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Speak for yourself, Bill

Who is the “we” we’re talking about?

Bill Keller wrote a pretty fricking clueless column about the “Entitled Generation”.  Apparently, if you were born at the tail end of the baby boom, you’re a spoiled rotten brat who has had everything handed to you on a silver platter.

You know, I hate to be the one to incite generational warfare but there are actually *two* types of babyboomers.  It’s a shame that the demographers have made no effort to separate the two so I’m going to do it for them.

The first cohort born after 1946 was the Love generation.  That was the one that protested and questioned authority and benefitted from low tuition and lots of jobs.  It burned its youthful anger out around 1971.  Then came MY generation.  I don’t know what you would call us. We were born after 1956 or so.  For us, reality was very different.  By the time we were adolescents, there was an oil crisis, the country had stagflation, money to colleges was drying up, tuition was spiking and there were no jobs when we came out of school.  Oh, and all the tax breaks that the previous generations had used had been cut by the time we made our first paychecks.

We also PREPAID our social security incomes, Bill.  That’s something the early boomers didn’t have to do for a good decade or so while they were chasing plastics and Mrs. Robinson.

YOU guys had The Graduate, we had Blade Runner.

You had The Beatles, we had Billy Idol.

No matter how you slice it, we are not the same.

We’ve always paid more for everything.  We bought the early babyboomer’s starter homes at a premium while they took their profits and bought the first McMansions.  We paid our student loans over 10 years at inflated interest rates.  We got dumped into HMOs or saw our deductions rise at the time when the early boomers’ kids were already out of braces.  And now, we are watching the early boomers retire while the rest of us are getting laid off in middle age.

We have never had it as good as the early boomers.  But we are too old to make up for all the money we will need if the entitlements are slashed.  We are going to die poor, Bill.

But hey, if YOU have more money than you know what to do with and can retire without social security, I have no problem if you give up your entitlement so the rest of us can eat a decent diet when we’re 65.  Oh, did I mention that for those of us who had professional careers, we survived on 2 weeks vacation for the first 10 years and a miserly 3-4 weeks after that?  Do you have any idea how much vacation time Europeans get?  We have spent most of our lives chained to a computer in a cubicle.  We have saved our personal days to chaperone our kids’ field trips.  We have abbreviated every trip and god help us if a hurricane doesn’t force us to give up the house we rented for a week at Nag’s Head.

For us late babyboomers, we have already adjusted to a more modest life.  Or those of us who didn’t are suffering under massive amounts of debt that the early boomers escaped because they just happened to be born in the right year.

I realize that yours is the narrow view of the privileged boomer who thinks that we’re all the same.  You need to get out more, Bill.  Come to New Jersey where there are thousands of us laid off with no hope of getting anything like our old salaries back and tell us to our faces that we need to take a cut in our future PREPAID social security payments.  Tell us that we should make even more sacrifices while you retire on your defined benefit pensions and we scrape by on measly reduced pensions, stingy cash balance plans and mismanaged and pilfered 401Ks.

You have no idea who the hell you’re talking to.  We are not YOU.

Maybe you would have better luck talking to your banker buddies who are absconding with our trillions of dollars of taxpayer largess to give the money back or take a much higher hit on income taxes.

Or you could make a case with your big megaphone to the insurance industry and the hospitals to stop seeing every patient as a profit to be milked for everything its worth.  We pay more money than any country in the world for medical care and it’s because no one has the guts to tell the health care industry that they are not allowed to make unlimited amounts of cash off of us.

Or maybe you can tell the military contractors to stop gorging off of us in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are plenty of people you could say “that’s enough” or “don’t take too much, it’s greedy and you’re drawing attention to yourselves” or “you should be ashamed of yourselves for being massive assholes and cruel”.  But no, you decide to pick on those of us who will end up with nothing if we take your advice and give up the money we have PREPAID for our retirements.

I have an idea, why don’t the early boomers go first?  Set an example, Bill.  You and your friends can give up all of the money you don’t need starting with people born in 1946.  Then, by the time you get to those of us who were born after 1956, there will be enough to go around.

Here’s your problem, Bill.  Every generation who started work after 1983 is going to be irate that you have to nerve to bring this up.  If you are asking us to give up what we PREPAID because we were told it was absolutely necessary to save a social insurance policy we all believed in because the politicians we trusted gave the rich and powerful, such as yourself, unbelievably generous tax breaks, then you are endorsing fraud, Bill.  It’s as wrong to do it to us as it is to stiff all the depositors at JP Morgan Chase and MF Global for disastrous bets their CEOs allowed.

Why isn’t your little moral lecture turned on the people who stole from our generation?  We could all be living peacefully and prosperously if not for them.

Stop telling US what to do.  We’re the victims, not the predators.

Monday: Sign of the Times

I found this little ditty from Reuters a couple of days ago.  Forget the debt ceiling, it’s the equities market you need to worry about:

NEW YORK, May 15 (Reuters) – The big money is calling a halt to the surge in stock prices. Declines in oil and metals prices are being seen by an increasing number of fund managers and strategists as a signal to get out of riskier areas of the equity market. And that means avoiding things like Chinese IPOs and sticking to the boring stuff, like utilities. The growing concern is that stocks had priced in an overly optimistic economic path, and the recent breakdown in commodities and shift in equities to safer industries such as health care, suggest a reckoning in coming months. Ken Fisher, founder of Fisher Investments that manages about $38 billion in equities. is among those concerned many investors have become overconfident. “I think expectations for the stock market are a bit on the high side,” he said.

Hmmm, you mean that I should lower my expectations of spectacular returns and should maybe settle for the same kind of return I might have gotten with a much more secure pension?  You mean we were right to think that we couldn’t get “Money for nothing and our chicks for free?”  And I wasn’t given a choice because…?

Now, I will be the first to admit that I know very little to nothing about how finance works.  It’s not my fault that I was forced into a 401K.  What I usually do is mix up my investments, set the autobalance option to “on” and leave the sucker alone.  In fact, my BFF probably knows more about my investments than I do.  I’ve done pretty well in the past 8 years but still don’t have anything near the level of savings I need to retire on.

Even so, it’s all at risk right now.  My 401K options didn’t include a mattress to stuff my money under.  All of my options carry an element of risk, some less than others, but most of it tied to the machinations of the money addled financiers.  And WHY are we invested in this market?  Well, as the nice 401K man explained to us when he came to visit the facility last year, pensions are going the way of the dinosaur, “yours aren’t going to cover your expenses”, and “social security is gone for most of the people in this room”.  Gee, who died and made him the US government?  In other words, where else you gonna go, you stupid born in the latter half of the 20th century schlepps?

But note what these guys are saying now that they’ve got everyone invested:

Ken Fisher, founder of Fisher Investments that manages about $38 billion in equities. is among those concerned many investors have become overconfident. “I think expectations for the stock market are a bit on the high side,” he said.

Wait!  Weren’t we supposed to put all of our retirement funds into the market and watch them grow over time so that when we retired, there would be this ginormous fund of cash on which we would pay low as dirt taxes?  Wasn’t that how it was supposed to work?  That’s how it was advertised.  So, now we are being told NOT to expect a hefty return on our investment?  And what exactly is an expectation that is a bit on the high side?  I thought the sky’s the limit.  Surely, I would fare better than my widowed mother on social security, with two pensions, a paid off house, socialized health care and who has never had to choose a mutual fund in her entire life.  I could take TWO cruises per year, right?

No?

I’m not surprised that a whole generation of workers is about to get the biggest shock of its life.  The numbers never did add up for us.  It doesn’t surprise me that it’s coming as soon as it is.  My estimate was 2013, more or less.  We who straddle the baby boom/Gen X era were always going to get the shaft.  The older babyboomers were going to take their big cut of 401K profits, as is their right as firstborns, and send us the hand-me-downs.  Those of us straddlers who are no where near retirement age will have to stand by helplessly as our 401Ks and pensions are sucked dry by the huge generation that precedes us. The finance guys are furiously doing their jobs, trying to track down places where the money can grow to replace the money that is siphoned away.  But they are running out of options and they are now realizing that they must lower our expectations.  Well, they kept *telling* us there was no guarantee of a big payoff, didn’t they?  Weren’t we paying attention when they told us that??  They said our money *could* grow to stratospheric amounts, not that it *would* grow like that.  If we didn’t choose wisely, like choosing to delay our births to around 1960, that’s hardly *their* fault, is it?

Even the Chinese IPOs are not looking so shiny anymore.  Could the rumor that Chinese chemists are demanding 40% more in salary over last year be related to that?  Hey, just because American chemists were like lambs to the slaughter doesn’t mean Chinese chemists have to have a death wish.  So, China is getting smart.  (Worldwide, it turns out that there just aren’t that many of us research types after all)

Yes, the finance guys are getting desperate.  They are finding fewer places to turn a profit, the profit margins are getting skimpier, the babyboomers are removing their cash and they need to get more younger workers into the market.  The base of the pyramid is starting to thin.  Maybe that accounts for all the attacks against the unions and the business plans of Republican run municipal governments to create two tier retirement plans, which now look like thinly disguised theft of younger workers.  All of their money will be put in 401Ks, they will have no access to pensions and by the time they need to access the 401K’s, there will be nothing left or what is left will be growing slowly, if at all, as it is siphoned away by the retiring babyboomers.  The icing on the cake is that some of these municipal workers will be taken out of the social security system as well.  That means there really is nowhere else for them to go but the 401K, the losing proposition.

What does surprise me is that no one seems to be particularly concerned.  We straddler numbers are huge.  We had the biggest graduating classes.  Our wages are being shredded right now, our futures ripped up.  If we’re lucky, we’ll have a bit of money from social security, a bit left over from our ravaged 401Ks and *maybe* a teensy bit of a pension, provided the company that is funding it doesn’t file for bankruptcy and dismantles it (a very real possibility considering who ended up owning my biggest pension fund right now).

Obama is part of this generation.  He seems blithely unconcerned.  Well, what do we want HIM to do about it?

Exactly.  That’s why I voted for the girl.