What If Boomers Can't Retire?: How to Build Real Security, Not Phantom Wealth

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9781576751121: What If Boomers Can't Retire?: How to Build Real Security, Not Phantom Wealth

Three trends are on a collision course: an aging population, the use of stocks to create paper wealth, and baby boomers' plans to use that wealth to retire. This book explains the hazards of relying on the stock market and offers balanced advice on how boomers can meet their retirement needs.

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From the Publisher:

This book turned out to be a guide to much that happened after it was published in January 2001. Trillions of dollars of phantom wealth vanished. Companies that had been praised for their rapid growth failed as the "new economy" turned out to be a bubble. Millions of people lost their jobs and millions millions more watched their retirement savings dwindle or disappear.

Now, as companies try to raise their stock prices by cutting costs and eliminating jobs, particularly those of older people, organizations like AARP and publications like The New York Times and Consumer Reports are reporting that aging baby boomers should plan to work longer than many of them had expected to do. The mismatch between what stocks do and what people need is becoming ever more obvious. This mismatch is the most important theme of What if Boomers Can’t Retire?.

There is still pressure to divert Social Security funds to individual accounts that could buy stocks, and the financial services industry is still telling boomers and all Americans to bet on stocks to pay for their retirements. But nobody has explained how stocks can possibly do what is claimed for them—pay for the retirement of millions of boomers—and the devastating losses since the market peaked in 2000 show what can happen if they fail.

What if Boomers Can’t Retire? isn’t fun to read and some don’t like it. Most organizations and publications that cater to investors avoid mentioning it, but some people have said ruefully they wish they had read it when it came out. Against this backdrop, two things have not happened. No one has explained why the book’s main messages are wrong and no one has explained how retirement plans that are based on stock gains can work for boomers. If there is a significant flaw in the book, it should have surfaced by now, but I have not heard of one. Some people don’t believe the risks are as serious as the book indicates, but so far, they have not backed up their beliefs with facts or analyses.

So the book seems as correct as I tried to make it. Apart from Sept. 11, much that has happened after its publication should be seen as a preview of worse to come if Americans don’t wake up to the risks of expecting stocks to do what they can’t do.

On the bright side, more is being said and written about people in the U.S. and other developed countries who are finding fulfillment by simplifying their lives, doing work that they can enjoy in their later years, reducing consumption, and helping in their communities. These are paths that What if Boomers Can’t Retire? says most of us should take.

Thornton Parker August 8, 2002

About the Author:

Thornton Parker

Thornton Parker has more than forty-five years’ experience in strategic planning, finance, technology management and policy development, including work with the Air Force, GE, RCA, the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President, and the Commerce Department.

Books by the author: What If Boomers Can’t Retire?

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