(noun, etymology Dutch from ‘boedel’: estate, possession, inheritance, stock.). 1. Crowd, pack, lot, as in ‘the whole boodle.’ 2. a. Counterfeit money b. Money acquired or spent illegally or improperly, particularly when used in bribery for political purposes. 3. Slang for money in general.

The Age Old Tales of Fools Gold and How I Took Candy From A Baby

Posted on: Jan. 10, 2012  |  By: Ronnie Kahn  |  Category: Boodle-cise, General

Exercise:  What have you done in your life that was done for money but felt wrong since you believed that you didn’t have a better choice?

As each person ages, we must decide at what point do we apply the label “old” to ourselves.  Like becoming rich, there is not one point when you are poor and when you add one more dollar, you move to Beverly Hills or The Hamptons.  Similarly, there is not a Tuesday when you are still young but when you wake up on Wednesday, you have a date with Betty White.  I use this guideline to determine the age test:  when you are young and you do something stupid and forgetful, you think that is something someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia would do.  When you are old, you think, do I actually have Alzheimer’s or dementia and have I asked myself this before?

In the wild, animals that live in troops often times will group themselves around dominant males.  At some point, the male gets old and is removed by a younger and now more dominant male.  In human cultures, there have been societies set up around a big man or matriarch who everyone owes tribute to as a tradeoff for keeping their world in order.

As for the “to what extent will you do things for money” exercise above, money is embedded in our lives and souls.  We may think that we make a decision for “love OR money” but really our choices are based on “love AND money.”  You would think that the pressures of money problems could lead a husband and wife to split up.  Sociologists point out that during a recession, however, divorce goes down as many persons postpone going out on their own since it will be too costly or hard to make it when times are tough.  When times are good though, couples split-up more when they are thinking that now they’ll have a good shot at being independent.  Sadly, what does go up in bad economic times is domestic violence.

Our economy is based on trillions of these “love and money” decisions and other kinds of decisions that are being made every second of the day.  It is not necessarily a problem when a decision is made for money as the prime consideration.  The problem is that these societal choices are now being transformed by the fact that with improvement in medical science, we are all living so much longer.  While there are plenty of stories in the news about some elderly person having their life savings grifted away by some suave con-artist, there could be just as many stories that could be told where an older, wiser, and more powerful person takes candy from the proverbial baby.  The Occupy folks like to speak in terms of the “One and Ninety-Nine Percents” but we should also be speaking in terms of “Young and Old.” If you have money in what amounts to our economic troop, you can keep the dominant male from pushing you out of the tree.  I have also heard that there are no social security paychecks in the wild.

Economic decisions are based on confidence which affects supply and demand.  In other words, if you like a Company A’s prospects and believe they will do well in the future than you buy the stock and if you like Company Z’s product for the price that you pay for it more than the same product from another company, than you buy that product.  These decisions are the glue that keeps the economy together.  Due to the changes in health and life expectancy though, we have the effect of what is leading to a crisis of demographics intertwined with how our confidence is being shaken by these changes in medical science.  Of course, each person has never known how long they are going to live.  The problem is that with so many years of potential longevity, each person has to have the confidence that they will have enough to not outlive their money.  In addition, years of spending rather than saving have left baby boomers in the fix of needing to make up for lost time unless they are counting on a large inheritance.

This increased longevity has affected the larger economy as well.  Each person and company that gets pension benefits has to account for investment return projections and life expectancy.  The longer we live; each pension has to put away more money to account for longer lives unless they play the game of assuming larger investment returns.  In other words, if you assume you will make more money on investments than you will need less money to invest but, as most of us know, this is a dangerous course to take.  This life expectancy issue plays out in the same way in the public sector as well as the private pensions in the form of Social Security and Medicare benefits that the government must pay out.   There has to be enough younger workers paying into the system to pay for current benefits.  Also, for general revenue, if the government doesn’t have the tax revenues to pay for this behemoth than it issues more debt or bonds which causes a larger budget deficit.  This deficit reverberates all down the line as interest gets charged on the building interest and interest rates and inflation can be hit as well and so on.

Faced with this life expectancy problem of not knowing how long you will live and how much you will need, many older workers are choosing to work longer, not to retire at all, or are working just to keep their minds sharp.  This leaves younger workers behind the eight-ball as employer’s may keep more experienced workers on and fail to hire those new to the job market.   Older workers working longer take jobs away from younger workers.  Ironically, some Baby Boomers stay employed in order to keep supporting their children and helping them because they are unemployed or with skyrocketing college costs.

This does not even account for Health care costs which keep rising since with better science comes more costly medical procedures as well as older individuals having more medical needs from the increased life expectancy.  This also makes employers reluctant to hire due to rising healthcare costs.

A ways back, my wife and I took a midweek trip to Cambria on the Central Coast of California.  When we had dinner at the inn that we were staying at, I noticed that every person in the place was in the senior age group.  It’s not like we were vacationing in Miami.  There were a variety of ages on the streets of the town.  While part of it could be explained by our being there during the week, how did all of these persons afford to stay here on a fixed income while those in the earning years were conspicuously absent?  When the young are employed they are out there spending money which keeps the economy vibrant.  In certain ways and areas, a young person needs fewer resources to get them by than an older person does such as going to the doctor less or being sick from work less.  On the other hand, elder folks do help the economy by having money saved in assets that become invested but that tradeoff is not offset since the elderly spend less than younger workers do as well as the costs to everyone else to pay for the rising health costs.

The only advantages currently to the young are left to specific fields such as computer technology which is a newer and constantly changing sector that older workers have a harder time keeping up with along with the very medical field that serves the elderly.  However, if you are young and not in those fields, you may either have a hard time finding work at all or have to accept a job paying a lot less.  Technically, if boomers would retire there should be less unemployment as there are fewer workers left to fill the needed jobs.

Our society has told the older workers that they worked to pay for the elderly of their day and now it’s their turn.  However, the social security system was also designed to encourage elderly workers to leave the workforce so that there would be jobs for the young.   Again, the young are better spenders which churn the economy.  Most think of their Social Security Benefits as a right they have earned.  After all, they are called “entitlement programs.”  It is not that these older workers haven’t worked hard and not that they don’t have every right to deserve the fruits of their labors.   It is as though there is some cultural switch that was on “give” and now must go to “take.”  However, most understand that the system was designed when life expectancy was much shorter.  To most of us though, this translates to a discussion of whether the Social Security system will be solvent for the young down the road.  Our cultural story leads us to believe that our money is ours and we have earned it.  While there are individuals who make decisions that do help or hinder their chances at not outliving their money, our cultural story needs to understand that we all exist as a whole.  Money does not work by an “us against them” modus operandi.  I need you and you need me for it to work.  The narrative is more like an ecosystem.  The young folks are the wolves.  The old may seem like sweet little passive sheep but the problem is that we need a natural balance for the two to survive.  This is about responsibility that we all look out for each other.  This is not just some ideal but a way for all of us to thrive, both young and old.  If the wolves kill off too many sheep, there won’t be enough food left for them to subsist.  If there are too many sheep, they eat all the plants and grasses to the point of extinction for all concerned.  Wolves force the sheep to move from place to place and killing off some of the weak actually strengthen the population.  Unfortunately even more, the elderly are like the farmers who want the wolves killed off to protect their other livestock.  The farmers fail to see their part in this financial infanticide along with the importance of the natural balance.  Increasing life expectancies, pension benefits and entitlement programs are like the sheep eating everything in sight.  If we keep going, even the wolves will starve.

The values of “I am okay as long as I have mine” are like a fool’s gold.  On the surface, it looks like it is the real thing but the only way to sell it would be to sell something worthless to someone else for your own gain.  The natural balance is to promote a confidence and a fairness that keeps our decisions in a framework to produce a vibrant economy for both young and old and we need the old to stop being a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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