My oldest daughter, who had trouble balancing her checkbook for most of her college years and seems to think her purpose in life is to spend more than she makes, came to me recently, troubled and confused over a serious issue in her life – retirement. I admit it didn’t quite fit my preconceived notions of what constitutes a “serious issue” in the life of a 20-something, which I would have broadly defined under the subheads of romance, skin care, troubled romance, hair care and no date for the weekend. But retirement?
Nevertheless, I could identify with her concern. Sometimes, however, I wonder whether I should be obsessing less about my 401(k) and considering the birds of the air and the lilies of the field more often. Living day to day and trusting the future to Christ isn’t easy in a materialistic, consumer society, especially when the Social Security system is tottering.
I’m convinced I’ll be working well into my 70s if I live that long. In addition to financing four college educations, I figure that someday, I hope later rather than sooner, I’ll have to start paying for four luxurious weddings at high-priced resorts.
But my daughter’s situation is another thing entirely. Forget that she’s in her mid-20s and still spends practically every penny she makes on her latest imagined need, of which there are many – from overpriced jeans to overpriced purses. Every week or so, I’ll give her the you-have-to-start-carrying-your-weight-around-here lecture, but she largely ignores me.
You see, this daughter, who shall remain anonymous, is a member of the so-called “Boomerang Generation,” the one-in-four young people from 18 to 34 who live with their parents – as some sort of penance for our inadequacies over the years.
Despite her annoying habits, she’s developed a newfound financial maturity and is intent on investing for retirement in a 401(k) through a payroll deduction plan. As she sees it, she’ll be able to retire by 55 and, I imagine, lecture her own daughter about doing her fair share to support the household.
She’s obviously been inspired by the many young go-getters, who are profiled in papers like USA Today under headlines that say, “Can they retire young and rich?” and “Supersavers plan ahead to retire at 55.” For many of them, their purpose in life is making money.
In a recent story, 20-somethings Luke and Hannah said they squirrel away more than 20 percent of their income with a goal of amassing $10 million by their 50s so they can retire, presumably before their first colonoscopy and/or knee replacement.
“We just want to be 50 or 55 and not have to work anymore,” they told the paper.
Clearly, Generation X, Generation Y and the various other generations that have succeeded the baby boomers are far more serious-minded about their investments than we ever were.
For example, consider this question to a Money magazine editor: “I’m a 24-year-old recent college graduate who makes about $100,000 a year, but I have no savings. What’s the best way for me to invest my money so I can retire by age 55?”
How many 24-year-olds do you know who make $100,000?
What I find troubling is that too often they’re preoccupied with storing up treasures on Earth rather than storing them up in Heaven. How many young people, my own included, give serious consideration to what they should be doing to achieve eternal life?
They either take it for granted that they’ll wind up in heaven someday or they don’t care enough to even think about it, which means to say salvation is low on their list of priorities, certainly less pressing than the sale at J. Crew or watching the latest episode of “American Idol” or planning a vacation in the Caribbean.
Where does Christ enter the picture? Every so often, when the Holy Spirit inspires me to see clearly enough to entrust the future to God and obsess less about saving for retirement, I’m reminded of a prayer by Padre Pio that applies to every generation:
My past, O Lord, to Thy mercy.
My present to Thy love.
My future to Thy providence.
That means he’ll take care of us even if Social Security collapses.
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.
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