Here's an unsettling retirement planning thought. With our own children grown or nearly grown, we may think that our responsibilities have ended for seeing that the school systems are successfully educating young children and high schools are turning out graduates who are prepared for work or further training. But Nicole Smith, senior economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, says not so fast.
Smith says the boomer generation may think it can work forever, but that won't happen. The center anticipates a rush to retirement within nine years. And when we retire, the younger people who will take our places need to be able to cope in a changing economy.
Smith points out that in 1973, around the time many of us started working, only 27 percent of the population went to college. Everybody else went to work, and they were able to earn middle-class livings doing jobs that didn't require much education. Over the years, that's changed.
Research by the Center on Education and the Workforce suggests that only 30 percent of jobs in 2018 won't require training beyond a high school diploma. And the 30 percent that can be done without further education will pay less than $35,000 a year.
For the first time in U.S. history, we are facing widespread downward mobility, Smith says, with younger generations likely to earn less and live less well than we do -- unless we do something about it.
One of the reasons behind our economic problems is the number of under-educated, single women supporting children on inadequate incomes. Whether we approve or disapprove of the lifestyle is almost irrelevant. It's still in our best interest to do what it takes to make sure that those children and their parents get an education and figure out a way to earn a better living.
It isn't because we're bleeding hearts. There's a much more pragmatic reason than that. If the generations behind us don't get good jobs and earn good salaries, they won't be able to pay the taxes that support our Social Security and Medicare and keep our neighborhoods and our streets safe.
"These are the people who are going to replace the boomer generation, so we must train this workforce so they can step up to that job," Smith says. "It behooves older people to be supportive of this population because these are the people who are going to be working to pay the bills."