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Interested Parties

You might get what you need

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Oct 10, 2008
Interested Parties

You might get what you need

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Oct 10, 2008


Scott Jagow: We’re continuing our look at the financial crisis. We’ve been doing this series, Interested Parties, talking to different voting groups about their priorities in this election.

Baby Boomers always get a lot of attention from the candidates, but what about Boomer children? They’re young adults now.

Nancy Marshall Genzer talked to a couple of Boomer kids about what they want.

[Music]: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones

Nancy Marshall Genzer: In the late 1960s, boomers sang along with this Rolling Stones hit, even though they never really believed the song applied to them. They almost always got what they wanted. The boomers’ kids paid more attention to this part of the song.

[From song]: “But if you try sometimes you might find, you get what you need.”

The boomers’ more realistic offspring say the only way they’ll get what they need is through their own hard work and savings.

Steven Snodgrass: I’m not really counting on the government.

That’s Steven Snodgrass.

Galen Davis: I try not to count on the government for much of anything.

That’s Galen Davis. They’re on opposite sides of the country. They’re both in their 30s. Snodgrass lives in Hyattsville, Maryland; Davis in Sunnyvale, California. I spoke with Snodgrass on a Wednesday night as he and his wife were getting their two kids ready for school the next day.

Snodgrass’s daughter: What do we have for lunch tomorrow?

Davis took time out for our interview the next morning, before he and his wife bundled their 3-year-old off to daycare and headed to work.

Davis is a marketing manager for a Silicon Valley company. Snodgrass works for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Their fear that they can’t count on the government for anything is based on predictions that Social Security and Medicare will buckle as their parents start to retire. But they do wish the government would take some incremental steps. Snodgrass and Davis both mention healthcare a bunch of times. Snodgrass is most concerned about long-term care.

Snodgrass: If the government could come up with a savings account for long-term care that maybe could be transferred from one family member to another — OK, your mom doesn’t need it, maybe your dad does.

Davis worries about seniors who retire before they’re eligible for Medicare. He’d like the government to guarantee that they wouldn’t be wiped out if, say, they broke a hip while uninsured.

Davis: Some kind of catastrophic insurance or something. Maybe if there was a nationalized catastrophic plan. That might be the answer.

Davis also favors subsidized nursing home care. He says if he knew his parents would have these kinds of health benefits, it would be easier for him to plan his family’s financial future. As it is, he’s set up a savings account for his father in secret.

Davis: He’s got a lot of pride, so telling him that I’m doing it will probably start a fight.

Davis says this struggle could have been avoided if his father had been forced to save. He’d like the government to require employers to automatically enroll workers in 401(k) plans. Snodgrass wishes the government would give employers incentives to offer better retirement benefits.

Economists say boomers’ kids should save all the money they can because they might have to prop up their parents. Dean Baker is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Dean Baker: Many of the boomers are going to be hitting retirement with very little resources other than Medicare and Social Security, which means that a) they’ll be struggling through their retirement years, and b) they’ll certainly have nothing to pass onto their kids.

Except record-high federal budget deficits.

Laurence Kotlikoff: The country has been engaged in fiscal child abuse for about five decades.

Laurence Kotlikoff teaches economics at Boston University. He says the boomers’ kids should be asking the government to trim the deficit.

Kotlikoff: And the bills have been left, by and large, to future generations, including the boomers’ children.

Thinking about all the burdens on his generation, Snodgrass says wistfully he’d like a safety net from the government like universal healthcare. Davis wants some sort of government backstop, like the catastrophic insurance he mentioned. Neither one thinks he’ll get what he wants.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace Money.

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