Dimensioning the Problem

If you read the paper, watch the news, or even if your sole source of current events is derived from snippets captured on late night political satire, you have probably heard of or read stories warning of the “pension crisis,” “pension underfunding,” or “pension tsunami.” However, unless the story directly affects your firm's pension, or your state's pension, it may seem irrelevant to you.

For instance, why should a person from New York care that;

The Illinois credit rating [has been] downgraded after pension reform failure.1
The near-bankrupt San Bernardino votes to default on debt.2
Retirees wrestle with a pension buyout from General Motors.3
French President François Hollande cuts the national retirement age (to 59).4

These are all pieces of a much larger puzzle. In this chapter, we tell the pension story, because in order to understand why every single American will be affected by the pension crisis, we need to dimension the crisis and quantify each of the components. Broadly characterized, every issue will come back to managing four things: people, wealth, obligations, and expectations.

In this chapter, we attack the following questions:

  • What is a pension?
  • What is the pension crisis?
  • How much of the world's wealth is committed to retirement?
  • How wealthy is the world?
  • How will demographic trends affect the way we look at a four-generation world?
  • Will developed nations maintain their statuses as world leaders?
  • And, most importantly, how ...

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