During the last five years of my father’s life, he began a series of letters and memos to my younger brother and me about his life. Dad was not a famous man, nor a particularly accomplished man – at least, not by standard measures of success. Nevertheless, his letters chronicling a childhood during the Depression in the midst of the Dust Bowl, his experiences as a infantryman on the battlefields of Europe, and life in the 1950s were an incredible record of an extraordinary life and time in the history of America.
Imagine a future where you have 24-7 worldwide access to an unlimited team of personal tutors, each an expert in their field. These “experts” explain their subjects in simple, practical language; they are incredibly patient, willing to repeat lessons without complaint; and their advice is free or comes at a minimal cost. That future is here – in the guise of a new instructional platform pioneered by Internet firms like Udemy.
Gene Perret, the comedy writer for such popular television shows as “All in the Family,” “Three’s Company,” and “The Carol Burnett Show,” once said of retirement, “It’s nice to get out of the rat race, but you have to get along with less cheese.” Almost everyone looks forward to that time when they can sleep as late as they want, spend their days traveling or playing golf, and opining about the state of civilization.
But the responsibility for a comfortable retirement rests almost completely on the shoulders of the individual worker. Government programs like Social Security and Medicare provide a minimum level of income and healthcare costs to recipients as these benefits are intended to be supplemented with employer benefits and private savings.
The idea that a growing economy benefits all classes has a long history of acceptance. It has been embedded in political rhetoric for the past half-century, regardless of party – in fact, John F. Kennedy is credited with the saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
The theory – popularized as “trickle-down economics” – presumes that economic policies that help the wealthy eventually benefit everyone. It’s led to federal legislation reducing taxes on the wealthy and easing corporate regulation, as well as Supreme Court decisions increasing the legal rights of corporations, bringing them in near-parity with natural beings.
Over the past couple of decades, the role of the modern CFO has been, and continues to be, redefined. The advent of new technology allowing for enhanced data collection and analysis tools – as well as operating management’s demands for reliable real-time information – has extended the CFO’s responsibility to all aspects of the company.
International commerce and expanded regulatory oversight in culturally diverse customer and employee bases complicates decisions and increases risk. As a result, the CFO’s authority and responsibilities over traditional finance, accounting, and treasury functions has intensified and expanded to satisfy an exhaustive list of internal, external, and regulatory stakeholders, many of whom have conflicting interests.
In 2004, Social Security benefits were projected to account for 40% of a baby boomer’s post-retirement family income, and almost all baby boomer retirees were expected to receive benefits, according to a Social Security Administration study. But Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, thinks those projections were conservative. Today, according to Baker, Social Security payments account for 90% of income for one-third of all seniors and more than 50% for two-thirds of them. For unmarried seniors, the dependence upon Social Security is even greater, accounting for almost three-quarters of their income.
Many seniors struggle to make ends meet each month. At the same time, they often own thousands of dollars of real estate in the form of equity in their home. But unless they take action, that equity remains untouchable, unable to help them out with basic living expense. What’s worse is that mortgage payments further reduce their available cash each month to pay crucial expenses.
A Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation report states that more than three of four seniors over the age of 65 have equity in their homes ranging from $67,700 to $325,200. One in 20 have home equity greater than $398,500, and 1% have more than $799,850.
In 2010, a Pew Research report indicated that three out of every four members of the workforce expect to keep working for pay after they retire. 60% of them believe this will be by choice, not necessity – but pre-retirees may be more optimistic than justified in their expectations. According to the Center of Retirement Research, less than half of all households are financially prepared for retirement at 65; a quarter will need to work at least one to three more years; and almost one in ten will need to work past age 72 or longer.
From the Neanderthals who left hand prints on the cavern walls of El Castillo, Spain more than 37,000 years ago, to the G.I.’s crude drawings of a long-nosed fellow peering over a fence announcing, “Kilroy was here,” humans have sought immortality through art. The same impulse that drives the graffiti tagger in Los Angeles drives the white-haired Hamptons matron to pen a letter to the local newspaper about animal leash laws: a desire to be seen, heard, and remembered.
The example of the first great republic in recorded history (509 B.C. to 29 B.C.) was omnipresent in the minds of America’s founders as they created a new republic centuries later. As a consequence of their deliberations and, perhaps, the “protection of divine Providence” as written in the Declaration of Independence, the United States of America, in the mind of many of the founders, was intended to be the modern equivalent of the Roman Republic. The Roman Republic ended with the infamous assassination of Julius Caesar in 27 B.C..