Hurricane of Another
Atlantic Hurricane season is underway. This means that
residents along the Eastern seaboard, and in particular south
Florida, have begun making their annual pilgrimages to Home
Depot stores and supermarkets looking for batteries, water,
generators and that staple of American homeland security, duct
is warned repeatedly about the need to prepare for what is
surely coming significant storm activity. Whether a
particular urban area is hit by a powerful hurricane is not
something that can be accurately predicted long range. There
is no doubt that overall storm activity during hurricane
season is intense and the risks are very high. We see the
risks, we are warned about the risks and some people heed the
warnings and take preventive action.
however, another intense and clearly predictable problem which
faces all of us, not just in south Florida, but also
throughout the United States and the world. It is a problem
that will hurt many individuals tragically, but will also
affect every local government and every individual who fails
to prepare diligently amid the great risks. It is the crisis
in retirement income.
expectancy is increasing to the point where a child born today
will have a life expectancy of about 80 years. Parents of a
newborn today will likely find that the child spends more time
taking care of the elder parents than the parents spent taking
care of the child. Retirement will last years or decades
longer than my mom and dad ever expected.
symptom of this coming storm is the size of our expectations.
We live in a society that has become a culture of entitlement.
Among those entitlements is the expectation of access to high
quality health care and all that goes with modern medicine,
including drugs and rapid access to modern diagnostic,
surgical or therapeutic interventions.
expected that if a person goes to a doctor with chest pains
and the person accepts the physicians recommendation that
coronary bypass surgery or insertion of a stent is the best
treatment, the person will have the surgery and receive the
care in a matter of hours or days rather than in the rest of
the world, of weeks, months or never.
about health insurance premiums increasing far beyond the rate
of inflation and find significant unrest in the workforces
that still have unions (i.e., declining traditional
manufacturing industries and the "growth industry" for
American unions local governments) when co-pays are
increased or provider networks are reduced.
often a Category 5 storm response whenever a county or city
dares to suggest to the firefighters, for example, that the
organization needs a less costly method of providing and
paying for health insurance.
a longer lifespan and a realized expectation of quality
healthcare are good things. However, there is no substantial
evidence of widespread preparations for the time when we are
no longer working, may not have access to health insurance or
may be in need of hugely expensive long-term nursing home
recent retirement confidence survey, 69 percent of Americans
say they are saving for retirement. This means that just under
one-third are not. They make assumptions that they will be
taken care of somehow by Social Security or by their
benevolent former employers after they retire. More than half
of the 69 percent who say they save for retirement, report
that they have saved less than $25,000 toward their
retirement! Imagine trying to retire based on your current
income level when your cash in the bank equals
healthcare costs and a greater need for healthcare as we age
suggests a dangerous disaster scenario, especially when it
applies not only to individuals but also to our society in
general. An estimated 50 million Americans lack health
insurance now. As costs increase, as economic changes occur
such as the continued shifting of manufacturing jobs to fast
growing economies, like Chinas, the scenario is likely to
regrettably, no national consensus has emerged on what
policies should be applied in the face of the hurricane to
come. There is no general political courage at the federal
level to propose uniform programs such as single payer for
true emergency or catastrophic care, or any of the other
policy kinds of initiatives suggested by the HR Doctor in a
prior article found in Dont Walk by Something Wrong,
the HR Doctors recent book.
clear symptoms of trouble ahead, the lack of will or vision to
address the problems properly and comprehensively and the
result is the equivalent of telling everyone how important it
is to prepare for a hurricane and then closing the National
Hurricane Center, FEMA and local disaster services for a long
summer break following in the footsteps of Americas
local government leader understands what no retirement or
long-term healthcare preparation means for local government.
More and more retirees will be only one illness or injury away
from becoming indigent retirees. The average widowed or
unmarried woman Social Security recipient gets about $9,576
per year while the average male receives $12,468. For these
elderly recipients, Social Security constitutes a very
significant, perhaps their only source of retirement income.
In fact, Social Security represents the majority of retirement
income for women over 65, 38 percent of income for men and 35
percent for elderly couples. It is the only source of income
for 29 percent of unmarried, elderly women, including
Social Security Administration figures are the statistics of
an increasingly impoverished and growing lower economic class
in society called "mom and dad, or grandma and
many difficult social problems this situation of lack of
vision will generate will be significant increases in unfunded
health and welfare mandates which will fall on you guessed
it local government. The Department of Rhetoric headquarters
will remain in Washington, D.C. and in state capitals. But the
"Action" headquarters, with insufficient tools to do the job
ethically and properly, will be found in the struggling local
is coming which will affect every government agency and every
citizen in the United States, even those with health
insurance. Currently, an estimated $1 out every $12 spent on
health insurance premiums is the result of providers needing
to increase premiums to make up for indigent healthcare costs
for the uninsured. That number will grow.
not only the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season in
Southeastern America, it is clearly also a season where a
hurricane of another source is brewing. We had better take the
steps needed to educate ourselves about retirement planning.
We need to switch from a "credit card" mentality of "buy it
now, worry about payment later" to a preparation and savings
mentality and hold national leaders accountable for
implementing the visions that put them in office in the first
Doctor is one of the many local government employees who
regularly add to deferred compensation, purchase long-term
care insurance and try to take good care of
so, we are, in effect, putting seven years worth of grain in
the granaries for the hard times which will come. Sadly, this
hurricane of the unprepared will affect so many for so long in
the future unless serious action starts now!
best as you plan for your own retirement!
The HR Doctor