Americans of the “Y” Generation, or those of us under 35, are facing a crisis. We are precocious, impatient, impulsive and ostentatious, but above all, we have the hope that our lives, and our happiness, lie on the long road that awaits us. Unfortunately, if the powers that be in the White House and on Capitol Hill run rampant over our future, our nation — and especially our generation — faces impending financial disaster.
The United States has been careless about debt, and is now strapped with the unrealistic funding of overly subsidized programs aimed at keeping voting blocs dependent on government, rather than protecting their grandchildren.
According to a Heritage Foundation report and U.S. Census data from Jan. 11, 2013, since 2007, the average income for people ages 25 to 34 has fallen by 8.2 percent—a decline twice as large as the 3.9 percent decline for the rest of the adult population. Unemployment for those aged 20 to 24 and 25 to 34 remains at 13.7 percent and 7.7 percent, respectively—a stark contrast to the 6.1 percent unemployment rate for the rest of the adult population.
College graduates abound who are unable to find jobs; ask any parent. These numbers have consequences. According to “WomanTrend,” a division of the Polling Company, Inc., 44 percent of my generation are currently delaying the purchase of a home, despite record low mortgage rates. Twenty-eight percent of us are delaying saving for retirement, even though our generation will need to save for retirement because pensions don’t exist anymore. Twenty-seven percent are delaying going back to school due to the cost of tuition, despite constant rhetoric from the Obama White House proclaiming that education is the way to maintain America’s status as the world’s economic superpower. Eighteen percent of our generation are delaying marriage, the bedrock of our country’s ethical core, because we can’t afford to assume the responsibilities of having a family.
Currently, every young American bears $45,000 of the nation’s debt burden. Most young Americans do not even earn $45,000 in a year. According to the Heritage Foundation’s newly released “2012 Federal Budget in Pictures” series, that $45,000 number will increase to $135,547 by 2036. By 2056, uninhibited by adult Washington policymakers, entitlement spending in the Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, subsidies and Social Security will combine to consume over half of the nation’s discretionary spending, leaving little room for innovation, economic freedom or the simple ability to buy everyday things.
It is fair to assume that as life expectancy, overall health and average retirement age inevitably increase, obtaining Social Security from the government should happen later. Has the Obama administration done anything to put reform in motion? Of course not.
Our country is home to the most innovative people this world has ever seen. In its present form, Social Security is simply unsustainable. Mechanically, the solution is easy, but it takes the kind of political will that has been lacking among our leaders. To increase the age at which we receive Social Security will put this important program on a solid financial footing. The same applies to means testing as well. If I am lucky enough to succeed in life, to plan as I should and to be blessed with the ability to pay my own way in retirement, I should not expect a monthly check from the government – that money would be better spent elsewhere, and on those who need it.
Too many of our leaders seem to view the United States as Neverland, Peter Pan’s magical world, where no one ever grows up (and thus no one has a need for a pension or 401K). The reality is that, according to the Wall Street Journal, 60 percent of workers age 55 and over have less than $100,000 in savings and investments, excluding home equity and pensions. It was the availability of pensions, funded by businesses and the taxpayers, that assisted the 20th century’s “Greatest Generation” through retirement, and a hybrid of pensions and government welfare currently promises to support the parents of Generation Y.
“Generation Yers” themselves, though should expect that neither will exist by the time they retire. It takes savings of roughly $1 million to generate an annual income of $50,000 a year. What about special needs and special care? Currently, for those unmarried over the age of 65, Social Security monthly payments constitute 49 percent of a woman’s and 37 percent of a man’s income. What is my generation to do if pensions disappear and budgetary restrictions caused by inaction in Washington continue? Washington has not made saving in a 401K appealing to my generation, nor has it addressed the fact that we should be able to save more in retirement (currently at $17,000 a year tax-free) to offset the lack of benefits we will eventually receive.
Let us hope the Captain Hooks and pirates of Capitol Hill and the White House open their eyes soon and start enacting policies that will allow the next generation to have a truly American childhood—and a fulfilling adulthood.
Tyler Randolph Boyd, 29, is a corporate strategist for the bipartisan public affairs and brand management consulting firm Purple Strategies.