The World’s a Mess
May 13, 2022 7:17 PM   Subscribe

The World’s a Mess. So They’ve Stopped Saving for Tomorrow. “No, I’m not saving for retirement. I’m going to spend my money now, while we still have a supply chain at all.” - archive.org mirror
posted by simmering octagon (110 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't blame these young folks, but I wish the NYT would stop treating their readers' demographic as the universal. The number of 18-35s who were saving $2000/mo. in the first place to be able to stop just isn't that large.
posted by praemunire at 7:22 PM on May 13 [83 favorites]


Honestly, I don’t blame them. The conventional wisdom that we grew up with is looking more like a gamble every passing year, and it’s starting to feel like if we survive the 21st century it’s only going to be thanks to some as-yet-unknown deus ex machina.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 7:23 PM on May 13 [29 favorites]


back in the 60s i was convinced that we were all going up in smoke - but here it is 2022 and it hasn't happened yet

you never can tell - you just can't
posted by pyramid termite at 7:24 PM on May 13 [94 favorites]


Unpreppers?
posted by 2N2222 at 7:30 PM on May 13 [8 favorites]


I'm with ya Pyramid - I thought the oil crisis + Arab-Israeli wars was going to end us all about 1975. Useless paranoia.
posted by mmrtnt at 7:32 PM on May 13 [8 favorites]


I front-loaded my retirement in the 1980’s. I’m paying for it now, but can’t say I completely regret having fun while I was young.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:38 PM on May 13 [8 favorites]


For some reason, we've lived below our means, and have just entered retirement with enough resources to actually see us through, in modest comfort. Just in time to experience a global pandemic, for the climate to get broken, and for the world to play footsie with nuclear war. Hmmm...
posted by Artful Codger at 7:45 PM on May 13 [8 favorites]


This would be more persuasive if I didn't know someone who felt the same way in the 60s. It's a hard decision though, we are pretty much screwed if we do, screwed if we don't. There's things I need that money for now but I want to bet on future me too I guess.
posted by bleep at 7:49 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]


if we survive the 21st century it’s only going to be thanks to some as-yet-unknown deus ex machina.

My money's on a Deus malleus.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:57 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]


Yeah I realized how fucking pissed I’d be if I died without ever living in a halfway decent apartment and decided to bite the bullet. I’m still living well within my means but no longer ridiculously below them. Neither of my parents had any life to speak of after 55 so what the fuck am I waiting for?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:11 PM on May 13 [33 favorites]


Aah. The 10,000th NYT article that is about plummeting wages but doesn't talk about plummeting wages.
posted by eustatic at 8:22 PM on May 13 [135 favorites]


Well, the budding coral farmer is making actual capital investments like capitalists are supposed to, instead of just throwing money in the general direction of Wall Street via an index fund, which has driven yields to zero since there was way too much idle cash crowding into equities 2019-2021 (the +$5T Fed printing had to go into the stock market in the end . . .)

>she has decided that saving to buy a home is not something she is going to worry about right now.

yeah being in my 50s I'm feeling that since my lived experience made getting a house very tough . . .

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=PmNU

^ real home price index in California; being an idiot I decided to go off to Japan in '92 and so missed the affordability window before the late 90s Dotcom bubble hit NoCal and then metastasized to SoCal after 2001 when Volcker dropped rates to lessen the 9/11 shock.

2010 - 2019 was the next window that Gen X and increasing Gen Y (age 19 - 37 in 2019) could buy . . . if you missed that you're screwed now since housing has been increasingly been bought up by Wall Street operators. Gen X was generally too young to get on the property ladder in the 90s (without parental assistance at least) and only the older half of Gen Y had any chance to get into last decade's reasonable housing market.

The crazy thing is that EVERY desirable-to-live nation has an immense housing affordability [have vs. have-not] problem . . . https://data.oecd.org/price/housing-prices.htm is an interesting comparison of rents vs. home price inflation 2015 - now.

Only way to make housing affordable is to build up, up, up, but NIMBY of course stops that in most places. Not Japan tho! That and their falling demos have kept housing from inflating too much at least (low [sub-35%] interest rates in Japan have kept housing prices relative high though, something the post-pandemic record lows also had a hand in here in the US).
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:35 PM on May 13 [8 favorites]


Yeah I realized how fucking pissed I’d be if I died without ever living in a halfway decent apartment and decided to bite the bullet. I’m still living well within my means but no longer ridiculously below them. Neither of my parents had any life to speak of after 55 so what the fuck am I waiting for?

I do think a lot of us have adjusted the dial a little since the pandemic--at least, those of us who have any opportunity to. One of my grandparents died of natural causes when she was 58.

On the other hand, for most people, it's a lot easier to endure the drawbacks of the cheap versions of fun when you're young. I would survive an overnight train now, but I sure wouldn't be happy about it.
posted by praemunire at 8:58 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]


I dunno. Seems like there might be good money in the coral farm.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:02 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


That's a sunken-cost fallacy.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:14 PM on May 13 [51 favorites]


well there's not saving bc you believe in some nonsensical idea that "it's all over," and there's just wanting to have a good time because you can afford to move cross country if you want to and, well, fuck it. the forner is dumb nytimes culture piece clickbait. the latter, i wholeheartedly endorse.
posted by wibari at 9:38 PM on May 13 [6 favorites]


Has there ever been a generation of 25-year-olds who didn't look at the world and say, "This place is so terrible, it's all coming crashing down soon"? Has the received wisdom among sophisticated 25-year-olds ever been, "The world is going to keep doing what it's doing now, and I will be around when I'm 70 and will need to plan to be not working by then"?
posted by Hatashran at 9:44 PM on May 13 [22 favorites]


2010 - 2019 was the next window that Gen X and increasing Gen Y (age 19 - 37 in 2019) could buy . . .

Gen Xer who bought a small house in 2013, our agent told me a few years later that if we had started looking 3 months later than we did we would have been priced out of the market. Now it is bonkers here. 5 of the 6 towns in the county have voted on creating a housing bank which for some reason the state needs to approve, something called a home rule petition. Then it would come back to the towns and 4 of the six would have to vote for it.

So, if the world is going to shit and the end is nigh, at least I can die or go mad or otherwise come to a dismal sad end in my cute house. With the cats and my lover. Maybe some loud music.
posted by vrakatar at 10:04 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


ITT: Old people rationalizing that the world is normal right now, actually.

It's unclear that betting on the world not ending (for a definition of "the world" that mainly just means the USA, as seems to be the fashion here) in the 60's was the right bet — there were quite a lot of close calls. And that risk never actually went away — there are fewer nuclear weapons now than there were back then, but still enough to kill hundreds of millions of people. And we've stacked a lot of other risks on top of that in the past half-century.

I think there is actually stuff to be optimistic about, if you look for it, but "things were fine in the past so they'll probably be fine now" is the exact kind of thinking that got us where we are now. I remember a lot of news articles in February and March of 2020 about how COVID looks bad, but really, things will be fine. People talking about how you should prepare for things to be bad for a few weeks, because they literally could not imagine a world where it was worse than that. And that's a self-reinforcing feedback loop, of course — if you think that the worst that can happen isn't that bad, you're not going to be to inclined to take the extreme but necessary measures to prevent the actual worst outcomes. (You can easily see this same trend in USA politics — most of the media establishment in the USA thought that Trump was unelectable in 2016 right up until the moment he was elected, and their refusal to consider that outcome led to much of the coverage that got him elected)

Realizing that we are looking at significantly higher probabilities of collapse than perhaps ever before is a necessary first step in attempting to prevent that collapse. Or stopping saving and moving to NYC and starting your coral farm, as the case may be, but I at least have a some respect for nihilists who realize the gravity of the situation and run from it. It's much scarier to see people here denying the gravity of things altogether.
posted by wesleyac at 10:24 PM on May 13 [71 favorites]


My 401k is a hedge against the risk that the world holds on somehow.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 10:29 PM on May 13 [32 favorites]


Even though you've bought your ticket and love the game, if you leave the stadium at the end of the eighth inning, you're going to beat the crowds and save so much time.
posted by fairmettle at 10:33 PM on May 13 [9 favorites]


I grew up in the 70s and 80s. We were all supposed to starve to death from a population bomb, run out of oil, die in US vs USSR nuclear Armageddon, etc. I have doom fatigue.
posted by interogative mood at 10:53 PM on May 13 [27 favorites]


I grew up in the 70s and 80s. We were all supposed to starve to death from a population bomb, run out of oil, die in US vs USSR nuclear Armageddon, etc. I have doom fatigue.

Yes, I feel like I’ve seen this story written about twenty-somethings for a very long time. The 30-35 year olds are an interesting bonus, but you’d need to bring in the 40-somethings for it to feel fresh.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:17 PM on May 13 [7 favorites]


Oh, man, remember the dystopian SF that got churned out in the 70s and 80s? Silent Running, Soylent Green, Damnation Alley, Escape from New York, Logan's Run, Blade Runner, Robocop... good times, baby, good times.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:52 PM on May 13 [7 favorites]


Here's a tip for all the "we thought the 60s and 70s were going to be bad" folks; your casual dismissal of climate crisis, rising fascism, gig economy, education debt, medical bankruptcy, housing crisis, pandemic crisis, supply chain crisis, shooting wars involving a nuclear power, unprecedented surveillance by corporations and state, two wars that lasted two decades, militarized police who inherited the hardware from said wars and openly wear Punisher skulls, the start of a half-century conservative Supreme Court, entrenched gerrymandering, failing electric grids and infrastructure, several decades of right-wing am radio and Murdoch cable news and Qanon soaked social media, a plague that killed a million Americans with unknown long term effects, and every other horror that young people face is not appreciated.

AND TRUMP GOT THE NOMINATION AND THEN WON THE ELECTION. THAT HAPPENED. HE GOT 10 MILLION *MORE* VOTES IN 2020 THAN HE DID IN 2016.

If you can't muster the faintest bit of empathy, at least have a shred of self-awareness to realize that you have indeed normalized everything.
posted by AlSweigart at 11:58 PM on May 13 [200 favorites]


It’s weird to see metafilter’s contrarianism overcome its cynicism. This is the most unexpected thread 😂
posted by Bottlecap at 12:05 AM on May 14 [34 favorites]


Normalised or traumatised?

Coz I grew up expecting the four minute warning before I and everyone in my whole country would die in nuclear fire.
posted by happyinmotion at 12:54 AM on May 14 [12 favorites]


AlSweigert, I feel like Boomers could have leveled those exact accusations at their Greatest Generation parents. In fact I think Billy Joel wrote a little song about it. You could modify your text to add a few rhymes and you'll have yourself a whole new verse.

That said, I opened the article expecting a hot take like "young people discover hedonism, news at 11." But actually it's about people who are "livin large" by saving $1000 a month instead of $2000, and no longer ordering the cheapest thing on a menu. That seems... normal to me. You're always balancing immediate vs delayed reward. It's not like these folk are deciding to become hippies or joining a commune or some other more drastic "opt out of the world" measure.

There was a post on here recently about performative poverty (I think featuring organic wine clubs?). This article feels very much like that.
posted by basalganglia at 2:33 AM on May 14 [15 favorites]


I spent my early teens in Reagan's first term and his revival of the worst of the Cold War. Between that and my childhood indoctrination in fundamentalist churches and schools, I was infected with extreme nihilism that's shaped my entire life. Never been able to shake it.

So I completely understand the millenials and Z who feel this way. Their situation is worse than ours in many respects. The slow motion apocalypse is already underway, as opposed to the more theoretical apocalypse we faced in our youth. Our generation's political leaders, even Reagan and the Soviet gerontocracy, had every incentive to avoid the abyss before them. And this generation has political leadership with every incentive to either do nothing about climate change, or make things actively worse.

Drink wine while you can.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 2:55 AM on May 14 [15 favorites]


That said, I opened the article expecting a hot take like "young people discover hedonism, news at 11." But actually it's about people who are "livin large" by saving $1000 a month instead of $2000, and no longer ordering the cheapest thing on a menu. That seems... normal to me.

I'm reading the article and thinking, saving $1000 a month instead of $2000? Since when is not maxing out your Roth IRA a sign of rebellion? Who are these people?

Then I looked at the url and thought, oh. My old nemesis, The New York Times Style section, we meet again.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:10 AM on May 14 [44 favorites]


This article’s a knee-slapper, and Bottlecap is also right about the thread. Flying to music festivals in Barcelona? No longer maxing out IRAs after attending private high school? Deciding to fly intercontinentally more frequently in order to attend family birthday parties? I am really surprised there isn’t more of the usual eat-the-rich biz going on in this thread. The decisions of the moderately well-to-do not to pursue quite the same the financial strategies they used to is not making me feel any particular way.

That said, yeah, moderation is a good thing. Apocalyptic thinking never leads to quite the end result expected.
posted by cupcakeninja at 3:22 AM on May 14 [9 favorites]


I am really surprised there isn’t more of the usual eat-the-rich biz going on in this thread

It’s possible we’re slowly, unintentionally normalizing the NYT Style section.
posted by ryanshepard at 3:56 AM on May 14 [51 favorites]


climate crisis, rising fascism, gig economy, education debt, medical bankruptcy, housing crisis, pandemic crisis, supply chain crisis, shooting wars involving a nuclear power, unprecedented surveillance by corporations and state, two wars that lasted two decades, militarized police who inherited the hardware from said wars and openly wear Punisher skulls, the start of a half-century conservative Supreme Court, entrenched gerrymandering, failing electric grids and infrastructure, several decades of right-wing am radio and Murdoch cable news and Qanon soaked social media, a plague that killed a million Americans with unknown long term effects, and every other horror that young people face is not appreciated.

AlSweigert, dead on, but you forgot to add to this that Metafilter is “slowly, unintentionally normalizing the NYT Style section.”
posted by glaucon at 4:11 AM on May 14 [21 favorites]


Jack Shafer used to write stories on New York Times "bogus trends" for Slate. This would fit well in that series. They have been doing this for a long time and will evidently keep doing it forever.

A few years ago, when my kids had just moved out, I read a book that was a series of interviews with empty nesters, thinking it would help me to hear from lots of people in the same situation. Except for one parent whose child had joined the military, every story was the same. They all featured taking the kid to the elite college far from home, the Mom spending tons of money at Bed, Bath, and Beyond to decorate the dorm room, the dad good-naturedly griping about how much college cost (though it was clear there was no real hardship). I didn't physically take my child to her out-of-state college (that she paid for herself with scholarships and loans) because I couldn't afford the plane fare then. I remember thinking I wanted the Studs Terkel version of this book - one that would feature kids who went to community college, who were working as servers or grocery store clerks, who were leaving home because of early pregnancy and marriage and maybe moving into a trailer park (like I did). If there's a contemporary Studs Terkel (perhaps MeFites will point me to one), their stories aren't being printed in the NYT.

Reading THIS article, should I be worried that the young person delivering my groceries is just going to blow my large tips on diapers (or baby formula when it's available) instead of socking it away into an IRA?
posted by FencingGal at 5:12 AM on May 14 [17 favorites]


Here's a tip for all the "we thought the 60s and 70s were going to be bad" folks; your casual dismissal of climate crisis, rising fascism, gig economy, education debt, medical bankruptcy, housing crisis, pandemic crisis, supply chain crisis, shooting wars involving a nuclear power, unprecedented surveillance by corporations and state, two wars that lasted two decades, militarized police who inherited the hardware from said wars and openly wear Punisher skulls, the start of a half-century conservative Supreme Court, entrenched gerrymandering, failing electric grids and infrastructure, several decades of right-wing am radio and Murdoch cable news and Qanon soaked social media, a plague that killed a million Americans with unknown long term effects, and every other horror that young people face is not appreciated.

I wish I could give this ten million favorites.

AlSweigert, I feel like Boomers could have leveled those exact accusations at their Greatest Generation parents. In fact I think Billy Joel wrote a little song about it. You could modify your text to add a few rhymes and you'll have yourself a whole new verse.

LOL no, not at all comparable, actually

That said, I opened the article expecting a hot take like "young people discover hedonism, news at 11." But actually it's about people who are "livin large" by saving $1000 a month instead of $2000, and no longer ordering the cheapest thing on a menu. That seems... normal to me.

It is honestly a bit shocking to me that anyone thinks saving $1000 a month is normal. Never in my life have I earned enough to save $1k a month, and for 99% of my life I was paycheck to paycheck with zero savings. Being able to save 1k a month is like...fuck you money, to me and pretty much everyone I know, and I was a bartender for 10 years so I know a lot of people.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:12 AM on May 14 [50 favorites]


Articles like this always seem to set off a denial of everyone’s lived experience. Yes I’ve been afraid of the end of everything off and on for most of my life, like many people my age. That doesn’t devalue the terror I’m feeling now when fascism and global climate disaster seem to be looming. Yes, like many many Boomers, despite the weird focus of the media on people like those who live in the Villages, I’ve never had much security or money. That doesn’t devalue the terror young people (and many many Boomers) feeling now that society seems to be hell-bent on taking away any safety net for people who can’t work through no fault of their own.

The NYT seems to be written for a weird minority of even the people who actually live in New York.
posted by Peach at 5:45 AM on May 14 [12 favorites]


Yeah, a twenty-seven-year-old editorial assistant is saving 2k a month? Living in LA? How does that work?

I was lucky to save 2k a year in my twenties....

Except for the future grad student, these kids seem wealthy. And, spoiled. And self-centered (well, not the coral guy).

Eating out and buying clothes new not a signifier of anything other than being a cheerful participant in our consumer society. Deciding you don't want to save to buy a house when you apparently can easily afford your rent is a personal choice based on a level financial security that so many people don't have.

I do think the end is nigh........ it is just a matter of time....and I'm thinking decades, not centuries.

So, yes travel and enjoy friends and family, move to the city of one's dreams, it is what people do, especially young people with affluence. To frame it as some reaction to an uncertain future is just stupid, but I know this is from the NYT style section, so to be expected.
posted by rhonzo at 6:00 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


So, yes, I agree and share in all the eye rolling at yet another NYT Style section masterpiece. (These articles are so consistently terrible that it has to be a deliberate choice, and certainly helps maximize engagement and audience.)

At the same time, I can completely understand people who are in the fortunate position of having enough resources to make these kinds of choices looking at the horribleness of the past few years and deciding to live more towards today. Not that the selected examples where any paragons of hedonism (I think they should have included some people who made more radical lifestyle changes, like selling everything and traveling in a van or whatever), but good for them that they are making changes to find (one hopes) more happiness.

Just personally, within the past couple of years we have had close deaths in the family, people I worked with have passed, and multiple friends have had deaths or near-deaths in their families. Many of the deaths or debilitating situations were of people who reached retirement, but didn't live long after retiring. It is absolutely making me reconsider and reevaluate my choices around work, savings, and so on, and it just doesn't surprise me that anyone who has lived through the collective trauma of the pandemic plus all of the dire political and environmental news would reconsider life choices also.

Yeah, a twenty-seven-year-old editorial assistant is saving 2k a month? Living in LA? How does that work?

I wondered about that and figured there had to be more to the story, like getting free housing from family or something. Or, maybe editorial assistants earn way more than I thought and I should regret my life choices?
posted by Dip Flash at 6:18 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


If there's a contemporary Studs Terkel (perhaps MeFites will point me to one), their stories aren't being printed in the NYT.

Somebody else can probably do better, but this 2016 art exhibit might be of interest. And, while 2001 seems like a very long time ago, there's Gig.
posted by box at 6:53 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


My Brother used to say "If I knew I'd live this long I would have taken better care of myself".

He's dead now.
posted by aleph at 7:06 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


I can completely understand people who are in the fortunate position of having enough resources to make these kinds of choices looking at the horribleness of the past few years and deciding to live more towards today

Shout out to people who aren't in a fortunate position at all and have made no kinds of choices and are also living this lifestyle because they can't afford to save and have no idea if they'll ever be allowed to retire. It's all well and good to be able to travel around the world and come back and reassess things, but many of us never had the chance to save for retirement in the first place, nor are we able to swan off on a plane to Live Laugh Love until climate change well and truly fucks everything for good.

Excited to spend my luxurious Millennial lifestyle maybe treating myself to a slightly nicer brand of yogurt once in a while. Maybe one day I'll be able to afford avocado toast.
posted by fight or flight at 7:46 AM on May 14 [13 favorites]


The number of 18-35s who were saving $2000/mo. in the first place to be able to stop just isn't that large.

Yes, not a large proportion of the population, but this is most of my peer group - immigrants to a Western country - also literally the first person in the story. And funny there's a financial psychologist in the article, because there's a heap to unpack here - I would say that in my experience, it's not that these people I know set a target of how much they want to save each month to reach some kind of goal 50 years in the future, it's just that they just spend what they need, and it doesn't happen to be very much. People mostly don't spend that kind of time thinking about stuff 50 years in the future future, we operate on automatic and think of things day by day.

I don't believe anyone in my peer group decided to spend MORE as a result of the instability of the last few years. If anything, people are preparing to dump more cash into investments as asset prices fall. The very fact that you are in an incredibly fortunate position to save that much per month also insulates you against most worries. And the rise of facism or discrimination? We already left everything behind in one unfriendly country to start again from scratch in another, and we'll do it again if we have to.
posted by xdvesper at 7:54 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Another thought: all this buys into a mindset that is lucrative for the corporations. Spending what you have, not planning for the future, planning to die before retirement when you are no longer the target consumer? Ideal for the corporate bottom line. People who are frugal and who save (and who don’t buy into the mindset that money can’t buy happiness) are not valuable consumers for the purposes of short-term corporate income.

As someone with two relatives who did manage to kill themselves because they couldn’t face the depredations of old age (Parkinson’s/starvation inability to walk/OD on blood thinners) it isn’t as easy as that and boy is it painful for everyone around you. Though I’m sure corporations will be happy to make it easier if they can’t make more money off you any more, I’ll point out that health care in the USA is a vast corporate grift and there’s plenty profit to be made on old age and ill health.
posted by Peach at 8:28 AM on May 14 [14 favorites]


Another thought: all this buys into a mindset that is lucrative for the corporations.

No fooling. It always seems jarring when economists forecast doom because consumers aren't buying enough stuff, and -gasp- saving their money instead.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:45 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


Look, I don't think anybody is denying that things are seriously f-d, but our society has proven remarkably successful at kicking the can down the road for the last few decades. And in any case you'll want a large and diversified portfolio if you plan on thriving in prosperity gospel Gillead.
posted by wotsac at 8:53 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I'll never retire, or own a home, don't think I'll ever afford to start a family, don't have health insurance, don't own any assets or stock, don't even have a car now. 90% of my "savings" is the insurance money from my totalled car, which wasn't enough to replace my car, and over time just is worth less as a pile of money.

I just figure I keep on keeping on until something expensive happens to me and then I'll just die.
posted by GoblinHoney at 9:20 AM on May 14 [10 favorites]


I feel like Boomers could have leveled those exact accusations at their Greatest Generation parents

Specifically, the 'rising fascism' part. The Silent Generation (who Studs, mentioned upthread, named the Greatest) fought fascism, true; but most of 'em were just following orders, and when the War was over they came home and went to sleep. Boomers were NOT educated about fascism, were only taught that Communism = Socialism = bad. Only the lucky few received education about the political spectrum.
posted by Rash at 9:38 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


I remember in the early 80's my Mom and I both socking money away so we could afford a VCR, $10 here, $20 there. That was the extent of our ability to save then.
If it weren't for the enormous bit of luck I had when I accidentally ended up at my local college library, and being offered a job that was part of the state bureaucracy, I wouldn't have retirement, or health insurance. That sort of luck is no longer possible, thanks to tightening rules, and making sure that you need an advanced degree for ANY job in the library now.
My paycheck, however, has gone from middle class to working poor, thanks to the magic of ridiculously low cost of living increases and centrist democrat (what would have been called republican back in the day) policies that kept wages and access to better jobs low.
I get that many boomers are suggesting the kids deal with it, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and that we had it tough when I was a kid too. However, fuck 'em if they can't see how tough it is for the non rich and poor (working or not) regardless of generational cohort.
This is where I might normally say something about burning that motherfucker to the ground, but I think those of a like mind are already with me on that, and those that aren't are wondering what we're complaining about when the sale domestic caviar is nearly as good as the imported.
Please forgive me if I've stepped on your Manolo Blahniks.
posted by evilDoug at 9:44 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Aiming to have all your debts paid off by the time you die is economically irrational. It would make far more sense to spend your whole life carrying as much debt as you possibly can, aiming to die so far in hock that nobody could possibly recover more than a few cents on the dollar from your estate. Good luck suing my dead arse, creditors.
posted by flabdablet at 10:03 AM on May 14 [22 favorites]


This is a bit off-topic but every time I read a NYT style piece without realizing that's the source of the drivel I'm reading until the end, I think of the time WFMU's Ken and Andy pranked the NYT's Metropolitan Diary with an absurd quote that got taken for real.

The linked article provides more context but in case it disappears, here's what ended up in the Times:
As I was heading out of my Upper East Side apartment building to a leisurely breakfast, I happened across a neighbor whose husband is a well-known stock trader on Wall Street. Her darling 5-year old-son had overheard Daddy on the phone with a client, and was quite concerned.

"I know Daddy sells things at his job," he remarked with consternation, "but why, oh why, did he say he would sell my shorts?"
posted by treepour at 10:13 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Aiming to have all your debts paid off by the time you die is economically irrational.

The shitty thing is that you are simultaneously 1) correct, and 2) demonstrating how individuals are incentivized to remain perpetually poor.

All the peons make the individually “rational” choice, leaving them and their descendants collectively ensnared in a system where they are brought into a world where other people own everything, and labor on those strangers’ behalf until death.
posted by notoriety public at 10:21 AM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Here's a tip for all the "we thought the 60s and 70s were going to be bad" folks; your casual dismissal of

gee, i wonder what the 60s and 70s led up to

climate crisis, rising fascism, gig economy, education debt, medical bankruptcy, housing crisis, pandemic crisis, supply chain crisis, shooting wars involving a nuclear power, unprecedented surveillance by corporations and state, two wars that lasted two decades, militarized police who inherited the hardware from said wars and openly wear Punisher skulls, the start of a half-century conservative Supreme Court, entrenched gerrymandering, failing electric grids and infrastructure, several decades of right-wing am radio and Murdoch cable news and Qanon soaked social media, a plague that killed a million Americans with unknown long term effects, and every other horror that young people face is not appreciated.

you can't argue that we were wrong about it being bad when it leads to all that, can you?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:28 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]


My husband had a highly disreputable much older mate who managed to argue a finalist for the Miss Scotland crown into bed the night of the Cuban Missile Crisis - on the grounds the world would be ending. (He was punching considerably over his weight, to put it mildly). She slapped him very hard the morning after.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:09 AM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Wild idea: maybe this thread doesn't need to be an Olympic level event in "who had it worse". Maybe we can all agree that things have been shit in the past and are shit now, and maybe use the empathy gained from the former to be compassionate to those on the front lines of the latter?
posted by fight or flight at 11:14 AM on May 14 [25 favorites]


Being dismissive, or having hurt feelings nad being blame-y over others being dismissive, is about as on cue as any stereotype can be.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:32 AM on May 14


It’s worth noting that the only piece of “data” in the article is a survey from Fidelity, who is clearly incentivized for gin up a moral panic about 401(k)s not being full enough. The rest is entirely vibes / anecdotes.
posted by rishabguha at 11:42 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


I grew up with my elders telling me Social Security was never going to be there for them, so why care? And now they're living poor with just that small SS check and nothing else. And to hear the same lament from the youth of today....just makes me sad.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 11:47 AM on May 14 [5 favorites]


xdvesper: And the rise of facism or discrimination? We already left everything behind in one unfriendly country to start again from scratch in another, and we'll do it again if we have to.

Where, pray tell?
posted by tzikeh at 11:54 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


I grew up with my elders telling me Social Security was never going to be there for them, so why care?

Indeed, Social Security has been five years from bankruptcy for the last fifty years or so.
posted by gimonca at 12:19 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


https://www.ssa.gov/policy/trust-funds-summary.html

its trust fund is still growing YOY, slightly, at $2.9T, but the projected year the SSTF is spent down and benefits would have to be cut 20% is now 2033.

Both the Fed and SSTF [SSA has to keep one year of outgo in the fund] have to sell ~$2T each of bonds this decade, which should keep the heat up on Treasury rates.

But the higher interest rates go, the more money that flows from the have-nots to the haves!

This is all so weirdly unsustainable I fear.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 12:36 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


the obvious policy solution to make everyone happy as the Fed slowly QTs $2T+ of its $5.7T of Treasuries would be it also buying the SSTF's required sales as they come up this decade and next . . . the T would not be 'Tightening' but 'Transmutation' . . .
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 12:46 PM on May 14


I always suspect these stories of trying to poison assumptions so that the NYT owner class can loot something. I don’t see how one gets from here to removing SS or 401(k) protection but I bet it does.
posted by clew at 1:42 PM on May 14 [7 favorites]


Its simply a fact that Billy Joel is objectively bad. Paraphrase " In the past somone was wrong, so nothing bad can ever happen, all scientists are forever wrong about the future. lol. "

1-2 million dead and 3-4million with partially disabling prolonged symptoms doesnt matter to the survivors because there's no one americans hate more than americans.

4) Mammals over 20kg don't need to worry about the future, it'll be too hot for them next century, for many much sooner.

5) saved money is a bet on the social contract
in the future that it will be honored.
Todays generation is not so stupid as to believe that there will be a "social contract" or a "future".

The party of hate and power tweets that "the only good democrat is a dead democrat" and "kill your local pedophile". So buy GameStop and Sell Netflix? amirite!
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 1:51 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


I grew up with my elders telling me Social Security was never going to be there for them, so why care?

I never hear this from people my age, but all of my young friends (30s and 40s) are convinced it won't be there for them. My own thought is that no politicians are going to want to take the fall-out from just ending it, so they will figure out a way to make it work in some form, though that could very well be on the backs of people who can afford to lose their government assistance even less.

But my understanding was that social security was never meant to provide all of your money for old age, and a lot of people seem to think it does or should and so depend on it way more than is wise. But also, a lot of people just don't have anything extra that they can save. I was in that position until my mid-50s, so I might still manage retirement since things got better for me. I will also probably die from the cancer I have before I completely run out of money, though medical miracles are always possible.
posted by FencingGal at 1:59 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


I feel like we’ve been lied to about on state of social security and the actually mostly ok state of public schools for our whole lives by politicians who have other agendas. If our schools are failing then we can use public money for private schools in the name of choice. In the South that tends to lead to segregation of the schools on income and racial lines. Establishing the expectation that social security won’t be there benefits those selling 401ks. It has also allowed a massive shift in the tax burden to poor people from the rich. If Social security has to pay for itself and we can’t tax the super rich to make up the shortfall…
posted by interogative mood at 2:01 PM on May 14 [10 favorites]


Establishing the expectation that social security won’t be there benefits those selling 401ks.

That's very interesting. I've also heard that critique about retirement calculators - that people telling you the scary amount of money you MUST have to retire tend to be people selling 401ks.
posted by FencingGal at 2:05 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Also, re NYT articles, are you guys telling me that butt lifts might not really be booming?
posted by FencingGal at 2:08 PM on May 14


"saving" is a scam part 1: math
I'll make the math round numbers for ease since comments =/= essays.
you work about 40years (20-60)
you live about 80 years.
thus each year you work, you have to save enough to live a year of not working. 50% split of take home pay between your expenses and your savings.

You object: I can count that my parents raised me 0-20 , and my kids will take care of me 60-80 but I won't have any expenses raising kids or taking care of parents myself.

Free market voodoo allows my savings to grow faster than inflation, medical needs while aging, and the destruction of the environment, the depreciation and decay of the physical things i've saved, my bad investment choices, the loss of productivity as i age etc. This is the one-time boomer fossil fuel windfall exception and it ended in 2005.

I have a winning plan for beating others in a zero sum game, i am definately not the fish - said every fish ever.

technology will improve and I will of course be the beneficiary not the victim.

The money taken from my paycheck will be returned to me only more, and its not a ponzi scheme that is out of suckers.
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 2:41 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


@heywood - I like this chart (USA home prices only) which to me says "housing price crash is imminent, keep your powder dry" but others will interpret as "only goes up!".
posted by soylent00FF00 at 2:44 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


savings is a scam part 2:
whether you save 5%, 50% or 95% of your income from the past, those "saved dollars" can only compete for goods when spent in the future. You saved 10 bajillian dollars while working so you would have food. You can't spend them next decade when food runs out becauae
A) money doesnt make food, it distributes food, your past money competes with everyones new money and printing presses, etc. The value is not saveable. You cant save in the denomination of the things you need. Your pension won't pay you in calories or units of insulin
B) people with power will take the scarce food, and your money will be little memories of promises from economies you worked for long dead.
c) physical objects if sturdy and well preserved can be saved (think bricks, screws, popcorn kernals). Money is a cultural object whose usefulness is not physical but an interpersonal promise. When future people decline to honor promises made to you from people in the past, your money reverts to nothing. As true of gold and crypto-vapor as it is pieces of paper and bank statements.

There is no economy on a dead planet.
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 2:50 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Climate kills the crops
famine kills the economy
armed survivors ignore your quaint promisory notes.
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 2:54 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


I grew up with my elders telling me Social Security was never going to be there for them, so why care?

Indeed, Social Security has been five years from bankruptcy for the last fifty years or so.


"We ask if Social Security will still be around years from now, but we never ask if the Army will still be around. We ask if Social Security will go bankrupt, but we never ask if the Army will go broke."
posted by ovvl at 3:37 PM on May 14 [18 favorites]


Today's youth would be wise to emulate their Boomer forbears and both invest and scorn Communists. Steady investing has been a terrific idea for everyone everywhere since the Industrial Revolution with the sole exception of people who lost investments to Communist revolutions/conquests. "Steady investing" of course does not mean "dump everything at once into what might be a market bubble."
posted by MattD at 4:36 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


(These articles are so consistently terrible that it has to be a deliberate choice, and certainly helps maximize engagement and audience.)

Honestly, it’s the Times, which just gave a big mouthpiece article to Clarence Thomas so he can disingenuously moan about how the leaked Alito draft has damaged the court irreparably, rather than do any investigation into Ginni Thomas helping to fund 1/6 or Thomas refusing to refuse himself on any cases about it.

I imagine there’s less groaning about the Times in this thread in general is that we’ve largely accepted that this is the Times now, and this is who they report on and for. The ridiculous thing about it is how the right still holds up the Times as some liberal bastion attributing things to it that haven’t been true for decades. Meanwhile, they continue to pump out crime articles where the only sources are the police, or police unions, and give Bret Stephens a much more prominent place in public life than he deserves.

So, yes, tiredly, one time, fuck the Times, let’s stop giving them air.

(And yes, I too, am no longer saving money, in that the relatively well paying job that was allowing me to keep us above water has, after a high-for-Japan raise, stopped paying well enough to mean I’ll have a hundred or two hundred dollars at the end of the month, and now means needing to dip into the meager savings I’ve built up in order to make it to the next month. I haven’t been able to save money since probably the Lehman Shock, which fundamentally broke Japan in a lot of ways.)
posted by Ghidorah at 4:38 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Also -- it makes good science fiction (sometimes) but there will never be any kind of collapse. Human beings are literally political animals. Organization and order persists through all kinds of strain, and when the strain breaks it, new organization and order arises organically to replace the old. There's probably nothing human organization handles better than scarcity, because of course the political animal evolved under evolutionary pressures of high and unpredictable scarcity. Always and everywhere, anything that looks "collapsed" has hierarchy and means of exchange functioning just below the surface.
posted by MattD at 4:41 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]


I won't necessarily argue that modern young people have a greater threat set to look at when evaluating the future. I do think an argument could be made for that, but who cares?

The point is that the world is in the middle of several existential threats, and several sub-extinction level but still really nasty threats, and the fact that we survived prior threats doesn't mean we'll survive these or that we should get into a race for the bottom to try and figure out who got it worst. Zach Weinersmith had a good take on looking for people who had it worse than you.

Given the threat environment we're currently in, ongoing risk of global thermonuclear war, ongoing risk of biological war, climate change, the now mostly ignored but still killing us pandemic, the rising tide of fascism, the looming antibiotic risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria, and more is a threat mix big enough to make it entirely reasonable for everyone, not just younger people, to worry that things look really dire.

The fact that this is being presented as irresponsible young people vs wise old people is kind of weird, because a) I know a lot of older people who have decided that retirement is something they can never achieve and are planning to work until they die, and b) old people are also facing the same threat mix that younger people are.

Wars, bacteria, plagues, fascist regimes, none of them have exceptions for older people

Hell, I'm 47 and I'm sure I'll never be able to retire. Retirement is something (some, fortunate) Boomers got, it was never universal and it is far from assured for any working class person. The Republicans would love to smash Social Security, and far too many Democrats (including President Joe Biden) have been advocating for the destruction of Social Security too.

So yeah, I'm never going to be able to retire. Even if social security still exists and pays out when I get to be 65 it won't be enough to keep me sheltered, fed, and clothed.

Right now I'm looking at yanking the meager contents of my 403b to finance escaping Texas and moving to a non-Handmaid state. To me that sounds like a better use of that money than pretending I'll be able to retire on $60,000 or whatever.
posted by sotonohito at 5:10 PM on May 14 [11 favorites]


thus each year you work, you have to save enough to live a year of not working.

This is very incorrect.

Investing $5,000 a year for 40 years, assuming a 7% return rate (which is a very safe rate based on the past 80+ years which gives buffer for inflation), gives you just over a million dollars at retirement. That can fairly safely be drawn down at 4% over the course of retirement for our projected lifespans which provides for a middle class life most places.

There's many people for whom saving $5,000/year is impossible, which is a different problem, but saying you have to be able to save 50% of your income or risk being destitute in your old age is irresponsible.

money doesnt make food

Money does make food, that's how economies work.
posted by Candleman at 5:13 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]


If you google the first person they interviewed, she bears every hallmark of some deep familial wealth that the article is choosing not to disclose. What 14-year-old starts working at Conde Nast publications "on their school breaks"? The answer is always "a 14-year-old from a wealthy and connected family."

But then, that is generally whom Styles will ever interview at all. The whole section is just stealth society pages (the features), followed by explicit society pages (all those weddings). Or if you prefer, it's a guide to which publicist called the Times last week, and/or what some friend-of-a-friend's random child Of Wealth just happens to be doing right now...you know, precisely three months before their actual publicity run for a publishing debut/festival premiere/product launch.
posted by desert outpost at 5:54 PM on May 14 [16 favorites]


This is probably going off on a derail, but:

because of course the political animal evolved under evolutionary pressures of high and unpredictable scarcity.

I’m sure that’s the standard evo psych story, but citation is needed for this forum.
posted by eviemath at 7:47 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


Adding my voice to what I suspect might be turning into a derail, but: I grew up in the 70s and 80s. Yes there were some scary apocalyptic narratives floating around, but the comparison to the way things are now is not even in the same universe. Just in the past few years we've started to see cracks in the social contact, at least where I live in the US, in terms of people driving extremely dangerously, widespread theft in previous low crime neighborhoods, etc. The pandemic. Trump. Looming over it all, the climate crisis.

It angers me to have people my age and older saying "we worried about the same thing and we're fine" because 1. Actually most things aren't fine rn and 2. The world has changed and, in my experience at least, it's so much worse.
posted by whistle pig at 8:38 PM on May 14 [12 favorites]


Like, head's up kiddies - Metafilter is now.. Pro-Fascist. You merely haven't noticed it yet.

Not something I often say here, but check yourself n00b.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:39 PM on May 14 [8 favorites]


Every rich person at their death discovers money doesn't trump biology. Money is one of the ways we influence what people do. If people can't do a thing, money can't do it. You can't grow food from money, and you can't grow food when your farmers are sick and dead, your seeds eaten already or infected, your fields on fire or under floodwaters, your equipment stolen for scrap. Economics is a cartoon mural on the factory walls to hide the machinery and people that actually make things possible and constrain what is possible.

" but there will never be any kind of collapse" This is why it is so dangerous to let the cult of economics near any power. how many archeologists anthropologists, historians of econometrics, of language, of disease, how many paleoclimatologists and ecologists and botanists .... lots of people study and compare extinctions, collapses, crashes, etc. Your dogma blinds you to the world you live in and its ghosts.


Your $5k savings example. 2019 Median income US $35k, after tax is $28K Save $5k and live on $23k - so save 1/5th of a years expenses per year. economy grows at 1-3%, real wages don't grow (havent in 40 years for 80% of us earners) , yet your investments beat the economy by 4-7%, impressive and not a ponzi scheme (does not require new people to join the economy to pay the old?)

Oh, but inflation is 8.3% so your savings is shrinking in purchasing power by compounding 1.2%per year. If you work for 40 years, saving 5k and spending 23K (saving 1/5th of a years expenses), you will get 5 years of expenses.

Ok, but this inflation is temporary( maybe) and economic growth is perpetual (def not), so lets set inflation to 0, and your non-zerosum investments to the 2%growth of the economy and no childcare expenses and no health expenses and no old parents to raise, your now totally realistic for the average person scenario is...
If we ignore inflation and your investments grow at the rate the economy better than economy investments you get 13.13 years of expenses you can pay for. And that money won't buy anything from all the dead, it has to convince the living that they should go without to provide for you, because you abstained from spending decades earlier and somehow they owe you.

Madness. We did start the fire, and its out of control.
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 8:46 PM on May 14 [6 favorites]


Like: Not sure giving Peter Theil your CC numbers, home address and so forth is smart in these times. He's not exactly an agent you'd be willing to

Peter Thiel is bad, him taking a percentage of your transactions is bad, but the idea that he, personally, is going to use your address in PayPal for unspecified nefarious purposes (other than, I guess, direct mail?) is weird. Peter Thiel does not care if you have a MetaFilter account.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:58 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


but inflation is 8.3% so your savings is shrinking in purchasing power by compounding 1.2%per year.

That's not how it works out over time in the real world. There are luckier and unlucky times to have started saving and subsequently cashed out but your attempt to cherry pick figures does not represent reality.

Peter Thiel does not care if you have a MetaFilter account.

Peter Thiel has little to do with PayPal at this point (it was bought by eBay two decades ago and subsequently spun out again in the 2010s) and the nonsensical and offensive derail should be deleted.

MetaFilter using PayPal has been very well and repeatedly covered on Metatalk over the years.
posted by Candleman at 9:23 PM on May 14


Money does make food, that's how economies work.

Yeah, nah.

Plants make food, trust makes people plant plants, trust is codified as money.

This is why it is so dangerous to let the cult of economics near any power.

Not all economists
posted by flabdablet at 11:28 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Large imbalances of power facilitate irresponsible behaviour that destroys trust.
posted by flabdablet at 11:38 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]


If you're going to cite the collapse of a dodgy cryptocurrency, I'll simply have to respond with one of the great philosophers of the 20th century.
posted by Candleman at 11:52 PM on May 14


The specific claim that you made and I am disagreeing with is this:

Money does make food, that's how economies work.

Yes, money can be exchanged for goods and services if there exist goods and services to exchange it for. The point is that money does not and cannot, in and of itself, create the goods and services for which it is exchanged.

It can act as an incentive for people to try to create those goods and services, but once ecological collapse renders certain goods and services unavailable and/or uneconomic to supply (tried buying cod lately?) then all the money that people seeking those goods and services have might as well be dodgy cryptocurrency for all the good it does them. To say that money makes food requires the same kind of wilful blindness as believing that simply creating digital tokens with an inbuilt scarcity enforcement mechanism creates a workable currency. If the money isn't backed by real things, it's useless.

The free market is an efficient mechanism for allocating scarce resources preferentially to the wealthy. It is not and never has been a mechanism for guaranteeing that scarcity cannot happen. For food specifically, the closest we will ever get to the latter is a high-biodiversity and therefore resilient ecology, the very thing that eight billion of us are currently doing our level best to destroy.
posted by flabdablet at 1:38 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Steady investing has been a terrific idea for everyone everywhere since the Industrial Revolution with the sole exception of people who lost investments to Communist revolutions/conquests

...and spectacular capitalist market crashes.
posted by flabdablet at 1:48 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


"Simply invest and avoid Communists" is so comically out of touch with reality that it is nigh indistinguishable from trolling.

Like, do people really think everyone in America is invested in stocks? Or that they have money to invest, if only they would wake up or w/e?
The latest available government data, via the Federal Reserve from 2016, shows a relatively small share of American families (14%) are directly invested in individual stocks but a majority (52%) have some market investment mostly from owning retirement accounts such as 401(k)s. The Federal Reserve study found that only about one-third of families in the lower half of the income scale had stock holdings. In the next 40% of the income scale, about 70% of households held stocks, while households in the top 10% of the income scale had stock ownership rates above 90%
like...if you told everyone i have ever met to simply invest and avoid communists, you would get 90% confused stares and 10% punched in the fucking mouth, lol
posted by lazaruslong at 2:07 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]


i really shoulda stared Life at the top 10% scale i guess, damn mb
posted by lazaruslong at 2:11 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


If you failed to choose your parents with an appropriate degree of skill, that's scarcely my problem. Malcontent.
posted by flabdablet at 2:25 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


I think it's really hard to compare how things are now with the fears of the 60s and 70s in any meaningful way. Those who didn't experience it just don't know what it was like. I remember sitting in a catechism class right after Kent State listening to the teacher say the protesters at Kent State basically deserved to get shot (I pointed out that one girl who died wasn't even involved in the protest). Memories like that aren't something people who weren't alive then are going to know about. I also feel that I was personally more worried about my brother going to Vietnam than the bomb dropping (he ended up barely too young for the draft). Bomb drills to me felt like tornado drills - I even had some anxiety over not being able to tell them apart. I was very scared of tornadoes during storms, but I didn't think about them on a daily basis. I do remember seeing planes in the sky and feeling like I didn't know if they were going to drop bombs on us. Also, the Speck and Manson murders really scared the shit out of me. I still have a lot of fears over being murdered in my home by a random stranger that I trace directly to those. But even those of us who do remember are going to see all that through the lens of what happened afterwards. We know how things turned out. We just don't know what the world will be like in another ten years. I think the pandemic has shown us how precarious our safety is in a way we didn't really understand before.

For me, the really terrifying thing now is that the US system of government is itself in jeopardy. We have elected officials making decisions who don't really believe in our system of government. Because of that, I think 1930s Germany is a better comparison point than the 60s and 70s - and I don't think any of us here are old enough to remember what that felt like. Even in that case, eventually things got better again - but only after the world truly did go to hell and millions of people died. Historically, the world has gone to hell numerous times for millions of people (Pompeii anyone?). Americans have been very spoiled since about 1950, and we thought our relative safety would go on forever (I don't want to discount how shitty those times were for marginalized groups though). The big difference now is climate change - and I don't see a way out of a crisis that so many people are invested (some literally) in denying.

I won't share what gives me hope because I don't want to read responses telling me why my hope is completely wrong.
posted by FencingGal at 4:52 AM on May 15 [11 favorites]


It's been thirty years since I got my vasectomy. I did that so I could be sure I wouldn't make any more people. Choosing to create no descendants was the compromise I made with myself to avoid choosing suicide instead.

I could find no other way to reconcile the acceptability of my own continued existence as a member and product of one of the world's most profligate cultures with what I'd been watching the demands of five billion humans do to every ecosystem on the planet. I was and remain under no illusions that my own non-reproduction will, in and of itself, have any measurable effect on the amount of destruction that happens or doesn't but it is a contribution to the solution on the same scale as my own existence's contribution to the problem and for me that was enough.

So I'm sixty years old now, there are eight billion of us, and the rate at which we're gnawing through and burning down and chopping up and paving over our surroundings has increased commensurately. As a species, we're too numerous. I think the fundamental issue really is that simple, and I think what's been happening around us for my whole life provides ample evidence of of that to anybody prepared to look it square in the face.

The responses I am fed up to the back teeth with reading are all the endless banal and predictable cant about how Malthus was wrong and Ehrlich's population bomb was illusory and Human Ingenuity™ can always be relied upon to get us through and Green Revolution bla bla bla endless fucking bla.

No. Just no. The future for humanity will inevitably involve a much lower human population than today's, and the overarching policy question therefore must be how to go about arriving in that future having caused as little damage to ourselves and our surroundings and each other as possible. This has been the case for at least fifty years. I see precious little evidence of that question being responded to with anything but flat denial, though, so I expect that we're just going to have to deal with being forcibly reminded of our place in the scheme of things by large-scale ecological effects that we delusionally refuse to understand must apply to us as much as to any other species.

What gives me hope is that the renewable technologies are now the cheapest way to provide new energy, but I have to say that's still pretty thin as hopes go.
posted by flabdablet at 5:46 AM on May 15 [9 favorites]


I remember reading a while ago the observation that most Indigenous people are already living in a post-apocalyptic future….
posted by eviemath at 7:24 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


Because of that, I think 1930s Germany is a better comparison point than the 60s and 70s

We're heading toward a real "Execute Order 66" moment in 18 months, yes.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:16 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Regarding investment, the point is not that everyone invested, the point is that in the last 200 years or everyone who did invest steadily, and was not expropriated by Communists, has done well regardless of when they started investing, and nobody's done better than those who keep investing when times are at their worst.

Regarding collapse, people keep circling back to the notion that scarcity inevitably leads to chaos. That's ridiculous. Prevailing scarcity interrupted by episodes of severe scarcity (famine, war) are the default structure of human society. I don't want to evopsych this, so let's just that, however they go there, the prime social tools to manage scarcity - markets and hierarchy - are present in all societies and are observed to function robustly in even the most trying of times.

Now this does not mean that especially prominent social phenotypes always endure through crisis. Cities can fall and not be rebuilt because after the earthquake or drought or war, having a city in that particular place no longer serves the purpose it once did. Old elites can be displaced by new elites. But even then, our foreshortened view of history greatly exagerates the trauma. The historians and archeologists of the future who are comparing the Deotroit and Phoenix of 1945 and 2022 are going to think something very drastic happened, when of course for us living through it happened very slowly and with plenty of opportunity to adapt.
posted by MattD at 8:31 AM on May 15


If you find a person or group you think "is doing it wrong" don't be like the NY Times. Don't assume the choice is irrational for the circumstances or even a choice at all.

I was raised by concervatices who excoriated "hippity hop " culture for all the bling, because they had thousands in gold and.diamonds on them and no money in the bank. Those same crusty aholes listened to talk radio and started buying gold and trying to convince everyone that gold is true value, and muttering nonsense about the feds and lizzards...
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 9:12 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Instead of assuming millenials are choosing the wrong thing, to the extent that they can choose at all, maybe they are reacting rationally to the prevailing conditions.

This NY times article has a simple solution, These millenials and Candleman's link says it all. They should be investing with 1950s US dollars. In a world with 3 billion people, where their country is the only industry not in ruins or occupation. Time-machines!

What stocks should the irish, the indians or the kenyans have invested in before the british induced famine to depopulate them? Class A shares? Maybe an ETF?

Weimer germans and warsaw poles and jews, a nice Bond Fund? The african americans of Tulsa... a mid-cap fund? Dustbowl farmers... maybe a comodities fund. How about the some CDs and municipal bonds for the panic of 18## or 18## or ... you get the idea. You don't have to be pushed out of a helicopter to know that "avoid communism" is not the only key to success.

Past performance is not a gurantee of future returns.
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 9:15 AM on May 15 [10 favorites]


The point is that money does not and cannot, in and of itself, create the goods and services for which it is exchanged.

Well, duh, no form of currency has the magical ability to create manna from heaven and that's clearly not what I meant.

once ecological collapse renders certain goods and services unavailable and/or uneconomic to supply (tried buying cod lately?) then all the money that people seeking those goods and services have might as well be dodgy cryptocurrency for all the good it does them.

The claim that all of food production will completely collapse is an extraordinary one that's been presented without evidence. Because food is one of the most essential things for our existence, capital will provide the incentive to keep producing it despite ecological problems. It may not be exactly as it is now (shifting away from cattle would dramatically decrease the ecological demands, for example) and those without capital at aggregate will suffer greatly during global warming (and this is a bad thing so don't selective quote me saying that people in developing nations deserve to starve to death) but to simply claim there will be no food in the future is silly unless you can provide some strong models that show that will happen. The hypothetical US citizen with a million in today's dollars saved is going to be eating.

The problem is not the existence of money, it's how we choose to treat each other. Halving the US military budget to feed the world would still put it above everyone else's capability and save a lot of people. It's not that we can't, it's that we don't.

If the money isn't backed by real things, it's useless.

Virtually no currency at this point are backed by "real things" and yet the world keeps spinning. As you seem to want to bring cryptocurrency into this, it solves no real world problems other than some related to crime but introduces new ones.

if you told everyone i have ever met to simply invest and avoid communists, you would get 90% confused stares and 10% punched in the fucking mouth, lol

That's because it's a stupid statement and a strawman (did you name him? If not, I recommend Bob).

How about invest as you can and support a strong social net for those who can't?

If only, if only I'd specified that the inability for people to save what is under 10% of the median household income was a problem. Oh, wait, I did. My point that the statement that you have to save 50% of your income to have savings in retirement is correct. But you'd rather argue about Bob over here.

These millenials and Candleman's link says it all. They should be investing with 1950s US dollars. In a world with 3 billion people, where their country is the only industry not in ruins or occupation. Time-machines!

My late 00s invested dollars have done quite nicely, thank you.

Seeing as you've presented absolutely nothing to back up your claims, why don't you provide a link or two?
posted by Candleman at 9:51 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


that's clearly not what I meant

Since you issued a short, flat, unqualified statement that money does make food in response to anecdotal_grand_theory's points about the uselessness of money in times of food scarcity except to those who have disproportionate amounts of it, clearly not as clearly as you seem to think.
posted by flabdablet at 10:03 AM on May 15


This thread went off the rails a while ago and is venturing onto goldbuggery and other dead end MF whipping boys, I'd say its all dismissal and larfs at this point. At least we're not all being called out at fascists anymore.

Looks like the poison is baked in and oozes out with virtually no prodding recently.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:11 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


Seems like a problem - not sure maxing out the ol’ 401k helps but maybe I’m wrong : link
posted by WatTylerJr at 10:46 AM on May 15


Has there ever been a generation of 25-year-olds who didn't look at the world and say, "This place is so terrible, it's all coming crashing down soon"? Has the received wisdom among sophisticated 25-year-olds ever been, "The world is going to keep doing what it's doing now, and I will be around when I'm 70 and will need to plan to be not working by then"?

Yes? I don't know what the name is for the cognitive bias that leads people to say "every generation before this one has been just like this one at the same age," but it isn't true, just like "this generation of young people is uniquely deficient" also isn't true. For that matter "generational characteristics repeat in this nifty four-generation cycle" also isn't true. Things are complex! We each respond to the world as we find it.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:04 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]


A man hath no better thing under the Sun than to eat and to drink and to be merry
posted by lumpy at 7:09 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


Today's youth would be wise to emulate their Boomer forbears and both invest and scorn Communists. Steady investing has been a terrific idea for everyone everywhere since the Industrial Revolution with the sole exception of people who lost investments to Communist revolutions/conquests. "Steady investing" of course does not mean "dump everything at once into what might be a market bubble."

Metafilter is simultaneously a place where everyone has (pretended to) read Piketty's capital and is fully convinced that r < g and also a place where it makes no sense to save and invest for the future.

Isn't this basically just the same fantasy the preppers have? They seem to think that they're not really losers because when the apocalypse comes, their guns and stored MREs will make them kings in the blasted hellscape. This is like the less-fun version which at least recognises that nobody is going to have a good time in a post-collapse scenario but still basically provides excuses for either a lack of worldly success or improvidence. It's that same kind of just world stuff, where in a world where climate disaster hits, money saved won't mean anything. I mean, it won't be as good as a world without climate disaster, but I would rather have much devalued retirement savings post collapse than nothing.

"Simply invest and avoid Communists" is so comically out of touch with reality that it is nigh indistinguishable from trolling.

Like, do people really think everyone in America is invested in stocks? Or that they have money to invest, if only they would wake up or w/e?


But why is this relevant to the OP? I mean it's the NYT Style section so, you know, lol, but this is a story about people who are upper middle class at least and who choose to accelerate their consumption instead of saving or investing because they think a collapse is coming. It isn't a story about the majority who cannot realistically save anything. These are people who could, if they wanted to, dedicate their lives to trying to mitigate the worst of climate change. If that's what they were spending their money on, fine, but not, they're flying to their holidays because they don't want to put money into their retirement savings.
posted by atrazine at 8:48 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


"Because food is one of the most essential things for our existence, capital will provide the incentive to keep producing it despite ecological problems"

Increasing food production during "ecological problems" is expensive and risky, more profitable is to hoarde, gouge, speculate, rent-seek, hijack, etc. Markets don't do what you claim. Ireland was a net food exporter during the famine. India's integration into the british market system was the occasion for its largest famines.

"money will find a way" is a way to short circuit any real confrontation with the state of world. There is no useable high latitude land in the southern hemisphere and the land in the northern hemisphere had its soil scraped away by ice-sheets, is acidic and hydric. The food we will be wishing for in the fall (this fall, a decade from now?) will have already been fed to cows, pigs and chickens. the cult of industrialism, of techonolgy of markets, it has had successes, but the blind faith we put in it is the reason we are f-ed long before it becomes geophysically impossible to survive.

Economists of the fossil age are like players of russian roulette, ignoring everyone in the past who died of the game and graphing their three-pull winning streak as evidence that they can't lose.

We don't know exactly what the future holds. But its reasonable to think its worse than the present. Collapses have happened, some are.happening now, if you are comfortable now, maybe help those who are not, instead of investing in the endless game of more.

What trickles (torrents) down is pollution, risk, stress, violence. Stop doubling down and start saving people, species, cultures, habitats.

The future isn't purely made by our whims and the market is not wise or benevolent it is extractive and mercenary. Lebanon needs your help, the amazonians need your help, the ukrainians and afghans and yemeni need your help, the central americans need your help.


The question isn't should we have one avocado toast today or save up some we can have two tomorrow. there is no tomorrow
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 1:01 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


but there will never be any kind of collapse

Not so much that as nobody is very good at predicting when it will happen. It could very well happen sooner than anybody expects, but it also might not and then where are you? And when it does happen, it’s not gonna be exactly like you expected, either. I think calling this a kind of inverse prepper syndrome is insightful.
posted by atoxyl at 1:04 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


There is no tomorrow for a civilization that destroys its life support system to hoarde wealth tokens for an imagined future.
posted by anecdotal_grand_theory at 1:05 PM on May 16


Somebody who selfishly cares about their future would rationally try to figure out how to horde their resources in a way that would still confer an advantage in a state of collapse. Somebody who cares about the future collectively would put their resources in the present into averting the worst future. “Fuck it, I’m gonna have a good time now” is mostly just distracting oneself to cope with anxiety.
posted by atoxyl at 1:13 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


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