Sunday, August 28, 2011

Financial Planning and Baby Boomers

John is one of the sharpest guys I follow, so we listen to his words carefully.

Some Thoughts on Getting Older

(Source: John Mauldin)

I turn 62 on October 4 while in Geneva. I don’t feel that old, and hope I don’t look it, but the birth certificate verifies the age. I should note that my mother turned 94 last week and is still quite active. I was talking with a Rice University classmate (of ’72) and old friend, John Benzon, who has recently retired from Price Waterhouse and is trying to figure out what “Act 2” will be. I realized that when we graduated, we had barely lived 1/3 of the lives we now have.

So with that on my mind, two items hit my inbox today. The first was from Lance Roberts of Streettalk Advisors. The San Francisco Fed did a report recently that suggested that we aging Boomers will be a drag on the stock market as we sell to support our retirement (shades of Harry Dent!). From the report: 

“The baby boom generation born between 1946 and 1964 has had a large impact on the U.S. economy and will continue to do so as baby boomers gradually phase from work into retirement over the next two decades. To finance retirement, they are likely to sell off acquired assets, especially risky equities. A looming concern is that this massive sell-off might depress equity values.” 

You can read his short piece and the link to the Fed piece at financial-blog/253-boomers- are-going-to-be-a-real-drag. html.

I am not so sure, though. I think the Boomer generation is a little different from previous generations. I remember going to my grandmother’s in my early years, when my aunts and uncles were the age I am now. Even though active – and most lived well into their 90s – they had a far more sedentary lifestyle than many Boomers do today. Boomers are more active and, whether for financial reasons or simply because they don’t want to retire (that would be me!), they are going to work longer than previous generations. In fact, the only cohort that has seen their employment rates rise is workers over the age of 55! Good for them (although tough on my young kids, who need those jobs).

Then I got this picture from Jon Sundt, the president of Altegris, a close friend, and my business partner. He is 50, at the tail end of the Boomer Generation. 

This is a wave he caught at the Mentawai Island Chain, 80 miles off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. He goes there every summer. They go into the middle of the Indian Ocean to find these large waves. And it is mostly Boomer surfers. (I’m not sure how much I like the guy who’s responsible for a large part of my monthly cash flow taking these risks, but that’s another story!)

Go to a gym or running trail: it is not just kids out there any more. There are lots of people my age where I work out. Some of the trainers are over 50! We all have friends who are pushing the envelope – climbing mountains, biking, etc.

And the new biotech that will come out within the next five years is going to offer cures for many of the things that kill us sooner than we simply wear out. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, sclerosis of the liver, viruses are all on the short target list. I was talking about this with Scott Burns, noted author and long-time newspaper columnist (and a long-time friend). He calls it “catastrophic success” in his next book, as living longer is a “success,” but it makes our collective pension, Social Security, and Medicare problems even worse. Maybe MUCH worse. I smiled and told him there are worse problems than living longer. I intend to be writing and traveling for a few more decades.

And as my Dad used to say (he made it to 86), “God willing and the creek don’t rise” I intend to do 62 pushups on October 4th, which will be a personal best. I can’t do much about getting older (I will be very disappointed if I do not get a whole lot older!), but I don’t have to go quietly into that dark night. And neither do you, gentle reader. So, make sure you are around to read my musings a whole lot longer, as well. If you hang around long enough, you will even see me turn bullish! It won’t be that long, I promise. It will seem like just a few weeks from now.

And while I was having lunch with Scott, he asked me the question, “How many years of US corn production would the dollar reserves of China buy?” I mused, maybe 40. Wrong. It is only 12. And that is just corn. Not soybeans, wheat or rice or cattle, hogs or chickens. Think about that and stand back in awe at the productivity of the American farmer.



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