FORECASTS & TRENDS E-LETTER
by Gary D. Halbert
September 15, 2015
IN THIS ISSUE:
1. More Americans Working Well Into Their Retirement Years
2. Reality Check: The Four Biggest Retirement Misperceptions
3. President Obama’s Legacy – NOT the One He Hoped For
In my Blog last Thursday, I wrote about the astounding number of seniors 65 years and older who have not paid off their home mortgages. As a follow-up to that topic, a new report finds that more Americans than ever are working well into retirement. That’s where we will start today with a review of the latest numbers on those working beyond age 65.
Following that, I will reprint the most interesting article I have read in some time. It is an article which discusses President Obama’s most likely legacy – one he will definitely be unhappy about. Interestingly, this article was written by Jeff Greenfield, the award-winning TV journalist, best-selling author and a Democrat. You will not believe what he has to say about Obama’s legacy. Let’s get started.
More Americans Working Well Into Their Retirement Years
A new study from Bank of America/Merrill Lynch (BOA/ML) reveals some very interesting findings on how many Americans are having to work well beyond the normal retirement age.
Retirement used to mean the end of work. But now we’re at a tipping point where a majority of people will continue to work after they retire – often in new and different ways.
Nearly half (47%) of today’s retirees say they either have worked or plan to work during their retirement. But an even greater percentage (72%) of pre-retirees age 50+ say they want to keep working after they retire, and in the near future it will become increasingly unusual for retirees not to work at least for a few years. This new phenomenon is driven by four forces:
• Increasing life expectancy, which has produced a retirement that can last 20 years or more.
• Elimination of pensions for most workers, shifting the burden for funding retirement from employers to retirees.
• Recent economic uncertainty, which has been a wake-up call for many people that it is not financially sustainable to retire without some employment income.
• Re-visioning of later life, as new generations seek greater purpose, stimulation, social engagement, and fulfillment in retirement.
While some are delaying retirement, a growing number of people are continuing to work after they retire. Because this is largely uncharted territory, pre-retirees who anticipate working in retirement are confronted with many questions and uncertainties:
Will I be able to find work in my later years? If so, for how long? How can I balance work with other things I want to do? What kind of work might I be able to do? Will I enjoy it? Will it help me be more financially secure? What can I do now to best prepare for working during my retirement years?
These pre-retirees can learn essential lessons from people who are now working in retirement. This BOA/ML landmark study – based on a nationally representative survey of 1,856 working retirees and nearly 5,000 pre-retirees and non-working retirees – is the most comprehensive investigation of the successes, pitfalls and innovative career paths in today’s retirement.
Reality Check: The Four Biggest Retirement Misperceptions
By examining the experiences of working and non-working retirees, the BOA/ML study dispels several important misperceptions.
Myth 1: Retirement means the end of work.
Reality: Over seven in 10 pre-retirees say they want to work in retirement. In the near future, it will be increasingly unusual for retirees not to work.
Myth 2: Retirement is a time of decline.
Reality: A new generation of working retirees is pioneering a more engaged and active retirement, which is comprised of four different phases: (1) Pre-Retirement, (2) Career Intermission, (3) Re-engagement and (4) Leisure.
Myth 3: People primarily work in retirement because they need the money.
Reality: This research reveals that while some work primarily for the money, many others are motivated by important non-financial reasons.
Myth 4: New career ambitions are for young people.
Reality: Nearly three out of five retirees launch into a new line of work, and working retirees are three times more likely than pre-retirees to be entrepreneurs.
Working Well Into Retirement is the New Reality
I will leave this topic there for today, but I will have a LOT more to say about it in the weeks and months ahead. The bottom line is that more and more older Americans will be working well into their Golden Years for at least the next couple of decades.
The reasons for this, however, are not as simple as we may have thought in the recent past. Yes, many Americans are having to work beyond 65 because they have not saved nearly enough to afford their hoped for retirement lifestyles.
Yet it is also because of the fact that more Americans want to work beyond age 65 – because they are healthier and are living longer lives. To that, I say this is a very good thing. How this fact will affect the workplace in the long-term remains to be seen. More on this to come.
President Obama’s Legacy – NOT the One He Hoped For
The following article is the most interesting piece I have read in a long time. It appeared in the left-leaning POLITICO MAGAZINE on August 20. I have been sitting on it since then, wondering what to do with it. I have decided to reprint it today.
The article is entitled DEMOCRATIC BLUES: Barack Obama Will Leave His Party in the Worst Shape Since the Great Depression – Even if Hillary Wins. Wow! It is the most damning article on President Obama that I have seen in a long time, if not ever.
With a jaw-dropping title like that, you would assume some conservative must have written it, but no. The author is none other than Jeff Greenfield, the award-winning TV journalist, best-selling author and a Democrat. Read it and click the link above if you want to forward it.
by Jeff Greenfield
As historians begin to assess Barack Obama’s record as president, there’s at least one legacy he’ll leave that will indeed be historic—but not in the way he would have hoped. Even as Democrats look favorably ahead to the presidential landscape of 2016, the strength in the Electoral College belies huge losses across much of the country. In fact, no president in modern times has presided over so disastrous a stretch for his party, at almost every level of politics.
Legacies are often tough to measure. If you want to see just how tricky they can be, consider the campaign to get Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill 178 years after he left the White House. Working class hero? How about slave owner and champion of Native American genocide? Or watch how JFK went from beloved martyr to the man whose imperial overreach entrapped us in Vietnam, and then back to the president whose prudence kept the Cuban Missile Crisis from turning into World War III.
Yet when you move from policy to politics, the task is a lot simpler—just measure the clout of the president’s party when he took office and when he left it. By that measure, Obama’s six years have been terrible.
Under Obama, the party started strong. “When Obama was elected in 2008, Democrats were at a high water mark,” says David Axelrod, who served as one of Obama’s top strategists. “Driven by antipathy to George W. Bush and then the Obama wave, Democrats had enjoyed two banner elections in ’06 and ’08. We won dozens of improbable congressional elections in states and districts that normally would tack Republican, and that effect trickled down to other offices. You add to that the fact that we would take office in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and it was apparent, from Day One, that we had nowhere to go but down.”
The first signs of the slowly unfolding debacle that has meant the decimation of the Democratic Party nationally began early—with the special election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s empty Senate seat in Massachusetts. That early loss, even though the seat was won back eventually by Elizabeth Warren, presaged the 2010 midterms, which saw the loss of 63 House and six Senate seats. It was disaster that came as no surprise to the White House, but also proved a signal of what was to come.
The party’s record over the past six years has made clear that when Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017 the Democratic Party will have ceded vast sections of the country to Republicans, and will be left with a weak bench of high-level elected officials. It is, in fact, so bleak a record that even if the Democrats hold the White House and retake the Senate in 2016, the party’s wounds will remain deep and enduring, threatening the enactment of anything like a “progressive” agenda across much of the nation and eliminating nearly a decade’s worth of rising stars who might help strengthen the party in elections ahead.
When Obama came into the White House, it seemed like the Democrats had turned a corner generationally; at just 47, he was one of the youngest men to be elected as president. But the party has struggled to build a new generation of leaders around him. Eight years later, when he leaves office in 2017 at 55, he’ll actually be one of the party’s only leaders not eligible for Social Security. Even as the party has recently captured more young voters at the ballot box in presidential elections, its leaders are increasingly of an entirely different generation; most of the party’s leaders will fade from the national scene in the years ahead.
Its two leading presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are 67 and 73. The sitting vice president, Joe Biden, is 72. The Democratic House leader, Nancy Pelosi, is 75; House Whip Steny Hoyer is 76 and caucus Chair James Clyburn is 75, as is Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, who will retire next year. It’s a party that will be turning to a new generation of leaders in the coming years—and yet, there are precious few looking around the nation’s state houses, U.S. House or Senate seats.
Barack Obama took office in 2009 with 60 Democrats in the Senate—counting two independents who caucused with the party—and 257 House members. Today, there are 46 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, the worst showing since the first year after the Reagan landslide. Across the Capitol, there are 188 Democrats in the House, giving Republicans their best showing since Herbert Hoover took the White House in 1929.
This is, however, the tip of the iceberg. When you look at the states, the collapse of the party’s fortunes are worse. Republicans now hold 31 governorships, nine more than they held when Obama was inaugurated. During the last six years the GOP has won governorships in purple and even deep blue states: Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio. In the last midterms, only one endangered Republican governor—Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania—was replaced by a Democrat. (Sean Parnell in Alaska lost to an independent.) Every other endangered Republican returned to office.
Now turn to state legislatures—although if you’re a loyal Democrat, you may want to avert your eyes. In 2009, Democrats were in full control of 27 state legislatures; Republicans held full power in 14. Now? The GOP is in full control of 30 state legislatures; Democrats hold full power in just 11. In 24 states, Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the legislature—giving them total control over the political process. That increased power at the state level has already led to serious consequences for Democrats, for their political future and for their goals.
“It’s almost a crime,” Democratic Party Vice Chair Donna Brazile says. “We have been absolutely decimated at the state and local level.”
Taken as a whole, these six years have been almost historically awful for Democrats. You have to go back to the Great Depression and the Watergate years to find so dramatic a reversal of fortunes for a party. And this time, there’s neither a Great Depression nor a criminal conspiracy in the White House to explain what has happened.
Some of the party’s national erosion may well have been inevitable. The transformation of the South from a one-party Democratic region to a (virtual) one-party Republican region accounts for some of the losses to the Democratic ranks. That 2010 election gave Republicans in nine states control over redistricting, which gave them more seats in the U.S. House and state legislatures four years later.
And the dramatic fallout in support from white working-class voters can be explained, in some progressives’ eyes, by a failure to address the plight of what was once the party’s base.
“These voters,” pollster Stan Greenberg wrote recently in the Washington Monthly, “are open to an expansive Democratic economic agenda—to more benefits for child care and higher education, to tax hikes on the wealthy, to investment in infrastructure spending, and to economic policies that lead employers to boost salaries for middle- and working-class Americans, especially women. Yet they are only ready to listen when they think that Democrats understand their deeply held belief that politics has been corrupted and government has failed. Championing reform of government and the political process is the price of admission with these voters.”
Whatever the explanations, there is an unsettling reality for Democrats: While they may warm themselves over presidential prospects—demographic shifts and a Republican Party deeply at war with itself and consumed by a chaotic primary highlighted by the debate earlier this month, starring Donald Trump at the center of the stage—the weather where so much of our politics and policies will be shaped looks distinctly chiller.
“We are fooling ourselves,” says one well-placed Democratic operative, “if we think we can advance a progressive agenda in Washington, if half the Congress and half the states are controlled by a Republican Party enthusiastically working to undo every trace of progressive policy.”
In facing midterm headwinds, every two-term president has had to reckon with his party’s misfortune. The “six-year itch,” when voters punish the president’s party with congressional losses, has afflicted every president since Theodore Roosevelt with just one exception: Bill Clinton in 1998. In Clinton’s case, though, voters had dealt Democrats a crushing midterm loss four years earlier, capturing the Senate and—for the first time in 40 years—the House of Representatives as well. And since 1928, only one president—Ronald Reagan—has managed to leave the White House in the hands of an elected successor of the same party.
This historical record, however, offers little comfort to today’s Democrats or to Obama’s down-ballot legacy. No two-term president in recent times has seen his party clobbered in both midterm elections. In one case—the 1986 midterms—Reagan’s Republican Party did relatively well in the House, losing only five seats. But it lost the Senate when seven GOP seats turned over, some by very narrow margins. Democrats gained five House seats in 1998, even though their president was in the middle of a major scandal.
And while only Reagan saw his party hold the White House, three other presidents—Eisenhower, Johnson, Clinton—all saw their party’s nominee come within a whisker of victory. Not only did Gore win the popular vote, but Democrats in 2000 picked up five Senate seats.
Wait, you are asking: Don’t Democrats, with the demographic wind at their backs, have a good chance of holding the White House? Doesn’t the Senate map give them a real shot at retaking the Senate? Don’t national polls show that the GOP is far more unpopular than the Democratic Party?
Yes—and a third term for Democrats along with a recaptured Senate would clearly affect Obama’s political legacy. Even with those victories, however, the afflictions of Democrats at every other level would ensure enduring political trouble. END QUOTE
This is the most damning article on President Obama that I have seen in a very long time. The fact that it is written by a liberal journalist is even more surprising. As I have maintained since before he was elected in 2008, Obama doesn’t have our country’s best interests at heart. Have to leave it there for today.
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Very best regards,
Gary D. Halbert