There have been some serious security and privacy issues in the news lately. In fact, there are so many, it’s difficult to keep up. But the one issue that haunts me more than any other at the moment is the growing number of retirees and pensioners in the U.S. The “Golden Age” for America was a great time, where almost any American could find a job, work hard and eventually quit work for good – something that is atypical, historically speaking. The American Economy after WWII began expanding at a rapid pace, with new companies and industry springing up everywhere. New homes were built, cars were made and the American dream was achieved by many. In fact, many people worked at jobs like automobile manufacturers, police & fire, many fortune 500 companies, Federal jobs and the like and eventually were able to retire with the promise of receiving a comfortable income for the rest of they’re life.
The stock market has provided a great avenue for many people to retire through 401k’s, investments and other vehicles, of which I know little. The website Moneychimp.com allows you to calculate stock market growth over time with their convenient calculator, which uses the annualized growth rate of the S&P 500. I did a calculation for the growth rate from 1950 to 2014. The average return for that period is almost 13%! According to the calculator, $1 in 1950 (invested in the stock market) grew to $1129 on average in 2014. I would take those numbers any day of the week for my retirement!
Many of the folks who took advantage of this financial growth during the “Golden Age” are now making more money in retirement than they ever did during their careers. And some of them went on to take on new jobs and careers. I think many of us know people like this; people who perhaps were afraid to buy a new car during their 30s but who now buy a new car every four years as a result of the windfall pension check they now collect.
Unfortunately things have changed and we are no longer in the Golden Age. And I’m fearful that those who are reaping the benefits of the Golden Age don’t realize how good they have it – or inversely, how younger generations are struggling right now to get the same opportunities. According to Forbes, 161 million Americans currently getting government subsidies (government assistance) – a new record, which is more than half of the entire U.S. population. And despite the official unemployment numbers touted at 5-6%, statistics are now pointing to the idea that most new jobs created recently are low-paying jobs in places like fast-food and strip malls. And retirements….forget about it. Fewer companies each year offer retirements and pensions. They are quite rare these days and will probably go the way of the DoDo (extinction).
In fact, many working people these days feel lucky to work for a company that offers benefits. In general, the corporate model of running a business has taken over and put profits to share holders before all else, eliminating or slashing things like employee benefits, healthcare, retirements and stock options. In fact, many corporations now use temporary employees or contractors to skirt state and federal regulations that would require them to provide a certain level of benefits to these “employees”. So these employees get used and then thrown away. After all, no need to fire them…their contract just ends…brings back memories of the movie, “Office Space”!
Recently, the U.S. has seen civil unrest in many cities such as Ferguson, Baltimore, New York City and Brooklyn. It’s easy for mainstream news to paint rioting in the street as a racial issue, police brutality, inequality, or whatever the ‘cause celebre’ for the day is – which I’m sure sells lots of newspapers; however, as a student of human nature, I believe the core issue at hand behind the unrest is something different. And I won’t make excuses for lawlessness or violence. I hope that every one of the trouble makers behind the rioting get their day in court.
What I think our core problem here is one of circumstance. When people are born in a place where there is no money, very few jobs and rampant crime, they have to make a decision on how to remove themselves from the situation or how to make things better. Both of these are tough decisions, and as humans, it’s sometimes easier to just blame others, especially when we’re taught now at a young age that nothing is our fault and that personal responsibility is not important. The point of this blog is not a social commentary or even a solution though – It’s simply a warning. Be aware that there are many people around you, even if you don’t live in NY, Baltimore, etc., who are lacking in hope and desperate. They may see you driving your new car or RV, or may see you spending money at the store or walk past your nice home and wonder what you did to deserve that, especially since they don’t have what you have and they may see YOU as a part of the problem.
If you doubt me, then go to YouTube and view some riot videos for yourself. The mob is always searching for new fodder…
Growth Rate Calculator: http://www.moneychimp.com/features/market_cagr.htm