Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fear and Loathing Among the Boomers

And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12:29-34

I always thought that the greatest fear for Baby Boomers was getting old.

It was the one thing that we were determined NOT to do.

For the longest time, we did not trust anyone over thirty. It got a little weird as we moved past that milestone and entered into an extended period of denial. Decades went by. Eventually, fifty became “the new thirty” and sixty became “the new forty,” and still we acted as if nothing had changed.

As a coping strategy, I think denial is underrated. This was, I thought, the Boomer way of dealing with the fear of getting old. Just make believe it doesn’t exist. To be honest, I was okay with that.

But according to a recent AOL “news” story by Sarah Gilbert, the greatest fear of Baby Boomers is running out of money. Apparently I missed the memo. Everything changed when I wasn’t paying attention. Allianz Life Insurance Company surveyed over 3,000 Americans, aged 44 to 75 (Boomers plus a few on either side) and found that 61% said their greatest fear was running out of money. The remaining 39% said their greatest fear was death. Conveniently, those percentages account for everyone, so one assumes there were only two choices. And there was no option for “undecided.”

One suspects that Allianz Life Insurance Company designed the survey to show that people are afraid of running out of money because they sell investment vehicles. And life insurance, of course.

But this comment particularly caught my attention:

So why is the financial crisis, and our greatly diminishing faith in financial institutions, such a big deal? Even in the golden age of lifetime employment and secure pension funds, we never placed so much of our hopes and dreams in corporations and the government. Instead, we found our emotional security through religion or family or both. We might be wise to return to such comforts.

Once, she observes, "we found our emotional security through religion or family or both." What has changed? What has made the prospect of running out of money our greatest fear?

In recent decades we have increasingly come to worship The Market. Because we have made The Market our god, running out of money is not just a practical problem, it is a “religious” issue. If we had been more faithful in our worship, more devoted in our sacrifices, then this would not have happened. But we have made our god (The Market) angry and he has taken vengeance on us.

Jesus knows that our fears and worries are often the result of idolatry. We worship false gods. We put our treasure in the wrong place and it does not bring us security, only more worry and more fear.

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