Government reports a week or so ago conveyed this startling information: the average American family had lost 40 percent of its net worth over the past 4 years. We have all been transported financially back to the early 1990s. That is enough to cause anyone some serious stress and make the phrase “satisfying retirement” seem almost like an oxymoron.
A picture of the early 1990s: Desert Storm — a decade before 9/11, even longer before Iraq and Afghanistan — several presidents ago.
My kids were just entering their teens. I was traveling 100,000 miles a year, and my mom still had 20 years to live.
Many people had pagers, while very few owned large and expensive mobile cell phones. Laptops were unheard of, and tablets wouldn’t be invented for almost two decades. The dot.com meltdown wouldn’t happen for another 8 years.
How can all that time have passed, and yet, our efforts were wiped out in the relative blink of an eye? How can it be that this news story passed with barely a ripple in the press? How can it be that we are calmly accepting the negation of 20 years of work, toil, savings and investment?
How can it be that many of those responsible for this decline have become richer, and why are we OK with that? How can this mentality — the one that justifies stealing 40 percent of our net worth — continue to repeat itself, allowing the people making huge financial gambles to pump up their wealth even more?
What I just don’t understand is that this report was met with a shrug of the shoulders. Some folks today go ballistic if their Medicare bill increases by $5 a month, if gas prices go up, or if banks tack another $2 monthly fee on something that used to be free. But, we lose 20 years of work and 40 percent of our net worth and we are focused instead on the Queen of England’s 60th Jubilee.
Have we simply given up — assuming the deck is so stacked against us that we can only grin and bear it? Have we heard so much bad news in the last 4 years that this is just more of the same?
I am more frightened by the passive acceptance of this news than I am of the news itself. I continue to lead a satisfying retirement, mainly because what makes me happy and satisfied is mostly under my control. Attitude and adjustments are mine to change.
But, I am not immune to the continued attack on my lifestyle. The problem is, there isn’t much I can do about it, particularly when it seems as though so many are simply accepting this turn of events.
Before you add a comment that is political in nature, stop. There is enough blame to go around. The seeds for this disaster were planted decades ago, and have since been allowed to develop by a blind Congress, bureaucrats and several misinformed or inattentive presidents. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. Regardless of who occupies the White House and fills the seats in Congress this fall, nothing will change as long as the average person learns he or she has lost two decades of net worth and thinks more about the upcoming NFL season instead.