Boomer Bust

Nino Amato is the voice for his own generation’s looming crisis

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Indeed, Wisconsin Way spokesperson Jim Wood has characterized the state’s future as a “train wreck” in which an aging population will mean greater demand on services such as health care and social security, fewer workers paying into the system, a declining income base, and a lower tax base.

The Wisconsin Way’s “Blueprint for Change” has four sections and is fifty-two pages long. It focuses on economic development, business investment, tax reform, public schools, universities and technical colleges, but it keeps coming back to the idea that living longer means more people using public services and fewer people paying for them.

The report says, “The more prominent features of the challenges facing Wisconsin—projections that suggest a senior population that will represent more than one of every five citizens by 2030; a drop in the percentage of people in the workforce from 61 percent to 57 percent; a continued loss of college graduates; per capita income below the regional average; erosion of existing infrastructure or rising costs to maintain it; etc.—are referenced throughout the Blueprint for Change.”

Amato has some numbers of his own and he cites them often. By 2015, in Dane County and the rest of the nation, baby boomers will hold 60 percent of the wealth and account for 40 percent of the spending. Still, only 25 percent have adequate savings for retirement.
Amato also frequently cites an American Association of Retired Persons report from 2009 showing that people between the ages of fifty and sixty-four are the fastest-growing segment of the population without health insurance. About seven million people in this age group are not covered, usually because they have lost their jobs and cannot get new coverage.

The train wreck that Wisconsin Way forecasts assumes a traditional retirement age of sixty-five; retired people do not work unless they have to.

Amato doesn’t disagree with Wisconsin Way’s findings, but he also says the face of aging is changing in ways that could change those assumptions.

“Baby boomers don’t think they’ll be ‘old’ until they’re eighty,” Amato says. Citing survey research conducted by Merrill Lynch, Amato says 76 percent of baby boomers intend to continue earning income full- or part-time after they retire from their main line of work. Many plan to begin new professional careers or start their own businesses.

For those who might wonder about these numbers, Amato reminds us that he just started a new career as an advocate for the aging and has no intentions of slowing down.

Read More

Advocating for the Aging: The Urgency for Reform

Dustin Beilke is a Madison-based freelance writer.

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