The younger generations are utterly lost in a messy system of limited benefits and uncounted claimants, and the fine print is ripping them off. The benefactors of this system — my parents’ generation and older — have been awfully quiet on the subject.

But with her unborn granddaughter in mind, my mother breaks the silence:

To my granddaughter,

I wish I could tell you how your years of dreaming and planning and saving will serve you well on your quest for family security. I wish I could tell you that you will, indeed, be inching toward your goals. More than anything, I wish I could tell you how I’ve sacrificed for your success — how I can feed you promises of a happier future when times are hard and you find your pockets empty and your dream-well stone-dry. But I can’t. I haven’t paid for such promises.

The truth is, you’ve been short-changed, my dear. You’ve been cheated by me and those older than me. My generation has utterly failed you, allowing government to fudge the numbers for our sakes. What’s more, we’ve enabled a system that requires you to pay for our mistakes.

When you buy your first home in California, you’ll be paying astronomical taxes to protect me from tax rate increases. Why? Because your elders didn’t own up to the poor math of legislation, like California’s Proposition 13. It passed, requiring that property taxes cannot be increased by more than a certain rate, effectively granting existing homeowners lower taxes than new homeowners receiving the same services for their tax dollars.

Social Security benefits are another version of the same sad story. The Supreme Court states that despite past legislative promises, Social Security benefits can change. The result is an ad hoc accounting system: benefits for my generation come almost entirely from the taxes of unestablished, financially disadvantaged, young people — like you. The ugly truth is that the promised cash benefits increasingly exceed scheduled tax collection without any accounting from our government or any acknowledgment of who will pay the growing debt.

I’m more than embarrassed that I did not defend your generation from our shortsightedness.

I’ve turned a blind eye to court rulings saying that a person’s “right” to a promised pension benefit or lower tax rate — even when the assets to back those promises are gone — is more important than the rights of those who will eventually pay the difference — you and your children and their children. We’ve pawned all our financial woes off on our flesh and blood future taxpayers instead of paying the price for “a more perfect” prospect of hope for our children.

We’ve been so caught up in our “rights” that we’ve allowed ourselves to ignore the wrongs we are committing as participants in government and as fathers to our children. Shame on us for failing our young people at this critical hour when the nation’s financial forecasts are grim.

Shame on those who’ve gone before you, hoarding our claims to “rightful” pensions and tax rates, all the while grinding our heels into any hope for equal opportunity in the pursuit of your future happiness.


Learn some of the basics about retirement and pension benefits from the website  Act Now