Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No Country for Old Men

"You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity." - No Country for Old Men

I’ve written here numerous times about the daunting challenges that await Americans who have been conditioned by media lies to think that a comfortable retirement awaits them during their golden years. The data regarding the true financial condition of private and public pension plans around the country, to say nothing of the Social Security system, are sobering to say the least. My estimate is that America’s retirement paradigm as we currently know it will collapse within the next decade, well before dwindling energy supplies completely snuff out the overall economy.

The only question is whether this collapse takes the form of the federal government explicitly defaulting on its debt obligations or it starts printing so much money that the monthly payments to retirees become virtually worthless. Either way, the end result is the same—utter destitution for anyone whose sole source of financial support is their pension and/or Social Security. Even having money socked away in a 401k plan won’t help as either a stock market collapse or hyperinflation (or both) tear asunder the ability of such paper assets to purchase physical needs such as food and energy.

Almost as daunting for those either just retiring or soon to retire is the impending collapse of Medicare and the overall health care system. As the federal government’s biggest budget line item and the one that has been growing the fastest in real dollar terms, the program is rapidly reaching the point of being financial unsustainable. It remains uncertain exactly how the strain on the system will cause its financial demise, but America’s senior citizens should expect that within a decade or so the only medical treatments which will be available to them is that which they are able to purchase from their own resources. And this will happen at a time in their lives when their individual health issues begin pile up on top of one another.

Another factor to consider is just how quickly America’s transportation infrastructure is breaking down. As I reported last week, the average American bridge is now a mere SEVEN YEARS away from having reached the limits of its useful life. Additionally, the effects of continued rising gasoline prices as those remaining supplies of cheaply produced oil run out will fall most severely on those living on fixed incomes. This means that senior citizens are likely to become virtually immobile in a society where there are few viable public transportation options available for most people.

Another social factor negatively affecting senior citizens is the atomization of our society and the constant shuffling of our population. How many people these days live within a reasonable commute of any of their immediate relatives? For many seniors, the “empty nest” not only means that their children have grown up and left the household, but that they now live many hundreds if not thousands of miles away. As transportation becomes more difficult and the loss of jobs as the economy gets worse makes travel unaffordable for even for the most well-intentioned offspring, many seniors are likely to face the daunting challenges of economic collapse utterly alone.

Then you have the whole matter of America’s worship of the culture of youth. From even a casual observance of the images relentlessly glorified by our mass media it should be apparent that our culture does not value the wisdom and experience that comes with age. Rare is the popular entertainer or media personality on the wrong side of 40. Instead, we literally make millionaires and even billionaires out of the likes of Miley Cyrus, Justin Beiber and the Kardashian sisters. Plenty of younger adults think nothing of shuffling their aging grandparents and even parents off to decrepit assisted living facilities that are really nothing more than warehouses for the dying. What’s to become of these lonely souls when the government checks that pay for their pitiful upkeep start to bounce?

As bad as the coming years are going to be for those young adults of the Occupy movement who are just now beginning to realize that all of the promises made to them about their economic future have been nothing more than cruel lies, at least they have a chance to adapt to the changing conditions. Adaptation becomes harder as you get older, however, and for most of those middle age and older it will be well nigh impossible. The only chance older Americans have of not succumbing quickly when collapse accelerates is to recognize that the economic growth paradigm in which they have lived their entire lives is dead and to make the necessary adjustments in their mental outlook and in their physical lives while there is still time left to do so. Most, however, will not come to this realization until it is far too late.

Bonus: After all, sometimes life is just a coin toss.


  1. "The only chance older Americans have ...[is] to make the necessary adjustments in their mental outlook and in their physical lives while there is still time left to do so. "

    And those would be?

    Seems with the Boomer Bulge, there's a real need for doomer information focused on this. Anything I can do to be adaptable and resilient lessens the burden on my beloved only child, so he can focus on strengthening his immediate family.

    We're making some change to our house now to make it easier to maintain as we age. We tell people we're "getting ready to be old".


  2. Tom Brokaw called those who went through the depression, then WWII, as "The Greatest Generation." Some wag I read somewhere, (making note of some failures of this same group) rejected the fawning label but allowed that we might at least call them "The Unluckiest Generation." Now I'm wondering if I am in the unluckiest generation?

  3. @Patrick - Another wag, I think it was humorist Joe Queenan, once said that if the Greatest Generation were so great, how did it end up raising a spoiled rotten generation like the Baby Boomers. :)