Current Events

My Evil Twin Jasper on Retirement: Let the Baby Boomers Die

Like Tyler Cowen, I also have an evil twin brother. My evil twin Jasper recently learned I’m a member of a blog reaching roughly a million visitors per year. He insisted I give him some space to air his callous-hearted nonsense. I of course refused, but our mother insisted that we share. (That word “share” has cost me many a G. I. Joe action figure, I tell you.) So, fine, here’s what Jasper has to say.

Jasper:


You all know the fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper, right? The ant spends the summer working and saving for winter, while the grasshopper spends the summer singing. The ant continually warns the grasshopper that winter is coming, but still the grasshopper sings. Come winter, the ant lives in comfort, while the grasshopper is starving. The grasshopper demands food from the ant, but the ant replies that it’s the grasshopper’s fault.

This story, though at least 1800 years old, predicts our coming baby boomer retirement crisis in the U.S. The baby boomers, of course, are the worst generation of Americans who have ever lived; they’ve basically ruined the country. Anyways, unlike some past American generations, they never lived at subsistence level. They’ve known their entire lives 1) that they would at some point need to retire, and 2) that social security would have funding problems and would not likely be enough for them. Still, hardly any of them have saved for retirement. The median 55-year-old American has saved less for retirement than my good twin brother Jason, though Jason is only 34, and only started saving after he got out of grad school.

You know what will happen, of course. These baby boomers spent their entire lives buying new cars they didn’t need, buying houses that were too big, taking extra vacations, splurging on eating out, and the like. They enjoyed a higher standard of living than they could really afford. Why? Because they figured that when they retired, they could just use their voting power to force younger generations to pay for their retirement. These selfish narcissists pretty much want to steal as much as they can from their children. So, while I, Jasper, and my good twin brother Jason put tens of thousands of dollars into index funds each year, thereby forgoing fancier cars, vacations, and the like, the selfish, narcissistic baby boomers laugh gleefully, knowing that they’ll find a way to eat our nest eggs.

Jason is of course a sensitive soul and feels bad for these boomers. Not me. I say let them die. They knew what they were doing, and they spent their entire adult lives making the wrong choice over and over and over again. Does starving on the streets seem too inhumane? No problem. You’ve read Logan’s Run, right? Good idea, but wrong age limit.

Dear readers, please be aware that Jasper is practically a sociopath. Throughout our childhoods, he was always taking the bigger cupcake. And I’m sure he’s not a bleeding heart anything. So, please, don’t let him influence you. Undoubtedly he has his facts wrong, and the baby boomers are not to blame for their predicament of, for the most part, having saved nothing for their retirements.

  • Bob Waldrop

    Oh my goodness your evil twin is such a drama queen. Perhaps he should see about getting his medication adjusted? Or if he doesn’t have medication, perhaps he should get some?

    Plenty of baby boomers have major experience with “living poorly”. I have only owned one new car in my entire life and that was in the 1970s. My present vehicle is 20 years old. I’m not making any bets on social security and my lifetime income has been low so I don’t have big piles of cash laying around. What I do have is a small house that is paid for, that is extremely efficient to operate (9 inches of insulation in the walls, 14 in the attic, R-20 insulated window shades, passive solar heating, wood burning stove for backup, summer kitchen — we cook outside in the summer to keep the heat out of the house — and by the time I stop working, solar hot water heating), and has lots of edible landscaping. It’s located in a walkable neighborhood close to shopping, entertainment, medical care, so I won’t need to drive or own a car. My reading of the future is peak oil, climate instability, economic irrationality, and political criminality. And I am playing my cards accordingly.

    • Mark Power

      You are a complete idiot and pure evil, Bob Waldrop.

      • Bob Waldrop

        I am honored by your confidence, bwahahahaha.

    • WattsinaName

      Sounds like you’re set for life.

  • ThaomasH

    Japar shares a problem common to most people who discuss this issue; he assumes that people should “retire” at some age.

  • IEIUNUS

    “…baby boomers are not to blame for their predicament of, for the most part, having saved nothing for their retirements.”

    And, why isn’t it their fault? Sure, I wouldn’t want them to die, but why couldn’t they have done just what you have done, started saving right when they got a job that would let them?

    I know, I know, the early 80s were a swingin’ time, baby. However, were any of them thinking of the future?

  • JoshInca

    There’s a number of problems with this post.

    1) The baby boomers are going to die, as has everyone that ever lived. So the dichotomy of let them die vs don’t let them die is a false one.

    2) The idea that the baby boomers are universally near destitute is a false one. The vast majority of baby boomers will do just fine.

    3) Why shouldn’t individuals suffer the consequences of their decisions? Saying that it’s not their fault is subtle paternalism, stripping ‘them’ of agency and seeking to ameliorate that situation creates ever greater perverse incentives towards more reckless behavior.

    • Jason Brennan

      Jasper wanted me to tell you he agrees.

      In fact, Jasper thinks he’s not really the evil twin, and it’s unfair for me to poison the well by calling him that.

      • Sean II

        Wait, you guys have a well?

        Shit, you really are a saver!

  • Allison Webster

    Have you heard the new “Baby Boomer” song?
    This powerful piece tells it like it is.
    http://youtu.be/-vMicdkKlBk

  • Adam Ricketson

    Devils advocate: the boomers weren’t being irresponsible (as individuals) — they just got confused by the instituitonal changes that occured during their working lives.

    First, according to this poll, as a generation, the have substantial retirement savings (at least for the “early” boomers):
    http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/0001/01/01/retirement-security-across-generations

    More generally, did they reasonably expect that they were saving enough money?

    1) This generation was working during the period when retirement savings shifted away from pensions and towards individual savings. It’s understandable that they mis-estimated how much to save, since they couldn’t look to their parents as role models for how to behave, and they didn’t have the institutional crutch of pensions.

    2) Prior to the banking crisis of 2008, many of them had sizable assets, and may have reasonably thought that they were in good shape.

    • Sage Basil

      also, Reagan increased social security taxes. Oops. Also, those too big houses? They were planning on selling them. Oops. Who exactly was buying those mortgage-backed securities, anyway?

      The government told the banks to use that money to make loans to minorities.

      I have a hard time blaming the people for government decisions.

      • j r

        But apparently no trouble blaming minorities.

      • Mikebert

        This is so much B.S. Banks loaned to poor risks because they needed to make loans and the good risks already had them. Once the loans were made they were sliced wafer-thin and assembled into mortgage securities. Simply by slicing them thinly these risky loans (that carried higher rates) were magically transformed into AAA-rated securities. They could now sell an AAA product that yielded more than other AAA products, making them sell like hotcakes (hence the need for get more loans) and so they scraped ever-deeper into the bottom of the barrel for more loans.

      • Mikebert

        This is so much B.S. Banks loaned to poor risks because they needed to make loans and the good risks already had them. Once the loans were made they were sliced wafer-thin and assembled into mortgage securities. Simply by slicing them thinly these risky loans (that carried higher rates) were magically transformed into AAA-rated securities. They could now sell an AAA product that yielded more than other AAA products, making them sell like hotcakes (hence the need for get more loans) and so they scraped ever-deeper into the bottom of the barrel for more loans.

  • AP²

    How did I squander it? I’m
    not the one who started two goddamned wars at the same time, for zero
    real reasons. I haven’t taken a dime in welfare, student aid, loans,
    government wages, or any other form of remuneration. Why should I not
    get back the money that I was told would fund my retirement?

    Because it’s gone. Look, I’m not disputing that it was squandered, I’m
    disputing that you deserve it back. Consider that you act so put-upon at
    the thought of having to pay for that stupid shit, right? I mean,
    ultimately, you don’t think you should have to pay for all the stuff
    that was bought when you were a taxpayer. So who are you suggesting
    should pay for it? People that weren’t even alive? Do you seriously
    think some kid being born right this second should have to pay for the
    welfare state that existed while you were a voter? As much as you whine
    about having to pay it yourself, do you think it’s more fair to stick
    the bill with someone who literally had nothing to do with it?

    And even if you do think it’s fair, it doesn’t matter, it ain’t gonna
    happen. My generation is ignorant, lazy, unscrupulous, always looking
    for the easy way out and always trying to find someone else to blame. Do
    you really think today’s 20-somethings are going to say “Yeah, you know
    what I want to do? Work the rest of my life so some old dude can
    retire! I don’t care if I never get to retire.” HA. Ain’t. Gonna.
    Happen. Here’s what will happen: online nursing home fights. If you want
    your tin of dog food this week, you gotta fight another old dude to the
    death. And we’ll broadcast it over the Internet to make money. (Think
    I’m kidding? Have you seen my generation?)

    http://forums.thedailywtf.com/forums/p/27580/321574.aspx#321574

    • AP²

      Stupid Disqus didn’t respect my citation tags, even though they are listed as allowed. Sorry for the crap formatting.

  • You must be desperate for comments. This doesn’t deserve much of a response, but the failed social security of the past decades reveals a need for comprehensive private insurance/retirement plans to replace social security/Medicare. With what I’ve paid into SS and Medicare since I started working at 16, I would have an awesome retirement had it gone into a private savings/healthcare plan. It’s not the baby boomers — it’s statist government that’s the problem. You should learn from what happened to us, then fight statism rather than adding to the divisions in this country.

    • It’s also a silly cop-out to hide behind the gimmick of an evil twin

      • Sean II

        Whereas being a humorless prig requires real, in-your-face courage.

    • Jason Brennan

      Desperate for comments? On the contrary, I wanted to blacklist everyone who writes abusive or stupid stuff, but Matt Z won’t let me.

      • Sean II

        As a spokesman for the abusive commenter community, I resent being grouped in with the merely stupid.

      • So you wanted to blacklist yourself for your stupid abusive article? Interesting. You can dish but can’t take it huh?

        • Jason Brennan

          You have to keep in mind, I’m much much smarter than almost everyone else alive. If something I write seems dumb to you, the problem is always you.

          • Hmmm, I wonder why you aren’t also smarter than almost everyone else who’s dead – strange.

          • You too, huh?

    • Crinklecrunkmajor

      Yes, you would have an awesome retirement if you had been able to put the SS money into a private plan. But SS is pay-as-you-go–all the taxes you paid are long gone. The trust fund designed to handle the baby boomer retirements was raided and spent, by baby boomer politicians elected by baby boomers. And you knew all this all along. You may have been powerless to change it, but you were able to save money in addition to SS, and you either chose to do so or not.
      I do blame statist government. But I’ll be dammed if I’m going to embrace a statist solution to the baby boomers’ “little problem.” You’re the luckiest financial generation ever. You will not plunder the less lucky ones behind you. The baby boomers are the first generation to leave their kids worse off. If they try to crush their own kids financially on TOP of this, they will discover just how essential the new generations consider them (not very).
      As a group, the baby boomers are going to have a major step down in living standards. Not only will many work until they die, but most will ALSO have to dramatically downsize–from cars to buses, from coastal states near family to places in Arkansas or Costa Rica, and from restaurant food to Alpo. Even while working!
      The baby boom generation will hate this and they will indeed try to use government to transfer resources from their kids to themselves. They will be shocked by the response. It’s already too late for the Baby Boomers to pull it off. Within 10 years, all the levers of power will be held by Gen X. And they won’t devote all of society’s productivity to helping the baby boomers sit around in nursing homes.
      The Baby Boomers caused the divisions in this country. They broke the social contract–they ate everything in sight and left subsequent generations worse off. Soon, in their desperation, they will turn on Gen X and Y even harder than they already have. They will sow division–“Oh, poor us, give us money, respect your elders, actually you have to give us money, we’re passing a law, etc.” That’s divisive. And then Gen X and Y will simply reply “No.” And then the baby boomers can drift off into the sunset without any checks from us! Enjoy your beds, boomers! You made them!

      • Wow–talk about ad hominem, assumptions and collective claptrap! This takes the prize.

  • Sean II

    Jason,

    Please ask your twin if he has any predictions about the way things will play out.

    I’m thinking when the crisis hits, one of the first proposals we hear is for a punitive levy against savers with money in tax advantaged retirement accounts.

    The arguments will be simple and appealing: “You didn’t save that…our incentives helped you….society brokered those investments for you, and now we’re just asking the most successful investors (i.e anyone with positive net worth) to pay back a fair commission…etc”.

    So it’s not just a question of inter-generational theft. It’s also going to be a question of old-dog-eat-other-old-dog.

    • ThaomasH

      I think that adding a new tax, hopefully on consumption and not on wages will be chosen.

      • Sean II

        Just can’t see how a new consumption tax survives past its first trimester in American politics.

        But out of curiosity, why would you prefer such a tax?

        • ThaomasH

          In general, I prefer a progressive consumption (income minus asset accumulation) tax because there are very many distortions introduced by trying to work around the way income taxes are applied to capital income.  The corporate income tax is and will inevitably be ridden with exemptions and special treatments for this and that special interest so it should be abolished with business earnings imputed to owners.
          In the context of reforming SS and Medicare financing, whenever that becomes feasible, I meant that instead of taxing wage income something like a VAT would be preferable.

    • Sage Basil

      yup. They will steal from the middle class to pay for newly legalized third-world poor. They won’t steal from the rich, though – nationalizing their capital would be communism.

      • Sean II

        In this case, as in so many others, it’s the middle class doing the stealing.

    • Theresa Klein

      Thereby negating the incentives given, and ensuring that the next generation will have even less to steal.

  • Michael Ryan

    could it be we spent it on our children? yeah

  • Jerome Bigge

    Social Security and Medicare are realistically a sort of “welfare” in that many people will receive more benefits than what they ever paid in to the system. However, even from the start Social Security has always been a system of income transfers from the working people to those retired. Medicare is actually in much worse shape than Social Security is, mainly because the US has by far the world’s highest health care costs. As a percentage of GNP, we spend twice as much on health care than do the Japanese, whose life expectancies exceed our own by several years at least. A considerable portion of the costs of Medicare are driven by “profit seeking” in the form of unnecessary office visits, lab tests, and medically unnecessary medical procedures. Of course the medical professionals will attempt to claim that all these office visits, lab tests, medical procedures are “good medicine”, but this is allowing the industry to define standards virtually any way it wants. While all of us, as politically powerless patients, have little if any “say” in what is done.

    • Sage Basil

      so, do you think that government death panels should decide when to pull the plug on grandma?

      • Jerome Bigge

        I think it will eventually happen. When you have a finite amount of money that can spent on health care, a rational society would spend it where it would do the most good. This was the basis of the “Oregon Plan”. Remember this is “taxpayer money”, not “charity” as such. The services that are supplied do cost money, and there is a limit to how much “charity” care medical providers (doctors, hospitals) are willing to provide.

  • rutintutin9

    Oh absolutely! I worked for 40+ years and enjoyed every minute of it knowing I could buy cars I didn’t need and retire on the Social Security I was forced to pay, in addition to saving every cent I could get my hands on over the years. I also bought some guns I didn’t need, so come see me whenever you’re ready. Nitwit.

  • Theresa Klein

    You can’t really compare Jason Brennan, above average saver, to the average of all Baby Boomers. I bet if you compared all people in his age group to all baby boomers, the averages would look much worse.

    Although I do agree that the baby boomers are the worst generation of Americans ever.

    Also, my sister used to eat the bigger cupcake all the time, so I know how you feel. She once threw a temper tantrum in a Canadian Tire, after my dad bought me a bike, because she wanted a SECOND bicycle, just to one-up me. And she’s one year younger, so it was already unfair that she got a bike first.

    She’s a sanctimonious progressive now.

  • Cui Pertinebit

    The crisis is not just fiscal; they have also lost their morals, and have raised their children to find the mere idea of morality – transcendent, absolute morality – quaint and “judgmental.”

    Therefore, as I frequently tell my parents: the baby-boomers’ children will slaughter them en masse. They won’t do this in barbarically messy ways (not most of the time, anyway). No, it will all be very clinical and antiseptic. Euthanasia will be broadly legalized. It will be made clear that they are a “burden” on their children. They will be told that nobody can afford the pain meds, and surely it would just be easier to take the one pill and embrace the sweet silence of death. Yes, I have no doubt that millions of boomers will pop a pill, and ride a one-way ticket to hell, to the silent relief of their children. And really, while I don’t embrace the “victim” mentality that excuses everyone based on their upbringing and background, to some extent it is hard to blame the boomers’ kids. They are what their parents raised them to be. When selfish narcissists raise you to have no morals, all the while borrowing and selling and stealing your future right out from under you, it is hard to imagine when or how you would have developed the moral fortitude to say, “no mom, it’s okay; I already have no future because you destroyed our country and sold me down the river with a bunch of pc social-justice nonsense, so what does it matter if I spend my last waking minute slaving away to keep paying for your meds and nursing costs?”

  • Keith Cassinger

    Sounds like my selfish Baby Boomer brother Bob. I sympathize…

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