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The Clash of Generations: Saving Ourselves, Our Kids, and Our Economy Hardcover – March 23, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


The United States doesn't have a problem with debt it cannot pay, but rather with promises it cannot keep -- promises to older Americans that, as things stand now, will bankrupt younger Americans. Intensely informative and entertaining at the same time, The Clash of Generations will lead you through the fiscal minefield that lies in our nation's future path and show you the way safely out of it. If you care about your grandchildren and the nation they will inhabit, you owe it to yourself and to them to read this book.

(William J. Bernstein, author of The Investor's Manifesto and A Splendid Exchange )

Economics doesn't get better or more disturbing than this. The Clash of Generations will tell you things you never knew and hoped you'd never learn. They are straight truths about our country's relentless expropriation of the next generation that will either land young and old alike in an early economic grave or culminate in generational war. Read this book if you care about your children. Read this book if you care about yourself. And read this book if you care about our country.

(John Silber, President Emeritus, Boston University)

The Clash of Generations is so well written that Scott Burns and Laurence Kotlikoff should be considered the Stieg Larsson of economics. But there is one difference: the horror story they tell -- about the debts that burden the young -- are not fictional. This is a great book of great importance, and every paragraph contains some new and interesting observation.

(George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2001)

A clarion call for those who love America, and wish to preserve its virtues for future generations. A look down into the abyss to which we are headed, and some serious, well-considered recommendations for getting us back on track. The Clash of Generations is a compelling and fluid read, a don't-put-it-down-till-you-finish-it book, at once both scary and hopeful.

(William P. Bengen, independent financial advisor)

This is a truly important book, and I hope that it will be so widely read as to inspire a meaningful widespread dialog among individuals, families, and policymakers.

(Geoff Considine The Portfolioist)

About the Author

Laurence J. Kotlikoff, one of the nation's leading experts on fiscal policy, national saving, and personal finance and a columnist for Bloomberg, is Professor of Economics at Boston University. His writings and views appear in Forbes, the Economist, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other leading media outlets.

Scott Burns's personal finance column has been nationally syndicated since 1981.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (March 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262016729
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262016728
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #598,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laurence J. Kotlikoff is a William Fairfield Warren Professor at Boston University, a Professor of Economics at Boston University, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the Econometric Society, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and President of Economic Security Planning, Inc., a company specializing in financial planning software. Professor Kotlikoff received his B.A. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1973 and his Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University in 1977.
From 1977 through 1983 he served on the faculties of economics of the University of California, Los Angeles and Yale University. In 1981-82 Professor Kotlikoff was a Senior Economist with the President's Council of Economic Advisers.
Professor Kotlikoff is author or co-author of14 books and hundreds of professional journal articles. His most recent books are Jimmy Stewart Is Dead (forthcoming February 22, 2010, John Wiley and Sons, Spend 'Til the End, co-authored with Scott Burns, Simon & Schuster, The Healthcare Fix (MIT Press), and The Coming Generational Storm (co-authored with Scott Burns, MIT Press).
Professor Kotlikoff publishes extensively in newspapers, and magazines on issues of financial reform, personal finance, taxes, Social Security, healthcare, deficits, generational accounting, pensions, saving, and insurance.
Professor Kotlikoff has served as a consultant to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Harvard Institute for International Development, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Swedish Ministry of Finance, the Norwegian Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Italy, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of England, the Government of Russia, the Government of Ukraine, the Government of Bolivia, the Government of Bulgaria, the Treasury of New Zealand, the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Joint Committee on Taxation, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, The American Council of Life Insurance, Merrill Lynch, Fidelity Investments, AT&T, AON Corp., and other major U.S. corporations.
He has provided expert testimony on numerous occasions to committees of Congress including the Senate Finance Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Joint Economic Committee.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

98 of 119 people found the following review helpful By Gaetan Lion on May 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book covers three themes: 1) a fiscal analysis of the US; 2) a set of related policy recommendations; and 3) financial planning to survive the prospective challenging times. In summary, the fiscal analysis is absurd. The policy recommendations are often quite all right. And, the financial planning is outstanding. Kotlikoff (the main author) does not have a good handle on macroeconomics (poor fiscal analysis). But, the more he drills down to the individual level (financial planning) the more he excels.

Kotlikoff's assessment of the US fiscal problems border on the absurd. He advances that all familiar fiscal measurements like Budget Deficit/GDP or Debt/GDP are completely wrong. And, that the only representative fiscal measure is his own construct: the US Fiscal Gap which he currently calculates at $211 trillion. Kotlikoff artifically boosts his $211 trillion Fiscal Gap in several ways:

... First, he relies on a worst case scenario: the CBO alternative scenario. He wrongly dismisses the CBO baseline scenario as he thinks the latter freezes government spending as if there were no economic growth and no inflation. This is incorrect. The CBO baseline scenario is reasonable and relies on credible economic assumptions of long term GDP growth, inflation, and commensurate increase in Government spending. However, it projects that current laws will be fully implemented. The CBO alternative scenario uses the same economic assumptions, but it assumes that current laws will be tweaked (Bush tax cuts will not expire, AMT to be indexed). Unsurprisingly, the CBO alternative scenario is unsustainable with a resulting skyrocketing US Debt/GDP ratio.

... Second, he discounts future Budget Deficits by a surprisingly low discount rate of only 3%.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"In taking from the young and giving to the old, year after year, decade after decade, in ever larger sums, Uncle Sam has, as indicated, run a massive Ponzi scheme. And he has sold his chain letter to the young with reassuring words that a Bernie Madoff might use: `Not to worry, Every dollar you hand over now in `taxes' (wink, wink) will be repaid many times over when you hit retirement and collect the terrific benefits I've promised you.'"

This quotation from page 29 of Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Scott Burns incisive new book "The Clash of Generations: Saving Ourselves, Our Kids and Our Economy" neatly and succinctly sums up the dire financial crisis we are facing in this country. For those twentysomethings who are just entering the workaday world the patently irresponsible fiscal policies promulgated by the federal government at the behest of older folks over the past six decades are going to have predictable and devastating consequences.....unless we change course. Authors Kotlikoff and Burns know a little something about this subject. They sounded the alarm in their 2005 book "The Coming Generational Storm". However, our leaders in Washington failed to take heed. Now in 2012 the authors are back with a new offering that explains in painful detail how we got here and goes on to present a thoughtful four-point plan to help us get out of this mess. Trust me this is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the solvency of our nation.

When Social Security was created by FDR during the Great Depression the idea was to take cash from young workers too scared to spend it and give it to old people who had to spend it to survive.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tom Matt host of "Boomers Rock" on March 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I have two things to forewarn a reader about with this book-

1. Early in the book you may find that the impending financial catastrophe is so imminent you may want to make a run on your bank, don't!
Laurence J. Kotlikoff
2. Even though there will be ample evidence, numbers do not lie, Professor Kotlikoff and Scott Burns, weave in enough humor to take heavy material and turn it into a great read.

As the host of "Boomers Rock" we discuss many of these issues because as a generation we boomers should not be branded as a bunch of takers who ruined the planet, our opportunity to step up is clearly laid out in some of this books thoughts and suggestions by the authors, really it is open discourse that enables a solution.

I will be interviewing Professor Kotlikoff (Larry) soon on the radio show, we obviously have a lot to talk about and I really look forward to talking with him about everything and anything.

Well done guys!

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By TalkBack on April 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This helped in planing for my own retirement and was a wake-up call that the gov't will continue to collect from my generation to pay for the benefits now being paid out, but that just as it becomes my time to collect the ponzi program will just start to collapse so I need to plan for this. Great help on ways to protect myself from a future financial shock.
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Well thought out, and well researched, it offers a plethora of references and case histories that validate their hypothesis. This book provides a reasonable summary of how we got into our current monetary ditch.....and it offers a way out. Now on a grand scale the author's advice may not be followed, individuals are offered a path to the solution for those that pay attention. An interesting read, and a good set of suggestions for how to proceed from here onward.
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