Two articles on Boomers and the economy caught my eye recently, in part because they depict two vastly different futures. In one, “Wells Fargo Warns of Looming Retirement Crisis,” we get the usual scaremongering about Boomers harming the futures of Millennials. The solution? Boomers should invest more.
The other article, “The Myth That Baby Boomers Are Stealing Jobs,” points out that Boomers working longer is good for the economy, and that the idea that this means fewer jobs for Millennials is a myth. The solution? Adjust Social Security so that it doesn’t punish people who work beyond retirement age.
Every day, we are inundated with conflicting information about where we are headed and what should be done about it. How do we determine which predictions about the future are more plausible?
In this case, the answer is rather obvious. In the first article, we have information coming from sources with a vested interest in the outcome. Of course Wells Fargo and Bank of America Merrill Lynch want people to believe they need to invest more, and portraying this from the perspective of harming our nation and specifically Millennials is one way to convince people of its necessity.
Does this mean that the conclusion is incorrect? Not necessarily. There is certainly plenty of evidence that Boomers need to be more realistic, informed, and proactive in their financial planning. But the data cited in the article comes from banking industry surveys, not independent sources. That is at a minimum a red flag that should make us skeptical, particularly of the conclusions in the article that are not data based, such as the claim that Boomers are directly harming Millennials.
The second article bases its conclusions on studies by independent sources, MIT and the University of British Columbia as well as the Boston College Center of Retirement Research. These studies find that Boomers working longer do not take jobs away from Millennials, despite the prevalence of this myth in media reporting. When the generation with the most spending power works longer, they spend more, companies grow and startups increase, and more jobs are created.
Why do articles like the first keep cropping up in media? Fear sells, both in media and in politics. And there is definitely a political and corporate agenda vested in turning the generations against each other, particularly as a way to cut back or eliminate social programs.
This doesn’t mean that bad news is always untrue, but when the solution rests on dividing us rather than uniting us, you can bet that the good of our country, for all generations, is not at the heart of it. In fact, heart probably has little to do with it.
How do you distinguish between conflicting information about Boomers, retirement, and the economy?
Image Credit: flickr, photo by creativelenna