The Day – Let’s skip the war against Baby Boomers, OK?

When things get dull, enterprising rousers of rabble promote a war against something or other to gain attention. The war against the baby boom generation is already in full swing.

One book about the Americans born between 1946 and 1964 has ”Generation of Sociopaths” in the title. And a recent piece in The Atlantic goes for their throats as ”grandparents stealing from the grandchildren.”

There’s good reason for concern about the costs of supporting large numbers of retirees living longer, but please hold the red-faced fury. 

A sloppy mistake is to throw Social Security and Medicare into the same basket. Writing for The Atlantic, Eric Schnurer, a self-described ”rethinker of government,” asserts that both programs were sold on a ”fiction” − the belief that all the enrollees are receiving benefits they paid for through taxes. That’s only partly true about Medicare and seriously misunderstands Social Security.

Social Security is not a savings plan. It is a kind of insurance. Payments go to the disabled and children who lose a wage-earning parent, as well as to retirees. The contributions by workers who die before they collect their own benefits mostly stay in the pot.

Social Security is a self-contained program. Very little of its funding comes from general revenues. Should the money cushion run out, payments would be automatically cut. But there are easy fixes to cancel the run-out date, currently 2034. An obvious one is to raise the maximum income level subject to Social Security taxes.

Gains in productivity could also ease the pressure. Rising productivity helps explain why 42 workers supported each retiree in 1945 and only three workers did by 2009, but the checks kept flowing.

One of the Schnurer’s more elusive condemnations goes like this: The boomers elected Ronald Reagan. America stopped looking at the future, he explains, ”when the baby boom generation, enthusiastic Reagan backers, became the largest cohort in the electorate.”

There are two problems with this statement. One is it’s not true, at least not for the 1980 election, when 54 percent of boomers voted for someone other than Reagan.

There’s another problem with wherever this argument is going. The boomers’ Social Security benefits were actually cut in the Reagan years. Until then, Social Security was strictly pay-as-you-go. Recognizing that the baby boomers would put extra pressure on the system, Democrats and Republicans agreed to build up a trust fund to in effect save for the day when the crush of retiring boomers would stress the program.

They hiked Social Security payroll taxes. They also raised the ages at which boomers could start collecting full benefits. Then 65, it will reach 67 for those born in 1960 or later. These changes were necessary and proper. They were responsible, representing a cutback in benefits that previous generations enjoyed.

Medicare is another story. Despite all those taxes workers put into the program and the charges paid by beneficiaries, Medicare makes heavy demands on the treasury. Medicare costs need curbing, but do note that it is already darn more efficient than private insurance.

Rather than beat up people for turning 65, let’s bring all Americans into Medicare.

Meanwhile, be on guard as wagers of intergenerational conflict stoke anger with half-truths and selective facts. They are making common cause with those who would cut the daylights out of beloved government programs. You don’t want to go there.

Froma Harrop’s column is distributed by Creators Syndicate.

Does Smoking Help Snuff Out Your Sex Life?

In case you need one more reason to quit smoking, recent studies suggest that smoking affects your sex life, especially for men. That's a pretty powerful reason.

While an unfortunate fact of growing older is that there may be some performance problems in the bedroom, even men in their 20s and 30s who smoke report less vitality. This is not to suggest that females who smoke are not also affected sexually. But the research conducted using female subjects is minimal compared to research involving males.
Among the results of various studies came this finding: male smokers reported engaging in sex an average of six times a month, whereas nonsmokers said they had sex twice as often. This was true even for the youngger men in the group who said they and their spouses were trying to conceive.

When asked to rate their overall satisfaction with their sex lives on a scale of 1 to 10, nonsmoking couples averaged 8.7 while couples in which the male smoked, the average score was far lower at 5.2.

Yet another study published in the Tobacco Journal measured the responses of 8,000 men aged 16-59. For these men it seemed clear that the greater their smoking habit, the more likely they were to experience impotence.

o For those who smoked 20 or fewer cigarettes per day, 24 percent were more likely to report this problem.

o For those who smoked more than 20 cigarettes, 39 percent had suffered impotence.

o In the general population, 28 percent of males have at some time been impotent, and of those, 40 percent were smokers.

That's a pretty convincing reason to believe there is a connection.

What is the Link Between Smoking and Sex?

The jury is still out on that, but there is medical evidence that makes sense. Nicotine tightens blood vessels and restricts blood flow, and over the long term, can cause permanent damage to arteries. Sexual performance depends on blood flow, for men and to a lesser extent, for women.

Any factor that contributes to malfunctioning blood flow has the potential to interfer with activities that depend on that blood flow.

Still, co-author of the book The Sexual Male , doctor Richard Milsten (who is also a urologist) warns against making the explanation concerning sexual behavior too simple. He was quoted on the Web MD Web site as saying "There are so many factors in sexuality.

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Millennials to secure ‘inheritance boom’

Young people taking a selfieImage copyright
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Millennials will benefit from the biggest “inheritance boom” of any post-war generation, but it will be too late to solve housing struggles and wealth inequality, a report says.

Those who have parents and grandparents in the “baby boomer” generation will be left record sums of wealth, the Resolution Foundation said.

But they will have to wait – until, on average, the age of 61, it suggests.

The think tank defines millennials as those currently aged 17 to 35.

The Resolution Foundation said that inheritances were set to more than double over the next 20 years, and this will peak in 2035, as the generally high-wealth baby boomers progress through old age.

Almost two-thirds of young adults have parents who own property, which they may get a share of in the future, the report said.

By comparison, only 38% of adults born in the 1930s received an inheritance.

‘Not silver bullet’

The report also noted millennials were only half as likely to own their home at 30 as baby boomers were.

Laura Gardiner, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Older generations have benefitted hugely from the big increases in household wealth in Britain over recent decades.

“While the millennials have done far less well in accumulating their own assets, they are likely to benefit from an inheritance boom in the decades ahead.

“This is likely to be very welcome news for those millennials, including some from poorer backgrounds who in the past would have been unlikely to receive bequests.

“They have the good fortune to benefit from the luck of the baby boomer generation.”

But she said inheritance was “not the silver bullet” that will get the generation on the housing ladder or address growing wealth gaps in society, as it was unlikely to come when they are trying to buy a family home.

25-year-old Rachel Hosie, a lifestyle writer for the Independent, says the proposed inheritance boom is not much comfort to her generation.

“We have student debts, we don’t have guaranteed pensions, and we’ve had tricky financial times to have been entering the world of work.

“We were really told for a lot of my generation that if we were ambitious and worked hard then we’d get a good job after studying hard, then we’d earn money and be able to buy a house and settle down – and we’d have this life that we saw a lot of our parents have, and now we’re struggling,” she said.

However, Cari Rosen – who’s the editor of Gransnet, an online community for the over-50s – says the report misses out an important factor.

“Half of women and a third of men are going to have to pay for care at some point. And actually one in four people who pays for care runs out of money,” she said.

“So we have said to our own millennial there might well be nothing left for you,” she added.

She said: “Of course we want to give our children an inheritance, the thought that what we’ve worked really hard for doesn’t go to our children to help them through their lives is a really terrible one – but we don’t know and there is no way of preparing for that or insuring for that.”

Froma Harrop: Let’s skip the war against baby boomers, OK?

When things get dull, enterprising rousers of rabble promote a war against something or other to gain attention. The war against the baby boom generation is already in full swing.

One book about the Americans born between 1946 and 1964 has “Generation of Sociopaths” in the title. And a recent piece in The Atlantic goes for their throats as “grandparents stealing from the grandchildren.” (Ouch, that serpent’s tooth.)

There’s good reason for concern about the costs of supporting large numbers of retirees living longer, but please hold the red-faced fury. Let’s stay on the rails and stop getting so much stuff wrong.

A sloppy mistake (that many who know better commit on purpose) is to throw Social Security and Medicare into the same basket. Writing for The Atlantic, Eric Schnurer, a self-described “rethinker of government,” asserts that both programs were sold on a “fiction” – the belief that all the enrollees are receiving benefits they paid for through taxes. That’s only partly true about Medicare and seriously misunderstands Social Security.

Social Security is not a savings plan. It is a kind of insurance. Payments go to the disabled and children who lose a wage-earning parent, as well as to retirees. The contributions by workers who die before they collect their own benefits mostly stay in the pot.

Social Security is a self-contained program. Very little of its funding comes from general revenues. Should the money cushion run out, payments would be automatically cut. But there are easy fixes to cancel the run-out date, currently 2034. An obvious one is to raise the maximum income level subject to Social Security taxes.

Gains in productivity could also ease the pressure. Rising productivity helps explain why 42 workers supported each retiree in 1945 and only three workers did by 2009 – but the checks kept flowing.

One of Schnurer’s more elusive condemnations goes like this: The boomers elected Ronald Reagan. America stopped looking at the future, he explains, “when the baby boom generation, enthusiastic Reagan backers, became the largest cohort in the electorate.”

There are two problems with this statement. One is it’s not true, at least not for the 1980 election, when 54 percent of boomers voted for someone other than Reagan.

There’s another problem with wherever this argument is going. The boomers’ Social Security benefits were actually cut in the Reagan years.

Until then, Social Security was strictly pay-as-you-go. Recognizing that the baby boomers would put extra pressure on the system years hence, Democrats and Republicans agreed to build up a trust fund — to in effect save for the day when the crush of retiring boomers would stress the program.

They hiked Social Security payroll taxes. Money not then going to beneficiaries went into the fund. They also raised the ages at which boomers could start collecting full benefits. Then 65, it will reach 67 for those born in 1960 or later.

These changes were necessary and proper. They were responsible. But they did represent a cutback in benefits that previous generations enjoyed.

Medicare is another story. Despite all those taxes workers put into the program and the charges paid by beneficiaries, Medicare makes heavy demands on the treasury. Medicare costs need curbing, but do note that it is already darn more efficient than private insurance.

Rather than beat up people for turning 65, let’s bring all Americans into Medicare. That would be wise health care reform – and nice, too.

Everyone, meanwhile, be on guard as wagers of intergenerational conflict stoke anger with half-truths and selective facts. They are making common cause with those who would cut the daylights out of beloved government programs. You don’t want to go there.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at [email protected]. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Where Did The Time Go?

Do you seem to be asking yourself this question more and more often?

What is the problem??

How can you correct it?

I used to have a pretty good sense of time. I could estimate how much time it would take to do a project or go to the store or pick someone up at the airport. For the last 27 years (the age of my older daughter) my daily schedule has been pretty hectic so time management was important. I confess, I’m a workaholic oldest child, Capricorn, Baby Boomer entrepreneur.

Contrary to popular belief, most self-employed people work much MORE than eight or ten hours a day. Since a small business owner wears many hats, it is likely that one departmental or another will require some unexpected attention today. Add to that, taking care of children, helping friends and trying to have a personal life, it is easy to “overbook.” A little overbooking was never a problem, because surely you could catch up over the weekend or during the holidays or just stay up an extra few hours at night.

But what happens when you finally realize that you are only sleeping four hours per night and all your future weekends and holidays already have full schedules? Sleep even less? Skip meals? Give up any personal time you had for hobbies or reading for pleasure? Somewhere you reach the point where there is no time left. Then you start to miss deadlines, disappoint people you care about and your mental health starts to deteriorate which causes you to make mistakes or use more time that usual to finish any task.

We all have 24 hours a day. Sure Jack Bauer can be tortured, fight terrorists, fly around the country and save the world a few times in a day but most of us don’t have the script writers and accepting fans to pull that off. We actually start with a faulty assumption if we believe we have 24 hours every day. If you deduct the time for eating, sleeping, showering, and other natural functions along with a few obligatory social and family actions, you are left with only 10 to 12 hours at most to save the world.

I often accuse someone of “speeding up the clock”. But what is really happening? Ok, we accept more responsibilities and unreasonable deadlines than we should. We want to please people, impress bosses or make more money. And in order to do all of this, we “discount” our future time which should be one of our most valuable assets. Of course, when you get to that future time and really want a holiday or time off from work, you can’t have your own valuable time because you traded it for cheap “catch up” time. Most people view their future time as perfect. They don’t consider that even on vacation you usually have to spend time buying food or filling up the gas tank. Of course, mechanical breakdowns, sickness, injuries or bad weather never happen on those future “days off”.

So what do you do? I’ve looked at many time management courses and lots of time saving “tips”. There doesn’t seem to be any “program” that fit everyone’s personality. How many times have you heard the solution to your paperwork piles is to “only touch a piece of paper once”? Yeah, right. That may work for a corporate executive with a secretary and eager staff to do their bidding. The following tips seem to be more helpful to those of us who feel like they have lost control of their precious time.

1. This is a biggie—LEARN TO SAY “NO”. How many times have other people snatched a chunk of your time because you were too wimpy to give a firm “no”? When asked to volunteer for any time sucking job, don’t say you’ll think about it; don’t make excuses; just say “NO”. This technique alone helps give many people the time to volunteer for the jobs they actually want to do.

2. Buy a digital kitchen timer and keep it next to your computer. Keep it set on 15 minutes. Whenever you begin a search for something on the Internet, start the timer. Unless you are doing a research project, you should be able to have the information you need by the time the timer goes off. How many times have you spent more than an hour exploring interesting links that popped up while you were looking for a small bit of information?

3. Organize your email messages and computer information. If you are getting more than 50 non-income producing email messages a day, start unsubscribing to the sites that are not helpful to you. Make mailboxes or folders for the messages you want to read so that they will be together in one place when you have the time to read them. Don’t follow more than three “gurus” at a time. Concentrate on one system at a time. Whether it is making money, losing weight or collecting bottle caps, you will have better results if you follow one system at a time. Don’t start your day by reading your email.

4. Prioritize the tasks you know have to be done tomorrow. Many people hate “To-Do” lists. But before you go to bed, just make a short list, in order of importance, of specific tasks that need to be done the next day. If you are not a “morning person”, lay out what you need to make breakfast the night before. The same applies to your wardrobe or anything that has to be taken to the office.

5. If you are someone always losing their keys, put a hook by the front door and get into the habit of hanging your keys on the hook as soon as you walk into the room. This idea could apply to eyeglasses, name badges or anything else that you are constantly misplacing. How much time have you wasted over the years, looking for something you need but couldn’t find right away?

6. Determine what time of day you are at your best. The time of day that you are awake, eager, creative, sharp, in the zone. Now, reserve this hour or two for your most important work of the day. Block it off on your calendar as a meeting or spa appointment or conference call; whatever it takes for you to not be interrupted. This is the time when you work on the important tasks that you wrote down the night before.

How much time would you save by implementing the above tips? If you save just one hour a day, that is 365 hours a year. Even if you think you work twelve hours a day, that is over a month’s worth of working days!!

In the play “Cheaper by the Dozen”, the father is an efficiency expert. He is always telling his kids how to save time by doing things in a certain way. Finally, one of the little kids asks, “What are we to do with all the time we are saving?” That is the point I leave for you to ponder. There was once a concern about how we Americans were going to use all the leisure time that would be created once computers helped us to do our jobs so much more efficiently. That didn’t turn out to be a big problem did it? “Use your time wisely,” a teacher of mine once said. I wish I had been wise enough to follow that advice.

Baby Boomers Looking for Reinvention Try College—Again

Pat Collins

has worked as a therapist for 30 years and is looking to reinvent herself. So she has gone back to the place where she invented herself the first time—college.

“I’m not sure what I want to do next,” said Mrs. Collins, 66 years old. “I’m able to retire financially. But I’m not ready to stop working.”

Mrs. Collins is a fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Advanced Careers initiative, one of many programs at schools catering to baby boomers looking for a second act.

Schools like Harvard University and Stanford University pioneered the idea. University of Notre Dame will start a new program next fall and many other schools have expressed interest.

Adult students have been a growing force at universities for more than a decade—mostly blue-collar types or those pursuing advanced degrees focused on getting new skills.

The advanced career fellowships target white-collar workers paying sometimes hefty tuition to take advantage of all a major university has to offer.

“There are 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day and we need them; we can’t let them just be on the sidelines,” said

Phyllis Moen,

the University of Minnesota sociologist who started the fellowship program.

Universities can also use the business, with some of the programs charging tens of thousands of dollars—and most of the fellows paying full freight.

A decline in the number of high-school graduates is expected to continue sapping university enrollments. In early December,

Moody’s

cut its outlook for the higher-education sector to negative from stable, citing a failure of operating revenue to keep pace with expenses.

Harvard University launched the first program in 2008 to direct accomplished executives toward global problems. Fellows at the Advanced Leadership Initiative pay $65,000 and get free rein of the campus to audit graduate and undergraduate classes and lunch with faculty.

The first class had 12 students; this year there were 48, chosen among 550 applicants. Among the key components: the ability of Boomers and millennials to take classes together and learn from each other.

“There are only two segments of life that have the total freedom to think about the great issues of social change,” said

Rosabeth Moss Kanter,

a professor at Harvard Business School who helped create the program. “Undergraduates and people who may be at the end of their middle years who aren’t preoccupied with how to make money or raise a family.”

Stanford’s program launched in 2015. Officials liken it to a gap year for successful professionals wanting some time to reflect before they start something new. The price point is similar ($65,000 per student—add $30,000 to bring a partner or spouse). Both programs attract a lot of corporate attorneys, c-suite executives and money managers.

Tom Pizzo,

a medical doctor and the founder of Stanford’s program, said he has fielded inquiries from 30 universities in the U.S. and abroad about how to establish a professional fellowship. This year, the program received about 10 applications for each of the 25 spots.

“Since the 11th century, universities have focused on young people,” Dr. Pizzo said. “Now, with longevity being what it is, we need to expand the role to lifelong learning and intergenerational learning and teaching.”

Dr. Moen observed Stanford’s Distinguished Career Initiative and decided to start a public school version in Minneapolis. Tuition is $7,500 for the year but is likely to rise. The program began this fall. Undergraduate students took a class called “The Future of Work and Life in the 21st Century” with the fellows.

“The first time I walked into the class I was like, ‘Why are there a bunch of old people in here with us?’” said

Madison Smiley,

a 20-year-old junior, majoring in psychology. “I was afraid it was going to feel like taking a class with my mom.”

But during an assignment aimed at figuring out ways to help contract workers find a sense of community in the workplace, the fellows offered a real-world perspective that made their project work.

“My peers aren’t in the workforce,” Ms. Smiley said. “They were able to share the problems they have actually seen.”

By the end of the semester, they took group photographs, the first time a class had done that in Dr. Moen’s career.

Write to Douglas Belkin at [email protected]