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Good Question: Can the US Support 75M Retirees?
Old 11-10-2013, 10:37 AM   #1
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Good Question: Can the US Support 75M Retirees?

We all know that projecting recent past results into the future entails risk. This article asks an important question: will society have the productivity increases to support more retirees? Long term I believe there will be painful adjustments.

oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Can We Support 75 Million Retirees in 2020?
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Old 11-10-2013, 11:09 AM   #2
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Pfft. The asteroid strike will take care of everything.
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Old 11-10-2013, 11:14 AM   #3
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It might force the unemployment rate way down. We might have to let in lots more immigrants. Only a problem if the retirees need someone else to pay for it and those first two things don't happen.
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Old 11-10-2013, 11:35 AM   #4
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The writer of the article talks about sustainability of SS, but I agree more with a comment from one of his readers.
The reason is quite simple: the goods and services that retirees require (food, energy, medical, consumable goods, recreational, entertainment, etc.) in practical terms cannot be stored and therefore must be provided by the current working population.

... the unrealistic expectation that people can actually retire at age 65 (or whatever age) and continue to consume resources and the productive output of an ever decreasing working population.
The above has been my contention. That's just not a US problem, but that of most developed nations. And now in the US, we have these Millennials who want to move straight into ESR and do not want to work too hard (can't blame them for it, as they see these geezers lounging around not doing much all day).

So, while waiting for an asteroid strike, I propose that geezers reduce their consumption of goods and services by living in tightly-knit retirement communities, and supporting each other. Examples include learning to change each other's diapers.
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Old 11-10-2013, 11:39 AM   #5
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I don't know if we can support 75 million retirees, but I think it will provide a lot of "pick and shovel" opportunities in the coming decades. It has given me numerous business ideas, some I have been working on and off for a few years now.

A lot of people are going to have to figure out an entirely new way to live. Average SS checks provide about a college kid lifestyle and not much more if you have no other income.
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Old 11-10-2013, 12:18 PM   #6
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I liked my college kid lifestyle. Maybe retirement communities in dorms and lots of parties will be the next big thing.
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Old 11-10-2013, 12:58 PM   #7
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I liked my college kid lifestyle. Maybe retirement communities in dorms and lots of parties will be the next big thing.
Some retirees are already living like that. Instead of dorms they live in mobile home parks with a nightly "therapy session" -

How the Trailer Park Could Save Us All -
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Old 11-10-2013, 01:01 PM   #8
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I liked my college kid lifestyle. Maybe retirement communities in dorms and lots of parties will be the next big thing.
I'm not so sure I want to do panty raids on the girls dorm at this stage though.

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Old 11-10-2013, 01:18 PM   #9
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I don't know if we can support 75 million retirees, but I think it will provide a lot of "pick and shovel" opportunities in the coming decades. It has given me numerous business ideas, some I have been working on and off for a few years now.
This reminds me of an article in the Tampa Tribune a few days ago. It talked about how many home/apartment/condo projects have come to a sudden halt because of a shortage of workers. Give me a break! We have tons of migrant workers in Florida to pick crops and now we have to bring in more for these construction jobs. The writer also mentioned that the people on the street won't take these jobs because they don't pay enough. Another article in the paper recently mentioned the new giant warehouse being constructed here by Amazon and that they will be hiring 1000+ workers with the expected wage to be about $11.50 per hour. Who will fill these jobs? I'm sure Amazon won't have a problem, but right now it's just too easy to sit on one's a**, do nothing and collect an unemployment check from the gubmnt.
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Old 11-10-2013, 02:06 PM   #10
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Logan's Run, anyone?
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Old 11-10-2013, 03:02 PM   #11
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Some retirees are already living like that. Instead of dorms they live in mobile home parks with a nightly "therapy session" - How the Trailer Park Could Save Us All -
What a great article. This is very much like trailer park we "snowbird" at. Everyone knows everyone and has a pretty good idea of another persons daily habits...coming and goings. So much so, we make sure the office knows if we will be gone for a couple days. Don't want someone calling the rescue squad. 😉
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Old 11-10-2013, 03:13 PM   #12
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Logan's Run, anyone?
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Old 11-10-2013, 03:21 PM   #13
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I have never been a big government guy and believe that federal waste of taxpayer money is rampant. The other day it finally hit me that I was now part of the problem and had no solution.

Between DW and I we rely on the following government programs~ Military retirement, VA disability, SS (x2), Tx teachers retirement, Medicare (x2), Tricare-for-Life (x2), military drug prescription service, military hospital use, VA medical.

We may be circling the drain and I may be part of the reason, but I'm 69 years old and will just have to make the best of it for as long as possible and have another drink to celebrate!
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Old 11-10-2013, 03:34 PM   #14
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I clicked through the link from the OP and took a look. Eccch. Mercantilism, bullionism, and a dash of physiocracy in a hodgepodge that reminded me of some of the more... enthusiastic... ideas bantered about in the 1920s.

Like many of the Doom and Gloom set, there is an implicit assumption in this sort of idea set that economics is a zero-sum game, that is, in every trade there must be a winner and a loser, and that no economic or technological progress can be made. Adam Smith and John Locke addressed this some time ago, but the news has been a bit slow to get out.

Modern economies tend to be positive-sum games, with both parties to a trade gaining value in the long run. There is a tendency to seek mutual benefit in human interactions. This appears at the macro level as long term economic and, through the trade in ideas, technological growth. Why does this matter in relation to the Doom and Gloom retiree position?

Let's look at the food supply. In 1910 the US population was 91,972,266. The farm population was 32,077,000 (est.), with farmers as 31% of the labor force. There were 6,366,000 farms with an average acreage of 138.

Looking at statistics for 2010, we have a population of 313,000,000 in the US. Extrapolating from the 1910 data, we would need 109,164,440 farmers working some 21,664,770 farmsof 138 acres.

It turns out that less than 1% of the population currently claims farming as an occupation, and there are only 2,200,000 farms in the US. Great Ghu, we're trying to support over 3 times the population on only 1/3 the farms, and 1/10 the farmers that we had a century ago. This sort of insanity must surely lead to mass starvation and food riots!

OK, so somehow we got lucky and managed, in spite of ourselves, to improve economic and technological productivity to feed ourselves. Weird, that.

But, the author points out other shortfalls such as entertainment. Music halls and vaudville troupes were quite popular. With the growth in population, surely there must be many more vaudvillians and music houses to keep folks entertained. The kinetoscope craze might amuse for a few minutes, but without music, dance, and witty banter, the audience quickly grows bored. How many hundreds of thousands of vaudvillians must the modern word employ to entertain it's teeming masses?

Um. None? Kinetoscopes have sound reproduction, and are installed in every home? Insanity! Why, even the simplest kinetoscope costs more than a fine Sears home! Oh. Not any more, eh? How did that happen?

We failed to implode as a society on Malthus' schedule. I predict that we will also fail to meet Charles Hugh Smith's schedule.
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Old 11-10-2013, 04:01 PM   #15
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I'm not so sure I want to do panty raids on the girls dorm at this stage though.

LMAO.
Needed a laugh today! Thank you!
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Old 11-10-2013, 05:37 PM   #16
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We failed to implode as a society on Malthus' schedule. I predict that we will also fail to meet Charles Hugh Smith's schedule.
If you look at the housing and personal expenses categories for off campus cost of attendance figures for any college in a low cost of living area, for 9 months of room and board the costs come out to be around $10K or $12.5K for 12 months.

The average SS benefit is around $15K a year. Add in Medicare out of pocket expenses it would certainly be a tight budget, but it does mean most retirees aren't going to starve or become homeless living on Social Security, especially if they have some savings or part time work for extra income. It just may not be the kind of retirement many boomers were dreaming to have, but that would be the default lifestyle for those without savings, pensions or other income.
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Old 11-10-2013, 06:37 PM   #17
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If you look at the housing and personal expenses categories for off campus cost of attendance figures for any college in a low cost of living area, for 9 months of room and board the costs come out to be around $10K or $12.5K for 12 months.

...It just may not be the kind of retirement many boomers were dreaming to have, but that would be the default lifestyle for those without savings, pensions or other income.
The lifestyle you're referring to is renting or sharing a room in a house or apartment with half a dozen others, eating top ramen for dinner, and bicycling to the quad to play frisbee for entertainment on the weekend? That's not such a bad lifestyle if you can still ride a bike and sling a frisbee, I guess. Or maybe we're going to start to see a lot of multi-generational households again, where Mom and Pop's SS check helps Junior meet his mortgage payment, and they get to live in the back bedroom and play their frisbee right at home on the front lawn!
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Old 11-10-2013, 06:45 PM   #18
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Unlike European nations and Japan, who are experiencing a real aging population issue, the US will be just fine due to our proactive immigration policy. In fact, the policy is the only way the US actually has a growing population. This policy actually provides many benefits to our culture.
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Old 11-10-2013, 07:03 PM   #19
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Um. None? Kinetoscopes have sound reproduction, and are installed in every home? Insanity! Why, even the simplest kinetoscope costs more than a fine Sears home! Oh. Not any more, eh? How did that happen?
+1 Post of the Month nominee.
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Old 11-10-2013, 11:35 PM   #20
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The problem with an aging population is not so much about the food that the elderlies eat, although I have read about pensioners in some European countries having problems affording healthy food. It's also not about the resources like housing, autos, and to a much less degree the TV that they watch. If a shortage of workers drives up the cost of services, a retiree who can no longer afford his house due to the maintenance cost will just have to give it up or downsize. Some problems are self-limiting.

The real problem is in healthcare and assisted living costs. From a 2013 article about the problem that Japan is facing, the following excerpts were taken.
Some 420,000 Japanese nationwide are waiting for a nursing home bed.

By 2025, one in three citizens in Japan will be 65 or older, up from 12 percent of the population in 1990...

Annual elder care costs will more than double by 2026, to 19.8 trillion yen ($212 billion), from March 2013, the health ministry estimates. This rise in spending threatens to overload the country with the world’s highest debt load as a percentage of GDP.
See In Japan, the Rising Cost of Elder Care.


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Unlike European nations and Japan, who are experiencing a real aging population issue, the US will be just fine due to our proactive immigration policy. In fact, the policy is the only way the US actually has a growing population. This policy actually provides many benefits to our culture.
Yes. Either by a high birtrate or by importing young workers, a nation can keep low the ratio of retirees to workers. That's all there is to it. And the US has room for population growth, something that other developed countries, and even developing ones, do not have.

However, this is just a form of kicking the can down the road, although we can kick it further than other nations due to our geographic advantage. Population cannot grow forever. The population growth also brings with it other problems: urban crowding, pollution, traffic congestion, shortage of water in the Western states, etc...

By the way, following is the median age and life expectancy of some representative countries as of 2010.


CountryMedian ageLife expectancy
Japan44.683
Germany43.781
Canada40.782
US36.978
China35.276
Brazil30.574
Vietnam27.475
Mexico26.775
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