Is the Retirement Crisis Really a Crisis?

By on April 25, 2013

Retirement GamblePBS Frontline recently presented a documentary called “The Retirement Gamble” which examines the role of the financial services industry in the developing retirement savings shortfall facing a large number of Americans. According to PBS correspondent Martin Smith, “half of Americans say they can’t afford to save for retirement while 1/3 have next to no retirement savings at all.”

Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard, is on hand to give some wise counsel for future retirees. The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Zweig also provides some insight.

Bogle points out that an investor paying management fees of two percent annually will give up over 60% of their capital over a period of 50 years.

Watch The Retirement Gamble on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

SMA Comment: A lot has been documented recently regarding the “looming retirement crisis,” along with the rich getting richer, while the poor and middle class stagnate. It is true that many seniors will be subsisting on low-cost food (perhaps even cat food) and living in trailer parks, or worse, as one subject in the documentary mentions.

That there is a problem with retirees being short on funds should be expected in a culture that bombards and brainwashes individuals to consume every dime they come across during their working lives, or even borrow to “stay in fashion.” Several of the struggling boomers, including documentarian Smith himself, are shown peering into their Apple Macbooks and iMacs.

Additionally, the financial services industry isn’t helping seniors by convincing them to invest their meager life savings in actively managed funds where they get clipped by 1-2% per year on average. These onerous fees tend to devastate the returns of accounts set aside for retirement. A number of $155,000 was thrown out regarding the average fees a holder of a 401k will pay over their plan’s lifetime.

However, is this really a crisis?

Seniors having less is actually good for the environment, as their carbon footprint is on the decline. The bottom 90%, whose economic influence wanes, drive around less, are forced to monitor their electricity consumption, and so forth. The top 10%, whose wealth continues to increase geometrically, can travel a limited amount and consume only so much steak and lobster. Is it not a good thing for the sustainability of planet Earth that wealth gets re-distributed from prospective retirees to the Wall Street elite?

Also, many seniors short on retirement funds will be forced to continue working, which may actually be good for their physical fitness, well-being and sense of worth.

Where is the crisis?


  1. Howard Ends

    April 25, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Interesting take on something being carped on incessantly in the MSM. This is just one step in the ongoing de-evolution into 3rd world status as the disparity of wealth widens and once regarded middle class are converted to serfs and peasants.

  2. Anita Mandelay

    April 26, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Several good points were made in the SMA comments.

    I’d add that trailer parks can support concentrated numbers of underclass and are generally better for the environment than single-family residences. The trailers themselves typically last 20-25 years which, on average, will provide sufficient shelter for 10 persons (not necessarily at the same time) during the trailer’s lifespan. Additionally, modern trailers employ recyclable materials and most trailer parks don’t use excessive concrete, thus mitigating water run-off issues.

    Modern advances with the electrical grid make it possible to control a shelter’s energy use as well. HVAC systems can be remotely disabled in all but the most extreme temperature situations. Likewise, lighting systems can be time-controlled so that electrical illumination is only available during the day and early evening (when it is LEAST needed). This will help the underclass sleep according to natural circadian rhythms and will prevent them from consuming natural resources (food, water, petroleum) when they could otherwise be in a state of rest.

    • Barry McCociner

      April 27, 2013 at 6:09 pm


      I fear you are either too optimistic or idealistic or both. The baby boomer numbers simply don’t make mathematical sense when you factor in the real inflation we’ll have during the next decade. The world population of 60+ years old’s will be 1.2 billion by 2020; that number will almost double to 2 billion by 2050. Those percentages will likely be worse in the U.S. than the rest of the world. Your trailer park Disney world is not possible with those figures. We’re talking 4 billion housing trailers? It’s simply too many people to deal with.

      • Anita Mandelay

        April 28, 2013 at 5:43 pm

        I’m neither overly optimistic or nor overly idealistic. I know the numbers don’t bode well for the baby boomers. Realistically, other methods will need to be employed to deal with their numbers. But I think it’s a stretch to go from inadequate 401Ks straight to death camps. I saw a movie once where everyone over 40 was killed off (forget the name of the flick). That’s absurd. There are plenty of 65 year old’s that are both mentally and physically capable and productive members of society. But there is a point where society cannot afford to support the elderly.

        • Herbie Versmels

          April 29, 2013 at 9:11 am

          Anita and Barry,

          It’s rather simple. At a set age, say 60, the community administers physical and mental acuity tests. If a member of the underclass fails 2 consecutive tests, they’re euthanized.

          Some people have suggested calisthenics (stretches) for the physical component, but I think it would be better to use an electricity generating stationary bike. That would allow the proctors to measure how much energy each underclass person creates. You could assign a quota, say 3000 watt hours (that’s enough electricity to power a 100 watt light bulb for 30 hours), per week. If a member falls short, they would fail the test for the week.

          The benefits are obvious; no green house emissions, improved fitness and a system with clearly defined benchmarks. It’s very important this isn’t viewed as arbitrary or capricious. As energy producing stationary bikes become more efficient, it isn’t hard to imagine a trailer park generating all their energy from these devices. You could have a “fitness center” where all residents were required to ride a bike X numbers of hours a day (probably around 4).

          You could even do away with the mental acuity tests and just allow members to barter energy credits. One person may be incapable of producing enough energy but they’re savvy enough to acquire excess credits from a more physically fit member.

  3. Kim Noons

    April 27, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    The underclass relegated to bare subsistance. The bankster overlords are serving a useful purpose!

  4. Xplosive Diareamouth

    April 28, 2013 at 11:42 am

    You can save for retirement all your life, but just one major illness can land you in the most dangerous place on earth…the hospital. There you’ll encounter the most dangerous people on earth…doctors.

    You want to die? Let these bastards cut you open in their staph infected microbial pig troughs they call a hospital. These malpracticing morons kill more people accidentally every year than guns and cars combined.

    Pray you don’t get sick and hospitalized. You’ll either end up broke or dead, or maybe both.

  5. Mr. X

    April 29, 2013 at 11:03 am

    I can’t believe you guys are advocating euthanasia for senior citizens. It isn’t their fault they were sold a false bill of goods (the stock market).

    • Todd Lerfondler

      May 27, 2013 at 7:09 am

      Then you support them! I’m for turning them into dog food.

  6. Barry McCociner

    April 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    It is their fault they BOUGHT a false bill of goods. They put all their faith in the political nimrods. Democrats purchasing reelection by constructing a self-perpetuating welfare state. Republicans modeling a world on some jesus man in the sky. Bottom line, senior citizens are not going to get their $2,500 monthly check and medicare for 25-30 years. They willingly elected politicians who chose to spend the money that should have been guarded in trust. Some of us just want a solution that doesn’t involve devaluing or money 50%. That doesn’t help anyone. You call it euthanasia. I call it preserving our nation.

  7. Pingback: Collapse Update – Spring 2013 | Gerold's Blog

  8. Mikey Likes Everything

    February 9, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    I agree this “crisis” is overblown. Those who are don’t fall prey to constant commercial pitches will be able to save enough to have a decent retirement, no matter their income.

    Retirees are much better off than in the past. EBRI’s recent study shows this (read below):

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