Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Life ain't nothing but a Ponzi Scheme*

Wealth cannot be stored in a bottle

FDR, Ponzi, and Madoff were right, you really aren't much worse off relying on Madoff or Social Security for retirement than an IRA or 401(k).

It doesn't matter if one systematically garnishes their paycheck to a 401(k) or expects the U.S. Treasury to overturn a couple centuries of demographics; either way, they are relying on future generations to produce the food, energy, goods and services that they will require to survive during their retirement.

That is the way it has been since the lifespan of retirees was extended past the edibility of their canned provisions or the firewood in the woodpile. Only today the cans contain imaginary wealth in the form of government promises or a greater fool being there to redeem our investments, instead of something tangible.

Wealth for the masses is a new thing. Society has almost always been able to redeem the precious metals and papers of a small number of royal or wealthy people. But the idea of masses putting away assets for years and later drawing them out for retirement is a new and untested idea.

Life ain't nothing but a Ponzi Scheme

It is not as if the money one put away in 1985 has any relevance to the food they will need to eat in 2035. Unfortunately, any canned vegetables, cat food or Metamucil squirreled away in the 1980's will not be fit for consumption when they need it. By then there will be tens of millions of other Boomers also using their retirement savings to compete for the limited resources being produced at that time.

Although you may have a pile of gold or paper (cash, bonds, or stocks), none of it is intrinsically good for anything needed to live. Most of us are even worse off, as we have some electrons stored in a database somewhere (Wall Street or Washington, D.C.) to account for our "wealth." That is many steps even further removed from being permanent and enduring. Whether metallic, cellulosic or electronic; you cannot eat it nor can you live in it or wear it. And it will not keep you warm.

Since the concept of retirement for the masses became reality in the 1930's, we have been dependent on demographics, actuarial reality, and ever increasing and efficient production of food and goods. All along, this has been an inter-generational transfer of wealth, but the above factors made it painless to those still working.

Work 'til you die

In my retirement, I will be dependent on increased efficiency of those still working, or more likely, I will need to remain a productive contributor to society to support those still ahead of me in line.

Now that I have figured out that wealth cannot be put in a bottle, I can forget about Die Broke. My new philosophy of life is Work 'til I Die. Those guys with gold teeth drinking Dom and driving the Escalades on credit have it right. The suckers are we folks who voluntarily have our wages garnished into 401(k)'s.

*I think I have the title for my book.

1 comment:

Dad29 said...

Yah, well, too bad for you....

If the GoreGreenTeam has its way, there will be no 'future generations' to pay for anything, either.

Remember that at the very core of their 'argument' rests Malthus. Dressed pretty by Rockefeller & Co., he re-emerged in the mid-1960's, and became Zero Pop Growth.

When that didn't play well in the US or anyplace else, it morphed into Cooling/Warming--all caused primarily by those dratted CHILDREN.