…as we know it. – REM, Document, 1987
And I feel fine?
Many of us like to imagine the things that will end the world. Or is that just me? Perhaps I shouldn’t broadly speculate about what other people do in the bathtub. In my case its usually that, or playing with my U-boat. No, that is not a euphemism. Its an actual scale model U-boat. I thought a plastic yellow duck cast doubt on my masculinity and general Alpha male… eh, ness.
In any event, when I’m not stalking merchant ships in the North Atlantic my mind is drawn to apocalyptic scenarios… like a moth is drawn to the blue light of a bug zapper. I amuse myself with schema that will most likely cause the end times. Asteroids. Artificial intelligence. Anthrax. Which are all very cute (and alliterated) But the real threat ALREADY lives among us! They are known to us. We interact with them every day. We might even be fond of some of them. But these people are the walking, breathing embodiment of the end times. I’m talking about the greatest danger to continued human existence to ever walk the earth, I’m talking about the Baby Boomers.
And their stubborn refusal to die!
Apparently seventy is the new fifty. My old man just turned 71. He is the walking embodiment of the problem we face. He is healthy, strong and certainly doesn’t fit the mold of the decrepit elderly person he should be by now! There is literally nothing wrong with him, besides the fact that he’s annoying… his doctor gives him a solid thumbs up once a year when he does his full medical. He’s even learnt how to use an iPhone. Which I find mind boggling. He comes from a generation of telex-machines, chalk board stock exchanges and post cards.
The old man is anomalous in so far as he did the much vaunted retirement thing ten years ago. He contributed dutifully to his retirement fund. Did the whole living annuity thing which pays him out until he’s 99. (Which he might actually reach) That’s 28 years away. His mother reached the venerable age of 99. (she was still driving at 90)
This is problematic for two reasons. Well maybe more. Lets see how we go…
Not all Baby Boomers planned for their retirement. Which means they have to carry on working. Which means they stubbornly occupy higher order positions in a company that should be cycling. Only they’re not. Because they’re not retiring… and they’re not dying. So they’re causing this strange bottle neck which cascades down the chain of command. Suddenly the middle manager is in his position longer than his predecessor… the bottom of the barrel guys can’t move up the chain either… because the middle managers can’t move up.
Imagine starting out at a company… instead of up cycling every couple of years, YOU occupy the bottom tier for double the amount of time. More importantly your salary stays the same. ie. LOW. You dare not quit, because there are twenty five graduates with MBA’s and a mountain of student debt waiting outside for your job.
Your twenties and early thirties are supposed to set you up financially. But now being stuck at the bottom for longer means a whole bunch of things. One, if you have student debt… that’s gonna take longer to pay off. And two… less disposable income. Why less disposable income, because old people aren’t dying, plus normal population urbanization means a lack of affordable housing. Just paying your rent in an area where it won’t take you two hours to get to work in the morning is half your salary.
Old people are also going to start putting tremendous pressure on health care. The fact that cancer is now treatable makes the insurance companies very sad. They used count on cancer culling the population. Now people carry on living. The longer they live, the more expensive they become to maintain. Old people fall… break a hip, spend five weeks in the hospital… AND RECOVER. You know how much that costs? Millions. Suddenly the money pool is getting smaller… and smaller… and either they can cut back on what they cover… Or… they can increase the monthly cost to cover the shortfall because the Baby Boomers, like the dusty vampires they are, suck it dry.
Pensions run on mathematical formulas that hypothesize how many people are going to die and when. Up until now its been super accurate. It helps keep the pool of money at a healthy level. In fact pension funds had so much money they didn’t know what to do with it. So they bought shopping malls. Now that people are living longer… anyways… it creates a lot of headaches. Even worse headaches for developed countries like Japan and Germany, where healthcare is free and people rely on government pensions. Those aging populations are economically not a viable anymore… but they’re going to cost a fortune to maintain. And you can’t just let them fend for themselves… because those people vote… and for the most part are politically more active than younger people.
No legacy. This sound a little cold hearted and mean, but its a real thing. Inheritance. The longer your parents live… the less you’re going to inherit. Legacy is a huge builder of inter-generational wealth. Its big part of privilege. The longer baby boomers live… the less there is at the end of the day to pass down to the next generation. Looks like you won’t be able to count on daddies death to pay off that mortgage anymore. (Obviously this might not apply to you…)
Burden. The other end of inheritance. Your parents never catered for their retirement. Or have run out of funds. You can abandon them on the street, which I hear some people do these days. Alternatively you can take them in. And care for them. They bring nothing with them to this particular party and they additionally burden you by eating your food, using your utilities and are continuously asking you to change the channel on ‘The Netflix’. At the same time you have to buy diapers for your insanely expensive toddler, you have to buy diapers for your insanely expensive father-in-law. Even worse if you eventually have to get a carer… or someone to help bath them…
Your boss is an 80 year old. He remembers the war. Which war you’re not entirely certain… but it sounds like he may have actually fought in one… and not, you know, piloting a drone. They used to do that you know… I saw it on History.
You have NOTHING in common with your boss. He doesn’t understand you newfangled marketing ideas. In fact every single idea you pitch him is met with a glazed look. Every day you think about how much you hate your boss… you often think about shooting yourself in the head. You imagine going home…. to your sanctuary. But then remember… that your two screaming children and your father in law have used up all your hot water by now. You re-evaluate why you are actually still alive…
The good news is. Well… I’m not sure if this is good news or not. But you too will likely live a really long time. Possibly managing to be a burden on society and your children. If the world hasn’t imploded by then I mean.