Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Homesteading against the future

One way we frame our homesteading is against the possibility of a worsening economy in the long run.

Ceredwyn and I are both Gen-Xers, and have always expected to not be as well off as our parents' generation. The current Great Recession partially confirms that anticipation, while also suggesting things could get even more depressing, down the road. The way America responds to peak oil over the next 20 years, for instance, could mean a lower standard of living across the board, if not worse.

All of this came to mind when reading a recent New York Times article on upcoming problems for Social Security. The reporter finds the program in fine form through 2037, after which, well, perhaps "the taxes collected will be enough to pay out only about 75 percent of benefits through 2083." So taxes might be hiked up, or retirement will get pushed ahead to age 70+, or benefits just allowed to decrease, or a combination of these. Remember what I said about generational differences? "[E]xecutives from AARP said their polls had long shown that younger people were skeptical about receiving full benefits."

I (Bryan) will be 70 in 2037, assuming I live that long. So already this long-term issue begins to crimp my future life and present planning for it.
"People 50 and below should change their planning now to incorporate a benefit cut,” said Laurence J. Kotlikoff, an economics professor at Boston University...
I'm listening. Therefore I should, perhaps, plan on retiring some years after 65. Or look into taking on a second job before then.

How does problem impact our homesteading? At the very least,
  • It's healthy to do all of this, the physical work, eating organics. So I can work longer and more effectively.
  • We can cut costs by raising our own food, cutting our own wood for heat, and so on.
Previously I've mentioned my connection between working on the land and thinking through time. This thinking of a retirement future is another level of time, a future history I can feel as I check the potatoes, or dig the earth.

Note how the article ends on a much more extreme note:
“Having seen what happened in Greece, I feel even more strongly today that I should not count on any Social Security for me and my younger clients,” said the planner, George Papadopoulos, 43, of Novi, Mich. “I will continue to tell clients not to highly rely on Social Security and think of any money coming their way as gravy.”
And hence, doomers. Or at least thinking of a future without any retirement benefits at all. That's where our perhaps asymptotic goal of full sustainability could prove essential.

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