I was speaking with a friend this weekend, commenting on the fact that I have rather rapidly come to the realization that I have a great opportunity to get my financial house in order and I did not want to mess it up.
The response was "That is really great for you - sadly for generations following you, probably not possibly. Certainly for me."
The response struck me as odd.
My friend is with 15 years of me so (I guess technically) we are almost in the same age cohort. Yet to her, it seems as if the concept of not doing a job for which you get paid for the rest of your life is something that cannot be achieved.
Has the fissure really become this great?
My initial reaction (which I did not speak, of course) was that things may be different, but not necessarily harder. But is it? Is this the first American generation that will not think of retiring? And if so, what changed so dramatically?
Student loans? Yes, I think that is an element - but then again, that comes back to decisions. No-one forces anyone to take out a student loan, and there are plenty of ways to make money without a formal degree?
Cost of living? Possibly, but then again do have to live where you want to live? For me, and millions like me, we follow the jobs and sacrifice where we might want to live for where we have to live.
Taxes, fees, licenses? That is a third rail no-one willingly touches, but if I were in states with significant state taxes, I would definitely consider that to be an issue.
Or is just simply the question of spending - that retiring for most of use requires years of planning and sacrifice, something that many - most - are no longer willing to do? We have become a society of instant gratification, where waiting is considered foolish at best and painful at worst.
One other thought: the painful reality is that we are now in a 24 hours global economy where the tolerance for error has become much less. We have made some significant errors which cost us - but have had the time and money to recover. In the new cycle, I suspect such things are now much more unforgiving.
Perhaps it is all of these.
The better question - instead of all of us bemoaning the fact that less people can consider this, is how do we get more people there? Sadly, if it comes with sacrifice and delayed gratification, I suspect most people will still say "No".