Here’s a new story in the spirit of Dickens’ Scrooge. It seems that bequests to baby boomers are falling short of expectations. I recall that about five years ago a study indicated that some $3 trillion was about to change hands from the WWII generation to baby boomers. Many charities were rubbing their hands together with glee because it was expected that even after the boomers got their inheritances there would be a windfall for charities.
The reality is that in 2001 only 26.8% of boomers surveyed got what they expected in inheritances according to an AARP survey. Why the shortfall?
- The BOOM in baby boom means there are more children to spread the wealth among.
- The expiring generation is spending down their assets. They can’t make it on Social Security.
- The retired are living longer and larger and spending their money on better lifestyles.
- Attitudes are changing. The percent who think it’s important to leave an inheritance has shrunk from 55.5 to 46.8 between ’92 and ’98.
But, you major gifts people, don’t despair. This problem is happening mainly among the middle-class. The rich are leaving more than ever.
Experts at the Federal Reserve think that baby boomers will leave more 50 years from now. I seriously doubt that. Speaking as a front-of-the-pack boomer, I predict that baby boomers will spend every nickel they have on rejuvenation, life extension and the best of everything to the last breath.
When I commented a few days ago about strategies for dealing with the future other than futuring I mentioned two: quick reactions and resilience. I just thought of a third: muddling through. Probably it is the most common way people, groups and societies move forward. A little planning, a little insight, a lot of wrangling about what to do and just hanging on. It’s a real-world mix of anticipation, reacting and resilience.
Personally I think that’s how world society will deal with the next few centuries. What to do with 8.9 billion people? Muddle through. Global warming? If and when the waters are lapping at the doorsteps in Malibu and New Orleans, rowboats will be all the fashion. After all, Venice, Italy, of today is built on top of two or three other layers of the city that sank in the ooze of the past. Grow rice on the Canadian tundra. Huge global markets and labor supply? The restless souls around the world will adjust their lives and lifestyles—perhaps painfully—to accommodate what comes. Fearsome biotechnologies and nanotechnologies that make some people quake in their boots for their potential to be used malevolently? Biohazard suits at The Gap. Muddle through. Turbulent? You bet!
Muddling through is the default behavior for human progress and a good approximation of Kevin Kelly’s notion of Out of Control. Does this view pass for optimism?
A recent opinion-piece in Wired magazine is titled flatly: “Futurism is Dead.” The article condemns the field of futurism and the World Future Society in particular as failures because the record of predictions from professional futurists has been so bad. The great irony is that there has been no publication with as many articles over the past 10 to 15 years full of failed predictions as Wired. The most famous is their cover story seven or eight years ago that said adamantly than the Internet browsers like Netscape and Explorer were finished and that the future of the Internet was “push” technology. Couldn’t have been more wrong. And nobody did more to hype the notion of the so-called New Economy that would soar forever on constantly evolving technology than Wired.
Nevertheless, the idea of futuring is worth some discussion.
Something you tend to wonder about when thinking about the future is: how many people will be around and for how long?
According to the latest UN projections the world population will reach 8.9 billion folks by 2050 and top-out at 9 billion around 2300. The US will reach about 500 million. Fewer kids and more AIDS will put the brakes on growth.