesting approach. He doesn’t criticize the people who can’t understand the problem. He tells the people of the future that these people are doing the best they can, and we just can’t solve the problem. He’s very forgiving. He’s also very accepting. But Vollman believes the collapse will happen, and there’s nothing we can do about it now.

          I think we just have to live our lives the best we can. Part of that means accepting other people for what they are. It also means learning to stay out of the way of dangerous people.

  2. Hi James

    A great post I never really identified the source of the horror the 1% feel at social programs. I think I assumed it was philosophical but now believe as you say it is that they are like a kid looking in the window of a toy store and they see something they can’t have. All of us know the feeling, but they never learned no so they support politicians that promise to change the answer to yes. I worked as a librarian in energy, engineering and scientific research. At the end I worked with and befriended many Venezuelan professionals who had moved to Canada for work. Talking to them I could see that their childhoods at least for the middle or professional classes was not unlike my own, leading them to higher education and then a good job and a middle class life. Now they tell me how rapidly this disappeared for them less then a generation, and how desperate life is for their family members who stayed. I have travelled a bit and seen places like Trinidad and Ecuador the tourist parts are nice . When I hear people who vote based on lower taxes I want to show them the shanty towns build on the slopes of mountains, the heavily armed guards, the places the guides will not take you for fear of kidnapping, the poverty. I want to turn to them and say this is what you get for no taxes. Now anti-immigration rhetoric has joined the right wing mantra of lower taxes and smaller government here in Canada was well. All parties left and right and all voters need to understand that with the challenges of global warming, environmental pollution and over population we need to invest in solutions for everyone not just for the 1%. Sorry to go on a tear, one thing reading SF does is exposes you a lot of different scenarios. Sadly the one where we all have a private asteroid with the flying cars, robots and food replicators that we were promised in my youth seems likely to be replaced by something written by John Brunner on a bad day.


  3. Guy is right about a Future world based on John Brunner’s fiction. We just saw the Carolinas crushed by trillions of gallons of rain. Who in their right mind would live on any coastal real estate with Global Warming storms increasing in frequency and intensity? You certainly point out the problem of greedy elites gutting social programs and running up the Debt so the Government will be forced to cut the remnants of the social safety net. The 21st Century is looking more and more like Brunner’s THE JAGGED ORBIT.

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