BABY BOOMERS: THE PROBLEM OR THE SOLUTION?
By: Sanford R. Altman, Esq., retired
It seems that all of the media – internet, TV, newspapers – says that, as most of the baby boomers reach 65 in the near future, “the system” will be overburdened and will not be able to handle it. As a boomer myself, I am beginning to feel like I have suddenly become the “enemy from within” ready to pull down our society as soon as I turn 65. Is there any hope for us?
Yes, I have read the articles, seen the TV reports, heard the analyses and seen the prognosticators throw up their hands in despair – it all makes for good news. Boomers are fatter, greedier, less healthy and want to suck the system dry. And our kids are worse.
Why is so much attention being paid to the boomers? Two reasons I can see:
- We are the single largest (and I do not mean it in weight), affluent group of consumers; and/or
- Many believe there is a need for a “call to action” to save our future.
While you may have guessed as a reader of my earlier columns that I’m a strong proponent of “calls to action,” we probably have a combination of both factors at work here.
This being said, and in the interest of putting some balance in the mix, let’s get back to our reader’s question. I’ve read many reports on all the statistics and, if we do not know that the world’s population is growing by leaps and bounds, “we’re not paying attention.” Unless we can go back in time and introduce massive birth control to our parents, there isn’t much we can do about it, at least for our present situation. Yes, there is action that needs to be taken. But let’s do a reality check. Let’s look at our own history. We are the Woodstock generation, the Peace Corp. generation, the generation that stopped a war dead in its tracks and made it ok to take a good hard look at our own government without being considered “enemies of the people.” We have marched on Washington, protested policies of both major political parties and still turned out to be doctors, lawyers, teachers and innumerable other hardworking taxpaying members of society.
Look around at our friends, relatives, people who we work with. More of us workout, are conscious of what we eat and drink, active in all facets of our lives. We work hard, play hard, volunteer to help others. I’ve been working with seniors for almost 30 years and those in their 70s are like the 60 year olds of years ago – committed to keep on and enjoy life to the fullest. If they become ill, they know that medical advances can keep them going and they believe they deserve that. At the place where I work, a firm of almost 30 lawyers, young and old, I’ve never heard of anyone even talk of retiring. Why should they? They enjoy what they’re doing and contribute to society. Others may keep working for the financial security. This is the boomer generation that I see. Look around and you will see it too.
What does this mean in numbers? It means that baby boomers may not in fact be the dead weight that we have been portrayed to be. We are too smart and motivated for that and we are geared toward making the world a better place. We expect to be living longer, working longer, paying taxes longer and working to solve society’s problems longer. Many I have spoken to will be putting off collecting Social Security until age 70 and take the higher benefit. Although I am a lawyer and not mathematician, staying healthy, paying taxes longer and waiting to collect Social Security, along with consuming more as we go, may well give us the huge economic boost we need instead of the drain that many fear.
Although we may look at this as being overly optimistic, or we may view the negative coverage as being overly pessimistic, the fact is that the only thing we actually know is that a large number of baby boomers are turning 65. The rest is, essentially, speculation. The actual outcome depends on the choices that we make in our lives and, perhaps, how vigilant we are of our elected officials. Even if our future is challenging and the odds are against us, we beat the odds before and never backed away from a challenge.