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Retirement for many North Americans is a dream that many people wish to have. The first wave of baby boomers is starting to retire in the next few years, however, many of them are not prepared to stop working.
The definition of retirement is “to take out of useful service” and what happens to so many hard working people is that they die shortly after being “taken out of useful service”.
Working at a job is a a social pursuit that can add purpose and meaning to a person’s life and so many people highly value the social aspect of working.
If a person decides to retire and loses the social environment that they have been in for the last 10, 20 or 30 years, they can suffer a serious blow to their happiness and life can become very difficult.
If you look at human history, there are virtually no examples of societies that have a “retirement” with golf courses, meal plans and retirement homes.
Life spans have been short throughout history and people generally worked until they died. In some cultures, the elderly would live with their children and help out around the home, but they still did a considerable amount of domestic chores and kept “working” without retirement.
Many baby boomers have the vision of retiring on a golf course like their parents did and sadly, I don’t think this will be a reality for most of them. My opinion of the “golf course” retirement is that it has been an anomaly that only one generation in human history has been able to enjoy.
Unfortunately, the “golf course” retirement has been artificially created by the WWII generation before the baby boomers.
The WWII generation financed their “retirement” on debt and fiat currency. Like most debts, they have been able to pass the bag onto their children (the boomers).
Historically speaking, the “golf course” retirement was created early in the industrial age and it was mathematically engineered by highly skill actuaries. They calculated that for every year a person worked after age 55, the worker’s lifespan decreased by a proportionate amount of years.
“67” is the magic year because it the shortest amount of retirement that the company would have to pay. Age 67 is the year that the average worker would statistically die after working until age 65.
What this means was that many retirement plans were designed around a worker working from age 18 to 65 with a 2-year retirement followed by a quick death at 67.
“Retirement” plans were never designed to support people and their families into their 80’s, 90’s and 100’s. These retirements span 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years and they were fundamentally designed to support 2 years.
Most companies with defined benefit plans were betting on their employees dying 2 years after 65. Statistically today in North America, both men and women live to be nearly 80 years of age and the number is climbing as healthcare improves.
I saw a statistic the other day that said that between Obamacare, social security and medicare, the United States has 80 Trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities. The amazing thing is, 80 Trillion dollars is more money than the entire world’s money supply.
No one can pay this liability, not even the USA with it’s unprecedented money printing abilities.
The USA could print their way out of the problem, but would completely devalue their currency into oblivion in the process.
Many of the pension funds, retirement funds and mutual funds that the Boomers are relying on for retirement are all invested in the paper assets that are extremely vulnerable to market fluctuations.
Furthermore, these assets are all timed to liquidate at the same time. The baby boomers are the largest demographic in North America and in other parts of the world as well. These people will be selling their large family homes at the same time (in specific suburban sub-markets), liquidating their stock portfolios and will begin systematically withdrawing from the markets in 2016.
What happens when everyone reaches his hand into the cookie jar? Although there should be, there are not enough cookies in the jar for everyone and some of us won’t get a cookie. The stock market works like this and when everyone wants to sell, values deflate and many people will not get their full (inflated) value on their assets.
When the baby boomer garage-sale begins, who will be in line to absorb these large suburban family homes, stock portfolios and other assets?
My prediction is that the younger generations, namely the echo boomers, will not have the purchasing power to absorb their parents’ assets. There has been a large shift in the middle class and the entire middle class workforce has migrated from North America to Asia.
As well, the purchasing power of the echo boomers has been damaged by long term no-value university programs and many do not enter the work force until mid twenties or later.
Furthermore, many echo boomers are loaded down with student debt racking up into the hundreds of thousands.
It is common for students nowadays to leave school with a houseless “mortgage of student debt”.
What is most unfortunate is that these students cannot go bankrupt to get out of their debt obligation.
I don’t have a crystal ball to predict how these demographics, fundamentals and laws will pan out, but there will be chaos and chaos brings opportunity.
If you are a savvy investor, you will be able to find some serious bargains on assets in both Canada and the USA.
However, if you are on the other side of the equation and expecting to retire in the next few years, you may need a back up plan to hedge against your current investment portfolio.
I don’t want to preach doom and gloom; I prefer to be optimistic about the future. However, we are set up for a perfect storm in the next few years and I truly believe that we will see a major transfer of wealth.
It’s up to you to get educated on the things I have written about in this article and do your best to prepare for the perfect storm… Otherwise, it may be better to die at 67.
Thanks for reading,
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