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The Coming Generational Storm

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The Coming Generational Storm

What You Need to Know about America's Economic Future

MIT Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Hey, Baby Boomer, when it is your turn to get Social Security, will enough folks be working to pay you? Here's the math.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


This volume is infinitely more thoughtful than most of the books that point to the expected insolvency of the Social Security system and pronounce that the fiscal sky is falling. After all, the U.S. economy has weathered plenty of fiscal crises before, but those in power have barely addressed this one. Authors Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Scott Burns ask you to realize that the government is saddling your children with unbearable debt. One by one, they strip away all the supposed answers to the demographic bulge and economic bust that characterize the impending mass retirement of the baby boom generation. They demonstrate that the dwindling number of working-age citizens simply will not be able to support the coming onslaught of retirees. The python has eaten the rabbit, but will it be able to swallow? Kotlikoff's "generational accounting" explains that government is running up charges on our kids' credit cards. And like any bill that doesn't get paid, this one will keep getting bigger. getAbstract recommends this nicely crafted book to all responsible citizens.


Generational Tsunami

Forget Bob Dylan's classic "Forever Young." Based on America's graying demographic, the new ballad ought to be "Forever Old – at least for the foreseeable future." The times they are a changing, and a tidal wave of aging baby boomers is about to slam down on our economy. Consider one statistic. Today, some 60,000 U.S. citizens are 100 or older. By the mid-century, there will be 600,000. Just to house the centarians, you would need a city slightly larger than current-day Washington, D.C. (population 567,000). Carefully consider the economic challenge presented by this aging population.

The Tip of the Age-berg

Why is the economy facing a coming generational storm? These facts help explain:

  • If you were born in 1900, your life expectancy was 47.
  • Your chance of living to age 65 or older was less than one in 20.
  • Now, life expectancy is 76, and gains in life expectancy appear to be accelerating.
  • By 2000, 12.4% of Americans were older than 65.
  • The nation's population reached 76 million in 1900, doubled to 151 million by 1950 and nearly doubled to 286 million by 2000. Projections are it will pass 300...

About the Authors

Economist Laurence J. Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Scott Burns is a personal finance columnist with the Dallas Morning News. His work is syndicated nationally by Universal Press.

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