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Asha Bangalore

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Asha Bangalore is Vice President and Economist at The Northern Trust Company, Chicago. Prior to joining the bank in 1994, she was Consultant to savings…

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Paul Kasriel

Paul Kasriel

Paul joined the economic research unit of The Northern Trust Company in 1986 as Vice President and Economist, being named Senior Vice President and Director…

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I Am Worried about the Government Debt My Descendants Will Inherit

This is a common concern I hear from seniors and even some enlightened baby boomers. (Yes, Virginia, there actually are some enlightened baby boomers!) Is this a legitimate concern? You betcha. The chart below shows actual per-capita gross federal debt through 2009 and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) projected per-capita federal debt thereafter through 2020. In 2009, each of us was responsible for $38, 651 dollars of gross federal debt. By 2020, CBO projects each of us will be on the hook for $62, 808 of gross federal debt.

Chart 1

How can this concern be alleviated? Well, short of bringing about a change in our federal government entitlement programs - Social Security and Medicare - about the only thing parents and grandparents can do to alleviate the huge indebtedness we collectively are passing on to our descendants is increase the inheritance we leave them - i.e., increase our current saving rate. So, cut back on the early-bird specials at your favorite beanery and play one less round of golf a week. Rather, use part of your monthly Social Security check, which is partially responsible for the debt you are passing on to future generations, to fund a trust account for your grandchild. Feeling a little achy in the morning? Don't rush to the doctor, which will speed the depletion of the Medicare Trust Fund. By not using Medicare as much, you can keep that Medicare Trust Fund topped up and, in effect, not pass on as much debt to your descendants as otherwise. In the immortal words of Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us!"

 

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