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What If Boomers Can't Retire?: How to Build Real Security, Not Phantom Wealth Hardcover – January 30, 2001

13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Thornton Parker qualifies as an expert on the big economic picture as well as the current state of the stock market and his prognosis for the millions of soon-to-retire baby boomers is grim. In What If Boomers Can't Retire?: How to Build Real Security, Not Phantom Wealth, Parker carefully and clearly lays out his argument for moving capital from speculative investments with inflated worth to productive, long-term investments. He also argues against the privatization of Social Security. Although timely and informative, the book may overwhelm novices with its detai. $50,000 marketing budget.

From Library Journal

Parker, who has worked for the Department of Commerce and the Executive Office of the President, focuses on retirement plans and investing in stocks to solve the ongoing Social Security problem. He defines phantom wealth as "the returns from corporate stocks that are based on market prices" as opposed to real wealth that is based on "work, earnings, and solid accomplishments, instead of just hopes." The author cautions against setting up retirement plans based on a structure of phantom wealth that depends on stock prices; inflated stock prices may help some individuals, but it can, according to the author, distort the economy and hurt society as a whole. He recommends creating real wealth as well as reconsidering and reestablishing "values, goals, and ways of thinking about living, aging, investing, and running companies." The author recommends specific strategies designed for individuals, including baby boomers, their parents, and the younger generation. Rather than just offering a how-to list, Parker discusses extensively how organizations, individuals, and the country as a whole should "think more deeply about values and goals than they usually do." The bibliographical references and glossary are also helpful. This thought-provoking work is recommended primarily for public libraries. Lucy Heckman, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers (January 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576751120
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576751121
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,027,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Will Schrafft on May 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Parker's main premise is that, due to simple demographics, the demand for all of the boomers' stocks (when cashed in to fund their retirements) will be insufficient and the resulting prices will fall short of boomers' expectations. The reasoning behind the theory is valid. My problem with the book is that the author presents virtually nothing in the way of an alternative.
Perhaps we will, as Parker suggests, enter a period of disappointing stock prices when the boomers are retiring but at least we know that our capital markets system works. We know that we can get our money out by selling our assets on one of the established exchanges. The author touts a potential alternative strategy of investing our retirement dollars in tiny, productive neighborhood companies that would, in turn, benefit their local populations and economies and which would not contribute to the "phantom wealth" on which he feels the current system is so precariously based.
As altruistic as his "productive investments" sound, where are they currently being put into play? They aren't. How would we get our money out? No plausible answer is offered. The book is long on theory, great for a debate class, but is short on practical solutions/alternatives.
My take on the book is simply that the investment returns that most boomers are expecting, and basing their retirements on, may not be sustainable during the 2010-2027 period. Instead of hoping that a mechanism for "sustainable productive investments" will somehow materialize, perhaps we should simply take a more conservative approach to our retirement investing by saving more and lowering our projected return rates.
Overall, the book has a compelling premise but, economically speaking, this is about as left-wing as it gets...
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Greg R. Carroll on October 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is very good in one way, but not so good in others. The author puts forth an important economic point that came to my mind several years ago - myself being a 52 year-old boomer who is concerned about what may happen to stock valuations. That is, what is going to happen to the stock market when baby boomers start to retire in large numbers and sell off their stocks to generate retirement income? When this huge block of buyers all of a sudden becomes a huge block of sellers the obvious result one would expect from a basic supply & demand scenerio would be a drop in the price of these stocks. Now, I don't know for a fact that this will happen, but Mr. Parker makes it sound like there is no doubt that equity prices will be devastated, putting many Boomers into the "surprised" category and driving them into economic despair. There is no doubt that this is a distinct possibility, but I don't think this is a certainty yet. There are just too many variables that we can't be certain of at this point in time.
While the author is very good at making this point - and it's a valid one - his mindset for possible remedies comes from a distinctive collectivist viewpoint. A strong free market proponent Mr. Parker is not. He talks of dismantling stock as we know it today which is bought & sold on a very liquid basis and replacing it with more of a "collaborative" (to use his word) system of ownership in which everyone in the company has an ownership stake and is designed in such a way as to make the sale of ownership positions somewhat difficult. It smacks closely of a socialistic/communistic system that has been proven a failure throughout human history.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have read no better book concerning issues about retirement costs for Americans born between 1946 and 1964. Although too limited analytically in some areas, many valuable observations are made that will stimulate your thinking. This book should become the basis for a thoughtful national discussion, and much personal introspection.
This book points out a key limitation of many investing books. Those often assume that future stock-price growth will be like the past. A thoughtful exeption to that conventional wisdom is provided by Harry S. Dent, Jr. who projects two extended downturns as the average age in the United States increases, resulting in abrupt shifts in consumption and savings. Mr. Parker intelligently uses that forcast to considre its consequences, while Mr. Dent continues to focus on the likely bull market through 2008.
The key argument in this book (as documented by Mr. Dent's work and Mr. Parker's analysis) is that stocks are a dangerous way to fund your retirement unless you sell them all out long before 2008. Earnings growth of larger companies is probably going to slow in the subsequent decades and stock-price multiples will plunge.
The book also contains many thoughtful analyses about the focus on creating ever higher stock-price multiples that are encouraged by such ideas as EVA (tm). This creates "phantom" stock-price-based profits that cannot be used or spent by most people, and which will eventually evaporate in the scenario described here. Seeking higher cash flow returns is certainly not the only way to add value to a company, a community, and to a society.
The book argues for refocusing economic activity on providing more employment, more sustainable profits, greater social and community benefits, and services that seniors will need.
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