Ants and Grasshoppers

Now that he's retired, my father has vastly more time for reading and keeping up with news and op-eds than I do. Which means, of course, that he sends them to me and to his friends around the world whenever he can, to gauge our views on a variety of subjects. He sent me one today that had me seeing red almost immediately:
Over the past few decades, employees fortunate enough to have employer-based retirement benefits have been shifted from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans. We are now seeing the results of that grand experiment, and they are frightening. Recent and near-retirees, the first major cohort of the 401(k) era, do not have nearly enough in retirement savings to even come close to maintaining their current lifestyles.
Frankly, that's an optimistic way of putting it. Let me be alarmist for a moment, because the fact is the numbers are truly alarming. We should be worried that large numbers of people nearing retirement will be unable to keep their homes or continue to pay their rent.
According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the median household retirement account balance in 2010 for workers between the ages of 55-64 was just $120,000. For people expecting to retire at around age 65, and to live for another 15 years or more, this will provide for only a trivial supplement to Social Security benefits.
And that's for people who actually have a retirement account of some kind. A third of households do not. For these people, their sole retirement income, aside from potential aid from friends and family, comes from Social Security, for which the current average monthly benefit is $1,230.
There are good proposals out there for improving the private aspect of our retirement system. Having employer-based 401(k) contributions be opt-out rather than opt-in is one such proposal. There are other commendable suggestions for ways to simplify personal financial management.
But none of these ideas will help people who are nearing retirement. Only the possibility of several decades of compound returns make the personal financing of retirement a realistic idea for most people; those with only a few working years left cannot benefit from this. Absent an unexpected windfall, such as lottery winnings or inheritances, most 60-year-olds lack any capacity to significantly increase their savings.
I wasn't seeing red because I was angry- far from it. This sort of human stupidity generally amuses me. I was seeing red because once you peel away the seemingly compassionate arguments behind this particularly stupid moron's ideas, you see him for what he is- an equalitarian.

What he is in fact proposing is very simple. He is proposing that Baby Boomers who are near retirement should be given a massive increase in Social Security benefits- and guess where those benefits come from? That's right. They come from your pay cheque. (I'm an educated man, so I spell things correctly. Get used to it.) Your future happiness, welfare, wealth, comfort, and retirement will all be sacrificed on the altar of "equality".

Baby Boomers who have not saved sufficient funds for retirement deserve no sympathy whatsoever. None. This is the generation that at every turn has destroyed the freedoms of its successors, plundered their wealth, thrown good money after bad in war after pointless war, and damaged the happiness and prospects of future generations beyond any and all hope of recovery. Those Boomers who did not save enough should not expect those of my generation to help them. We will not. We have our own problems to worry about- problems that they created. And we have no patience for moochers who would seek to take advantage of our efforts yet again for profits that they have not earned.

Remember, above all else, the fable of the grasshopper and the ant:
In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

"Why not come and chat with me," said the Grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?"
"I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the Ant, "and recommend you to do the same."
"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present." But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.
When the winter came the Grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer.

Then the Grasshopper knew...
It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.


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