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Americans Are Dying Younger, Saving Corporations Billions (bloomberg.com)
313 points by mcone 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 306 comments



I've been saying that for years. Here in europe, the reason the life expectancy is high is that it's based on people who die today at ripe old age, many of them having been retired 30 years, sometimes more... They are 85+, and they drag the mean age of death thru the roof.

When THAT lucky generation is gone, I think statisticians will realise that their children are /nowhere/ near as lucky, and I'm pretty sure the life expectancy number will fall off a cliff.

I don't have anything to back it up mind you, but raising the age of retirement, more stress related to job stability, whatever, you name it; it's just empirical but I've seen a lot of people in my environment die in their 60's -- many of them who had a perfectly 'sane' way of life. I know what you are thinking, many more people will die at 60 then will die at 90, but I'm still pretty sure there's some underlying pattern here.

Also, I do have a vague impression that making access to the NHS more difficult PLUS raising age of retirement EQUAL MOAR PROFITS for someone, somewhere.


Are you sure retiring early leads to a long life expectancy? I would expect the opposite. My father still works and he is very healthy for an 88 year old. Anecdote is not data, but people in my family seem to stay healthy by working or staying very active.

I think part of the point is to find a avocation that is not stressful, you enjoy, and can do a long time. That may be worth more than money.


> My father still works and he is very healthy for an 88 year old.

This is usually related to the kind of job you are doing.

My mother was cleaning schools and that is a killer for the back. Being retired, she takes long walks and keeps herself active and healthy.

But when I was studying I saw quite old teachers still active, and happy. But that's a different kind of job with different effects on your health.

> I think part of the point is to find a [a]vocation that is not stressful, you enjoy, and can do a long time.

I agree. If you are lucky enough to get a job that fulfills you, then continuing working can be a good thing. That's why we can't just delay retirement age, but we need to take into account personal circumstances.

A not stressful and enjoyable work also helps you to keep your good health for longer, so you get in better shape to old age.


Still working can also be related to still being healthy enough to work.


Great point. I wonder, if everyone should, in their middle ages, really think this through. And perhaps make a career change if their work requires something they wouldn't be comfortable doing later in life.

One of the best professions I can think of retiring in is probably academia... I've worked/studied/socialized with professors very much older than me, and they seem to continue to enjoy teaching/talking to students despite their age.


I sometimes wonder if a lot of the freshly educated programmers I hire really know what they are in for.

In 25 years they'll still have 25-30 years of work left in their lives, and by then most of them won't have received any significant reschooling, and they will still be competing in a tech world, where 10 years ago there wasn't a thing called smartphones.

Some of them will do just fine. I know a lot of old programmers, but I also know a lot of former older IT employees who are spending their 60ies in the unemployment lines.


An engineer educates him/herself with foundational knowledge, supplemented off course, with programming. By "foundational knowledge" I mean the knowledge and experience in the application of software to solve real world problems. The insight you gain doing that, makes you an engineer, not a programmer. And this makes you valuable. More valuable than a kid of the street who knows the latest buzzword tech.

Moral of the story: Be an Engineer, not a Programmer. Be Valuable, not Replaceable.


True, but engineering and CS moves forward as well, and freshly educated engineers cost less money than you.


> In 25 years they'll still have 25-30 years of work left in their lives

If you don't care about having a wife or kids you can easily retire forever after 10-15 years of work in SV or NYC.


You can't, really. Not in the US. There's no way you can budget health care for that many years.


Yes you can.

1. mrmoneymustache.com 2. earlyretirementextreme.com 3. gocurrycracker.com 4. madfientist.com 5. thepowerofthrift.com (I could go on for a while here)

It's not only perfectly possible, it's not particularly difficult.


No, that doesn't address the problem at all. If you retire thirty years before you qualify for medicare, you have no idea what your medical expenses will be. None. They could amount to millions of dollars over those three decades, depending on your particular issues, and you're never going to close that gap by minimizing expenses.


It does. Just because you aren't comfortable with that risk doesn't mean it's impossible. It just means your risk tolerance is lower than the aforementioned people who did retire 30 years early.


Well, if you're willing to be homeless you can retire any time you'd like.


The amount of people who will actually do this and go through it is so tiny that this comment is worthless. Give and take a few years (and perhaps not in SF/NYC), you could say this about any decent paying job.


Or you'll spend it all on rent?


Why would you do that if your goal is to retire early?

In 10-15 years in SV/NY you can earn $1MM after tax + growth and then move to a lower COL city/town and take it easy.


The problem with that is that your COL in those 10-15 years is significantly impacted. That's probably 10% of your entire life. While I understand some people might be comfortable with the tradeoff... its important to remember there is something you are giving up.


I don't think I understand what you're giving up in that 10% of your life.

I'm living in a studio, have a parking spot, walk to work and go out with my coworkers/friends after work.

What am I missing out on?


After tax? Sure, it's possible, but there aren't actually that many people who make $300k/yr.


$100k after tax is only $140k pretax


Eh... sure, if you're only paying federal taxes. But in on that $140k you're going to end up with about $92k. And everything is more expensive in cities. The idea you're going to live in SF and save more than about half that, even living like a monk, is kind of fanciful.

NYC is even worse - lop another thousand off and pay even more to live.


I've personally lived in both cities and you can live perfectly well on $4k a month with a couple of roommates. Better than the average American even.

Then, if you invest $46k a year for 15 years at a real return of 4% you end up with ~$943k in present day dollars which is right around what the parent was saying.

Not to mention $140k total compensation is relatively low for a senior dev in SF/NYC, you will likely be making a lot more 10 years in.


Where are you going to get a real return of 4%?


US stock market has averaged 8 over the past 50 years


That's unlikely to be true in the future for a whole host of reasons.


You will be making $200k+ in SF even in your early years, if you climb the corporate ladder you can get to $300k in 5 years.

You can definitely sock away enough even without a 4% rate of growth to put away $1MM of after-tax money in 10-15 years, if you're smart with your money.


Well yeah, the old "job for life" where one specific set of skills with perhaps some minor updating here and there is good for 40 years is long gone. Sadly many were raised with different expectations.


Well there is that, but there is also an unwillingness to reeducate especially in the private sector.

I've worked in public service all my life and I took a master degree in business and leadership which was paid by my employeer. Which moved me from engineering to management.

When I see my old study buddies, who all work privately, none of them have gotten any form of reeducation and very few have kept up with the tech.

I'm sure most of them could learn the new buzzwords if they wanted to, but who would hire them until they do when you could simply pick a fresh candidate with newer CS knowledge, all the buzz and a lower pay requirement?


Why don't they go back to school and do a 2yr trade degree w internship


The principles are the same, the details change.


Many of those folks are probably chill because they are established and have tenure.

People switching careers at 40 or 50 aren't going to be established and have tenure after a few years in academia.


That is a great point. Not every job can be extended late into life. But like your mother, I think you have to stay active and find something that challenges you.


The general consensus is that you're correct.

Mostly dealing with octogenarians+ whom I know; the more active you are (more so socially, as well as physically) the better off you are at living a long and healthy life. Having a routine like a job sets also seems to help human psyche. Your point about vocation that is not stressful, enjoyable, and is lasting satisfies all these requirements.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3563954/Retirement...

http://fortune.com/2016/05/03/retirement-living-longer/

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/may/02/early-e...

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/may/02/early-e...

https://www.wsj.com/articles/retiring-after-65-may-help-peop...

That's from both sides of the pond.


I didn't say inactive, I just said retired. I agree than people who 'stop' will tend to die of boredom. I've got a prime example in my family at the moment. I've also got the other side of the coin where that chap is nearly 90, is on several councils, charities and never seem to sit around for 2 minutes. He's as strong as an ox!


Agreed about dying of boredom. The brain needs stimulation. I've seen shut-ins go in a downward spiral quickly, while 98-year-old gardeners die peacefully in their sleep on an otherwise normal, active day.


Working with your mind in a stress free environment will make you old. Mining coal, crawling around in asbestos, being pushed by a never ending competition or sitting still doing nothing won't.

So there are upsides and down sides to work/retirement thing. The best you can do is academia or a retirement spent learning new things.


This may just be selection bias. Had your father died at age 70, you'd be thinking the reason was he didn't retire early enough.

My dad retired at 55 as his health began to decline. He's still alive at 78, and there's no way he would have lived this long if he didn't retire when he did.


Economics is not a monolith of wages and taxes. In a family there are many householding activities where retirees can contribute to the economic health of society.

Retirement should be a focus for these types of activities. Things like tending a small garden, or playing with grandchildren.


At least in the US, this is going to require a shift in both the workplace and the home.

My father is 65, my mother in law is 59, and my father in law is late 50s (my mother passed away recently at 59). All three of them must still work full time because they can't afford to retire, preventing them from helping with our 1 year old (causing us to have a limited support system, which I supplement with a part time nanny).

But heh, GDP!


Optimum age for taking Medicare and SS also play a factor. Even if I had enough money in my 401K to retire at 45, medical insurance would eat it up. Need to wait to get on Medicare.


Agreed. My wife and I plan on moving to Canada or Europe before preparing for retirement so we don't have to work into our 60s for healthcare.


Please come early enough that you're not just a burden on the system and pay into it long enough. Seriously.


Of course. Always give more than you take.


I'd assume the increased life expectancy is more about the free healthcare than the earlier retirement.

Free treatment for everything. That does help a lot when you get old, starting with all the minor problems happening with an aging body, and concluding with the last few years where you could literally be kept alive despite a critical condition requiring constant care, all paid in full by the tax payer.


Yeah, again, anecdota is not data, but I knew a few people who fully retired after just 15 years of work(in Poland certain professions are allowed to retire that quickly with full benefits, that includes policemen,firefighters and miners) and they all died before reaching 60, having only worked until the age of 33-35.


I suspect retirement and age expectancy is a correlation NOT causation type of deal. People who have the privilege of affording to retire early are more likely to be educated and chose a healthy lifestyle, thus living longer.


It seems like a positive feedback loop to me. You would expect healthy people to be able and willing to keep working instead of retiring. Esp. if their work involves some physical activity it helps keeping them healthy.


I've actually heard the opposite - that people can tend to die within a year of retirement, generally because they don't have anything purposeful left to do.


You might be on to something...

https://www.ft.com/content/78146114-15f5-11e7-80f4-13e067d50...

> Updated projections from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, based on death statistics from the Office for National Statistics, suggest that men aged 65 will now live another 22.2 years, down from 22.8 years in 2013. Women aged 65 will now live for a further 24.1 years, down from 25.1 years in 2013.

(Same reported also cited here http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/pensioners-uk... )

The analysis seems to focus on first order changes, not longer term second order changes so if there was an effect like you describe e.g. those born 80 years ago being much healthier than those born 60 years ago, their positive contribution might mask deeper problems.

The UK's ONA publishes various mortality related data sets here - https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsde... - might be an interesting side project for someone with time to spare...


Financial Times = UK = NOT Europe


UK is certainly in Europe.


As a continent yes. With brexit following through and historically anyway I think any singular state should not be categorized into the whole so easily. Similar to how I do not think Minnesota equals the USA


And, for the time being, in EU. These statistics are part of a EU statistic as well.


It doesn't make a lot of sense to lump European countries together for this kind of stuff, but to the extent you do France and Germany probably have more in common with the UK than, say, Greece.


I expect the opposite.

Manufacturing, farming, fishing, etc were much more common industries for those who are now 85 than it is for those who are now 55.

There is a huge difference between retiring from manual labor at 60 after having worked from you were 15 and retirering from a desk job at 65 after having worked from you were 25.

Then take into account that they used to work Saturdays, that they used to work more hours per day, that fewer had recognized disabilities, that fewer received welfare, that they had much less vacation, that women had more pregnancies and that those of them that worked had shorter maternity leave.

The 'lucky' old had worked more and physically harder at 60 than we will have at 70.


Lifetime of Manual labour keeps your body fit , desk job... not so much.


Everything you say is true except for "that they had much less vacation" -- in truth, they had much more vacation. The average American male now works 270 hours more per year than the average American male of 1970.

A useful (though old) book on this subject:

The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline Of Leisure – by Juliet Schor


A lot of it has to to with the increasingly unhealthy diet people are eating now, at least in the US. I imagine Europe is similar.


Be careful about selection bias in your empirical data.

Suppose you're 50. You probably know more people 10 years away from your own age than 40. So no surprise you see more people die at 60 than at 90, because you know more at 60 in the first place.

And of course there's always a survivorship bias in life expectancy numbers. Life expectancy for a currently-living baby-boomer is over 80, because the boomers who die under 70 are already dead and no longer pulling down the average.


> Here in europe, the reason the life expectancy is high is that it's based on people who die today at ripe old age, many of them having been retired 30 years, sometimes more... They are 85+, and they drag the mean age of death thru the roof.

30 years? I suspect you are overdramatizing that.

AFAIK people stop working at age 65 in Europe (its 67 in NL, was 65, and it was raised because of higher life expectancy). I think in Germany its higher. In Greece it was 55 IIRC, and that was one of the reasons of the crisis, but Greece was an outlier (and AFAIK they're raising it).

If we assume its 65 it still isn't as if people are becoming 95 on average.

So you need 2 points of data, and they contradict with my anecdotal evidence from my EU country.

Please provide your sources?

> I don't have anything to back it up mind you

Maybe we should start the debate once we do have the data.


The data:

https://data.oecd.org/healthstat/life-expectancy-at-65.htm

In most well-developed countries, life expectancy of women at 65 is around 22 remaining years. I.e. once you have reached the age of 65, on the average you live until the age of 87, give or take a couple of years depending on country. Longest lives in Japan and France.

So depending on retirement age, people spend well over 20 years in retirement on average, but as the previous commenter said, many of them will be in retirement for 30 years.


> and I'm pretty sure the life expectancy number will fall off a cliff.

What?

With no wars, no shortage of food, with all the advancement in health care do you really expect to live less than my grandma, who's 94 and outlived three major world financial crisis and a world war?


With no wars, no shortage of food

One of the great ironies is how the abundance of food in the west is leading to obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure. Instead of people being unhealthy due to chronic, persistent malnutrition, people are unhealthy from carrying too much body fat.

Last I heard, nearly half of all Americans were overweight or obese. Have you ever noticed how few fat old people there are?


Not to mention loneliness and the disintegration of communities and public space to socialize in. That lack in ppls lives being as harmful as smoking


> with all the advancement in health care

Some experts fear we might loose (some) antibiotics in the coming years. If that's going to happen then I am sure life expectancy will go down massively.


> do you really expect to live less than my grandma, who's 94

Yes I do. Your grandmother had a life expectancy of 58.5 years.

Source: http://u.demog.berkeley.edu/~andrew/1918/figure2.html


By definition, life expectancy increases with age as a trend owing to better postnatal care over the past few decades. As the infant mortality rate has gone down, the life expectancy has gone up.


Infant mortality has started going up in parts of the USA. There might be some connection with the conservative approach to defund women's healthcare as some sort of cost savings.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/Why-...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/08/07/rural...


When we see things like: "it is not uncommon for her patients to drive two hours for an appointment, as maternal wards have closed at rural hospitals. "

it's probably due to demographic changes more than defunding healthcare as such. If you have communities where there are no jobs, people move out, population diminishes, that also means that some services are shut down.

This happens also in my country (which is a North European welfare state with good pre- and postnatal care and very low child mortality): some people have to go quite far away for the check-ups.


That's more economics than demographics. But yes, Hospitals and medical services in rural communities are disappearing at a phenomenal rate. Demographics do play somewhat of a role, but nothing compared to the change in our healthcare system (and how we pay for it) in the past 50ish years.

It has in part to do with increased cost of healthcare, difficulty of having one family doctor offices, necessity of specialized services (all leading to an agglomeration effect, why you now see "healthcare cities" in more rural areas, where one city among a dozen has the only hospital and lots of other medical services available.) I'd also say that many hospitals are now parts of large chains that are "not-for-profit" in name only, while acting exactly like for profit entities.

While rural areas are typically shrinking, there is still a very large amount of people who live in rural areas in the US. It's the loss of their economic impact (and the above factors) that have made their medical services disappear.

But it's a complex issue and no one seems to have found a solution here in the US yet. But it's going to keep getting worse in the foreseeable future.


[dead]


Usually phrased "The right to life ends at birth." :/

Though as a anti-government-healthcare conservative, I have to say, I do give shits.


[dead]


So you admittedly fail to grasp the viewpoint of a hundred million people in the U.S. alone.

That should give you pause.

I highly recommend studying the other side of an issue until you do understand it, even if you still don't agree with it.


Post-infancy life expectancy and life expectancy at adulthood have also both risen, though. Until recently, adult life expectancy in the first world was rising pretty steadily for all groups - it's turned around for some populations in the last few years.


it's more than just postnatal care - better treatments, better diets, more public health knowledge etc. make a huge difference


Generally deaths at all ages are tracked and considered in the life expectancy. There was a website posted here where you could enter your age and location and it would tell you how much longer you had to live :-) (yes it was click bait but it also had a great discussion about how life expectancy was calculated and how the number varied primarily by age, location, and socio-economic status. Other factors such as smoking or not had a big impact the effects on the median value quickly tailed off.


There is a growing gap in life expectancy based on income, and many of the people collecting private pensions qualify as upper income. I doubt that companies will get much of break once that is factored in.


> Also, I do have a vague impression that making access to the NHS more difficult PLUS raising age of retirement EQUAL MOAR PROFITS for someone, somewhere.

In the case of NHS, wouldn't that be the tax payer?


I think it's dangerous to be led by your assumptions


they call it "savings" at the state treasury


> When THAT lucky generation is gone, I think statisticians will realise that their children are /nowhere/ near as lucky, and I'm pretty sure the life expectancy number will fall off a cliff.

Much of the developed world is having a population crisis. When pensions/government benefits were created in the early 20th century in the US, western europe and japan, they were experiencing population booms.

Take japan for example, which is similar to US/Western Europe.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bdrates_of_Japan_since_19...

Japan seems to have maxed out and now they are dying quicker than they are being born.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c6/Po...

This is the same problem in most western europe countries. In the US, it's not as bad because of immigration, but if you only include native born americans ( non-immigrants ), our population demographics is even worse than japan. Native born americans stopped procreating at replacement levels since the late 1960s.

Unless Japan/Western Europe bring in millions of immigrants, they are going to be in for major problems because of their liabilities to retirees. A shrinking population can't hope to support the older generation. And the worst part is that if younger generation has to support the older generation, they will put off have kids because they simply can't afford them. Which in turn exacerbates the problem and it turns into a vicious cycle.

But immigration also has its own problems. So the industrialized world is caught between a rock and a hard place.

Even in the US, the pro-immigration policy is a stop-gap measure. The population can't grow forever.

Blackrock has an interesting paper on the overall trends.

https://www.blackrock.com/investing/retirement/blackrock-ret...


This isn't a "crisis". Existing entitlement benefits are too high for the coming steady-state economy, but by like 30% or so. Adjustments will have to be made (e.g. some made-up numbers: we can work 10% longer careers, take 10% lower benefits, and expect a 10% boost in general productivity over this period), but we're hardly talking destitution or social upheaval here.

Retirees in the 2040's are going to see less resources-per-GDP dedicated to them than retirees in the 1980's for sure. But then they'll also have pervasive VR headsets and a plausible cure for cancer handy, so I'm guessing it'll be a wash.


30% is a big deal.

Heard of the 1929 stock market "crash"? It was actually a dip in stock price by a mere 30%.


Then we're long since doomed, because health care expenditure as a fraction of GDP (a rather larger pot of money than even retirement entitlements) has grown by like 700% (or whatever) over the last half century.

Time frames matter. The demographic change we're talking about is going to happen over the next 40 years, it's not like Black Tuesday.


> health care expenditure

To be fair not all of that is per-unit health costs increases; much of that is due to longer life expectancy.


> A shrinking population can't hope to support the older generation.

Yes it can, it's just a matter of productivity.


If we can teach proper code reuse and maintainability in school, i think it's possible


I have this theory that in a couple decades or three most of the developed world will enter a health crisis, as everyone will suddenly realize that we've been eating and drinking like shit for a long time. Almost 3/4 of what you can find in your average grocery store today has unnecessary amounts of sugar, salt and/or chemicals added and no one seems to care. Someday we'll look at the food we eat now like the way we see tobacco today.


>and no one seems to care

I'd have to disagree with that. There are lots of people who care and have tried to be good stewards to the public. The problem is that you also have corporations with major amounts of cash and influence that actively discredit anyone who speaks out. These are facts.

For example, whether or not GMO issues are horseshit or not doesn't matter when anyone who speaks out is given a gag order or when we find leaked documents showing that companies know of damage and our systems are so fucked we aren't even allowed to ask about it without getting sued into oblivion.

People care, but caring isn't enough anymore.


>For example, whether or not GMO issues are horseshit or not doesn't matter when anyone who speaks out is given a gag order or when we find leaked documents showing that companies know of damage and our systems are so fucked we aren't even allowed to ask about it without getting sued into oblivion.

And my favorite group, the ones confusing technology with science, and insisting that GMOs must be perfectly safe, "because science" -- when most of the research and assurances is from companies looking for a quick buck, not impartial scientists (which almost don't exist anymore the way they did when academic/research jobs where plenty, scientists were often independently wealthy, and tenure a sure thing).


> the ones confusing technology with science, and insisting that GMOs must be perfectly safe

I don't know if I fall in that group (I don't think I confuse the two and I don't really talk about GMO much) but my prior belief would be that GMO products are probably safe, through some kind of hand-wavy mathematical argument: it's like modifying a program to do what you want; chances are if you mess up, it'll crash quickly and won't work rather than working almost-as-intended while injecting nefarious input into the next program.

Would LOVE to read evidence to the contrary though. So please share your citations.


>Would LOVE to read evidence to the contrary though. So please share your citations.

Perhaps you've missed my whole initial argument?


lmao idk where u come from but no evidence means no ground for argument. even if you made a point that you cant find evidence. If you accept that lack of evidence is evidence, then a i have a proposal for you that begins with r and ends with eligion.


>even if you made a point that you cant find evidence.

No, I made a point about the burden of proof. But of course that takes actually reading what has been written to tell.


>And my favorite group, the ones confusing technology with science

This. It's far too common here at HN.


Your argument also applies to the global warming 'settled science'.


My argument is pro-science and against technology that misapplies or hastily applies science for profit.

So in fact it's in the "global warming is real" side of the debate.

Except if you mean someone could make the same argument I speak against, and say "global warming doesn't exist, because science is wonderful and would never hurt us" or "global warming doesn't matter because science will save us". Then yes, those people would be confusing science with technology again.


Could you elaborate? I myself haven't seen much compelling evidence against GMOs.


The point isn't about whether GMOs are safe (I supsect they are), it's about the skewed debate.

Companies that produce GMO products (and the groups on the other side as well) stifle debate to the point that it's nigh impossible to find unbiased research to form an actually cogent opinion.


Only thing I find compelling is many of the GMOs are just IP locked products that allow you to use more herbicide/pesticide on your crop.


Or less. Get rid of Round Up and you'll use a lot more herbicides/pesticides.


Or more. Dicamba is coming onto the market and the amount of pesticides and herbicides has been increasing per field and not decreasing.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5044953/


My issue isn't so much with GMOs but rather the few companies that will end up owning the patents on the world's food supplies.


GMOs are awesome. The fact that they are used to justify patenting a seed is horrifying.


Honest question given that GMOs are awesome but patenting a GMO seed is bad.

In that scenario, how are GMO creators incentivized to create more GMO products? Sell the first seed for a billion dollars and then the person that buys that seed can give out its progeny for free?


Honest question given that Genetically Engineered Babies are awesome but patenting a Genetically Engineered Baby genotype is bad.

In that scenario, how are Genetically Engineered Baby creators incentivized to create more Genetically Engineered Baby genotypes? Sell the first baby for a billion dollars and then the baby can give its germline cells for free upon sexual maturity?

They are selling life. Life forms reproduce. It's a pretty basic assumption and if GMO merchants want to change that then they need to embrace terminator seeds.


There's no connection really. Patenting seed has been around long, long before GMO technology (around 80 years or so in the US, around 50 years in my country).


Aren't those that are making extraordinary claims supposed to bring the evidence?

The idea that, given these premises:

a) we who don't understand even 10% of how the ecological ecosystem works

b) we don't understand even 10% of genes and how they interplay

c) we don't understand even 10% of second order effects of such changes

d) we don't yet have explanation for tons of interactions and functionality in the body (from what triggers cancers to all kinds of lesser stuff)

e) we can't even have a decent dietary advice from medical bodies that is not revised completely every 10-20 years

f) corporations will even put plutonium to kids milk if there's profit in it (and then lie about it)

g) all kinds of industry-sponsored research has been shown to be paid lies

... GMOs are perfectly safe.

It's more like changing various bits in working computer memory, with a ho-hum printout of parts of the program's in-memory structure and a crappy flow-chart of what it does, and wishing that the running program (and OS and such) will continue to play just fine...


Given the above, why do you think anything is safe? Common grapefruit was created by putting a radiation source in an orchard and seeing what happened - most of it was bad (as in trees died), but one grapefruit turns out to taste good. That grapefruit was grafted again and again until it is dominate. We have no idea which genes were changed and never did any study to see if the mutations were safe, we just eat it.

For hundreds of years farmers have been saving seeds from the plants that produced better. As a result the random mutations that farmers like have been selected for with no study on if those are safe mutations.

By Contrast with GMO we know which gene we change and why, and have done studies to prove safety. Maybe biases studies, and maybe not enough of them, but we have done them. That is more than you can say about anything not GMO.


This. We've been creating GMOs since the dawn of agriculture. Doing it in a petrie dish changes nothing. I'm less concerned about GMOs than I am about them changing them to spray worse and worse weedkiller on them before I eat it.


>We've been creating GMOs since the dawn of agriculture. Doing it in a petrie dish changes nothing.

Yeah, if breadth and scale doesn't mean anything.

It's like saying: "We have been blowing things up since the advent of gunpowder by the Chinese a millennium ago. Doing it with atomic bombs changes nothing".

Traditional "GMOs" were already closely related, and the modifications that could emerge were very constrained. Not so much with GMOs that allow for arbitrary outputs.


The breadth and scale is much smaller with GMO and random chance. A farmer several thousand years ago is responsible for as much genetic mutation of the human race as all the genetic manipulation that has made it to market. (though this will change quickly if we start making approval for GMO easy)


A radiation source constrains the modifications?


Given your attitude I expect you wouldn't be really happy getting to know how selective breeding works(it's waay more random - to the point where you get mainly unwanted side effects).


Where does the assumption that I don't know how selective breeding works comes? Because if someone has concerns such as mine they must obviously be some anti-scientific luddite?

For one, selective breeding has been going on for millennia -- and from people who had to eat its results, not mega corporations 10 times removed and interested in short term profit. If it was that dangerous we'd know it by now.

Second, the species must be already related and/or compatible to a certain degree -- the same reason we don't have cat and snake hybrids in nature. Whereas with GMOs you can have arbitrary changes and mixes.

So it's not "waay more random" as it has way more limited scope. It's only random in that practitioners are not certain of the successful inheritance of the desired traits.

But it's like comparing playing with lego bricks to playing with creating stuff at the molecule level.


> For one, selective breeding has been going on for millennia -- and from people who had to eat its results, not mega corporations 10 times removed and interested in short term profit.

Yeah, modern selective or “traditional” breeding uses completely novel methods of introducing diversity (including artificial mutagens), is done by exactly the kind of megacorps you are concerned about, and has less oversight or regulatory control than GMOs.

> So it's not "waay more random" as it has way more limited scope

No, it is way more random than inserting a known gene at a known location, and verifying he product in the ways done with modern GMOs. And the scope of genetic change in any one product is greater than in a GMO, not more limited.

My wife works in ag biotech, and has worked on both transgenic (GMO) and non-transgenic platforms.

> But it's like comparing playing with lego bricks to playing with creating stuff at the molecule level.

A less imperfect analogy might be that it's like comparing writing code by hand with a reasonably comprehensive test suite with making random bit flips to machine code until it passes a much more limited test suite. And just to be clear, the latter is the non-GM option.


> Where does the assumption that I don't know how selective breeding works comes?

Easy: You're against the less random of the two. This means that apparently you don't know how GMO and/or selective breeding works.

> If it was that dangerous we'd know it by now.

This same logic applies to GMO, which has been around since the nineties. Aside from some late capitalism-esque economic effects nothing interesting happened.

> Whereas with GMOs you can have arbitrary changes and mixes.

And that is bad because...?


>This same logic applies to GMO, which has been around since the nineties.

Yes, I can see how "since the nineties and regulated" gives the same guarantees as "for millennia".

>And that is bad because...?

Because they don't know the side-effects of what they're doing on top of it.


> the same reason we don't have cat and snake hybrids in nature

I think you've just created the film series that will succeed Sharknado.


> we find leaked documents showing that companies know of damage

Do you have any specific examples of damage from GMOs?


I hardly eat sugar or preprocessed food. But the biggest improvement in lifestyle was cutting wheat flour as much as possible. The first change I noticed was the weight loss, but I feel less "stuffy" too. I replaced it with corn flour.

Other than that, I really think there is some truth to the documentary Cooked. I don't deprive myself from food, as long as it is homemade food out of real ingredients. I can't afford organic food and the weather of the place I live in is not that great to grow my own food (and my time availability is not that much either).


You don't even really need flower.


Nobody thinks you "need" it, but staples are cheap, easy, shelf-stable, unrefrigerated, and at least appear healthy.

If we're going to feed billions of people, it's probably going to involve staples.


I know I don't need it. The problem is it is hard to avoid it. You need a lot of planning, specially if you are going on a trip (at least in my country, avoiding flour while traveling through small towns is almost impossible if you want to have eat health)


The documentary 'Fed Up' convinced me that a sugar calorie is worse than another type of calorie, and that sugar is really the cause of the obesity epidemic. There's also 'That Sugar Film' which makes many of the same points.

Fed Up Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCUbvOwwfWM


Fed up is filled with horrible vegan propaganda


Most people care, but the general advice is not good.

Low fat food is not really healthy.


That's not the general advice though?

Eat natural foods, eat less of them, avoid sugar.

https://youtu.be/BOyebcrVWb4


Fruits are natural and have plenty of sugar


so you knew sugar caused diabetes? ...yea

and you knew it caused obesity? ...yea

so you knew it was literally killing you? ...yea

and you kept eating it anyway? ......sigh......yea.


I agree that there is significant willing suspension of disbelief. However, there are two additional factors that make it difficult to completely pin the tail on the donkey that is the hapless consumer: 1) Sugar in unexpected ingredients (I still can't believe McDonalds hamburger buns have HFCS and I learnt this in 2010), and 2) Terminology and presentation games to ensure the consumer is less likely to read the ingredients list and nutrition facts.

EDIT: syntax. Also, forgot to mention food deserts and availability of fresh produce in various neighborhoods.


> 1) Sugar in unexpected ingredients (I still can't believe McDonalds hamburger buns have HFCS and I learnt this in 2010),

Sugar (often either table sugar or honey) is a traditional bread ingredient; HFCS isn't the form the average home baker would use, but sugar in bread should not be surprising to anyone.


That hasn't been my experience in all of the recipes I have made and for the loaves that I typically purchase (I am an ingredient list reader), but I concede that my knowledge in this matter is miniscule.


There's sugar in everything. It's pretty difficult to avoid unless you're willing to take drastic measures when compared to the average person.

All you can do is attempt to minimize your intake.


If you stay mostly in the produce aisle of your supermarket, you're 90% of the way to being added sugar free.

Which is admittedly different than completely sugar free, since that's entirely absurd.

But we've survived every generation except the last 4 without so much processed sugar, and we now have global supply lines handing us crops practically to our doorstep.


I've actually cut out all products with added sugar (and foods that are naturally high in sugar like fruits). You need to read labels but it is not so difficult. It still leaves a pretty great variety of meats, legumes, dairy, corn, rice, and vegetables.


yea i meant excessive sugar, and processed foods that have tons of it in them. not fruit etc... not that hard to avoid!


The issue isn't X, it is the quantity.

Eating a Twinkie won't kill you, eating an entire box every day for 20 years will.


> I have this theory than in a couple decades or three most of the developed world will enter a health crisis

you need more than that for a theory of a dystopian future

telling us how much you feel bad for eating too much is not a theory

it's a therapy session


Reminds me of this article from The Atlantic last year:

> For the last several months, social scientists have been debating the striking findings of a study by the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton. Between 1998 and 2013, Case and Deaton argue, white Americans across multiple age groups experienced large spikes in suicide and fatalities related to alcohol and drug abuse—spikes that were so large that, for whites aged 45 to 54, they overwhelmed the dependable modern trend of steadily improving life expectancy. While critics have challenged the magnitude and timing of the rise in middle-age deaths (particularly for men), they and the study’s authors alike seem to agree on some basic points: Problems of mental health and addiction have taken a terrible toll on whites in America—though seemingly not in other wealthy nations—and the least educated among them have fared the worst.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/01/white-w...


But wait, there's good news: If you don't die quickly enough, they'll help!

Taking too long to die: Some 'terminal' patients can lose hospice benefits: http://www.news-press.com/story/news/2017/07/28/too-long-die...


Yes, it makes sense. Hospice is for end of life care. They literally pump you full of pain medication as it is more humane than dying in agony. If your condition is not continually getting worse while under hospice and there is a chance you are getting better than you should be under a different treatment.

Hospice is not healthcare it is where you go to die.


The absurdity is that life insurance/pension companies assume live expectancy is actually rising.

The company providing my pension fund estimates my life expectancy to 114 years - a fantasy number, albeit one that /increases/ my monthly payment and /decreases/ my expected pension.


Another reason why term coverage, not whole life/universal, is a better choice.


How is that even legal? It's such a blatant rip off.

Are you not able to switch providers?


Now I'm imagining our economy like some cruel volcano god, demanding blood in exchange for temporary safety. "People's lives are getting worse, look how much money that's making us!"

It's as if people exist only to make money, actually making people's lives better be damned. I doubt people will tolerate such a vampiric system for much longer, especially if it doesn't feel the need to conceal it's fangs anymore, and what comes afterward keeps me up at night.


That is a cynical view. Trying to forecast the cost of pension obligations is a real problem that has very real costs to companies, and can send companies bankrupt. The article shows that changing life expectancies mean a change of nearly $10B to estimated costs for just two companies. You can't run people's lives and companies based on hand-waving and assuming it'll be alright.

OTOH maybe that is why our vending machine is full of unhealthy snacks. :)

+ I have to add problems like these is why companies now give 401ks to employees. Whether you live long or not now is the person's problem and the risk is no longer borne by the company.


Another cynical view is that it's a febrile fantasy to put all of your retirement eggs in the basket of an organization continuing to pay you over your entire lifetime.


This is a good point - what strikes me about these arguments, however, is that the biggest problem (IMHO) stems from the fact that the economy often relies on local optimization, not global optimization.

If we optimized human life quality globally everyone would get better healthcare etc., but since everyone makes the decisions that benefit them (+family and immediate surrounding), then we end up with worse healthcare for the vast majority of the population.

As such, it should probably be the job of governments (regulation, incentives) to make 'globally' optimized decisions more attractive (centralized healthcare). In a best case scenario at least.


That's the theory, it's just that a lot of people frankly have their heads too far up their asses to see how a global optimization is better than the local one.

I don't care to be this coarse, but I've been trying for 10 minutes to find a better way of putting it.


in my own experience, one of the primary ways people with an analytical bent (looking at you HN) have their heads up their asses is that they seem to think that the market is a perfect judge of value. hard to convince people of your point when they believe such a circular, lazy thing.


>see how a global optimization is better than the local one.

When the local maxima and global maxima do not align suffering occurs. This is why evoLuton picks a few broad things on a global scale, but at the local scale thing developed very differently


Yesterday I heard on the tv or radio I heard the metric "€/vote" as if a vote was product.


it is, but in a slightly different way: I know that in Italy every vote equals something like 4 euros from public funds to the party I gave it to.

So if I want to help that party to continue going on by voting it it is the same than giving them ~4 euros (money that come from my taxes).

Nothing different from crowdfunding, but public.

What's the problem?


I read on another HN thread that the top 25% pays 90% of taxes. Made me grok why governments will never really care about the poor pretty clearly.

It's harsh, but for cities or even countries the bottom xx% is a net drain.


But the bottom 90% do the labor that earns that top 1% all the money.


But the top 1% provide the jobs. Unless the bottom 90% collectively strike, or you "nationalize" everything (that works really well /s), what ya gonna do about it?


Do they really "provide the jobs" the companies they own provide them. VERY few of those people are critical to the companies they own.


I agree, at least once the company is well established, but they do own them. If you nationalize them, or somehow make it so the company "serves the greater good", rather than the interests of it's owners, the results are disasterous. It's playing out in Venezuela now.


Until AI and robots start doing it, then you'll have to worry about the fate of the bottom


If we wait that long there will be rioting in the streets around the world. Better to consider things ahead of time


The top 25% would be broke if the bottom 75% couldn't afford their products and services


Probably trying to generate something similar to the "cost per conversion" numbers used in advertising. Nothing particularly nefarious about it.


> Now I'm imagining our economy like some cruel volcano god

Similar to how the Aztec Gods demanded blood sacrifices, from the best & the brightest of the population.


Source? I believe Aztec sacrifices were almost always prisoners of war from conquered tribes.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florentine_Codex

What I remember is that their criteria to choose who were they throwing to the volcano was very varied and nonsensical. Like "children with more than one hair swirl" (not sure about last word, hope it is clear).

And sometimes they didn't use a volcano but just remove the skin of victimes and store them in a cave. They will use the skins to dress up and dance a month later.

In any case, victims were members of their society. It was maybe an honor. Yeah, colonizers were brutal, but it seems it was the state of the art back then...


If you mean the rose pattern that develops on the scalp at the back of the head.

BTW, having two of those was a sign of luck, or so I was told.


> I believe Aztec sacrifices were almost always prisoners of war from conquered tribes.

One can argue that the America is conquered by Globalist institutions such as foreign banks.


The problem is just that we as a society have never had to plan for such a large proportion of our society being older and thus outside the (regular?) labor force. We created social security nets but they look increasingly like a ponzi scheme, making lots of young pay for the care of the old (in addition to contributions made by the old when they were a part of the labor force). Is this sustainable? I don't know.


It is sustainable if you manage it properly and don't rob the collection plate. Insurance is predicated on the same ponzi scheme, just usually private market based. Some insurance exec couldn't be embezzling millions and still have the numbers work out.

I'd say it comes down to good management (as with anything) and priorities. A bad government is going to mismanage it and spend more on the military or other priorities, borrow money to make up the deficits and then of course everyone loses faith.


As John Maynard Keynes said, the surprising thing is how long a stagnant or exploitive system can last. Such systems can last for centuries.


That cruel volcano god is the hive mind of a handful of people making their personal lives better.


Your comparison to "the economy" as some dark being that demands sacrifice has been explored more deeply. It's a good read on why obviously terrible outcomes still happen even though we know it's bad.

http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/


Not too proud to admit that essay directly inspired my comment, I just wanted to be more concise than SSC (which the opposite of difficult).


Just go for a drive through Los Gatos or Los Altos to know where all the blood and sweat is going. Even just look them up on Zillow with some unusual filters.


I don't get it. The article does not say that life expectancies are decreasing. It says that they are still increasing, just not as fast as they were a few years ago. But the article (and most of the comments) seem to think it means that people are dying younger. That's not what the data is saying.


our media is a wonderful thing


It's difficult to predict mortality rates. Advanced healthcare techniques (e.g. CRISPR) could completely eradicate entire classes of diseases (kind of like how anti-biotics and vaccinations changed healthcare completely), or they could lead to nothing.

So we might find that the average age of death jumps up by 20+ years in the next 50-60 years (just like it did after WW2).

Nuclear war aside we almost certainly won't see a drop in the average age.


The problem is the cost of those techniques. Will it be low enough so that it has an impact on the average (or even better, the median) life expectancy?


Probably, vaccines were very expensive when first produced, as were anti-biotics.

Given we are potentially entering the age of unlimited power (i.e. via solar/battery tech), we should be able to grow ever more food. Combined with global population growth declining we will see basic quality of life becoming almost gauranteed universally. Then we'll have more and more people + AI working on advancing tech (as they don't have to work on manual things) so production costs should drop dramatically.


Genetic high cholesterol can easily cost more than $100k in costs over a life time, even assuming that treatment is successful in averting a heart attack. A one time $100k treatment to fix the gene is already break even. That is before we discuss the side effects avoiding them is worth quite a bit to a lot of people as well.


If it matters much on the scale, it will be included in all health plans - politicians can't vote for the "Kill grandma" bill.


This headline is mindbogglingly dystopic and crass


The bright neoliberal future is here!


Good news, everyone.


Thank god, I was worried I would have to suffer on this idiotic planet for another 60 years


Did you mean for me to read that in Professor Farnsworth's voice?

Because I did.


Good news, everyone! people are dying earlier, and you're one of them!

Yep, definitely a Farnsworth quote.


How does the pension system in USA work? Do the companies pay you a small salary after you retire? It reads like that. In that case, what about the place you worked until you were 40, are they still on the hook? What if the company closes down?


Most pension systems have been phased out. The ones that remain are grandfathered in favor of 401ks for new workers. If existing corporate pension systems default, the US government guarantees (through the Pension Guarantee Corp) the pension at a reduced rate.


It varies. A lot of places have moved away from pensions towards contributions to tax advantaged retirement accounts.

In the case of pensions, they will vest over time and people would receive benefits matching their vesting level. If a company shuts down, the pensioners are creditors of the company and there is some kind of bailout system (I guess basically a federally run reinsurance program).


Wait, their pensions depend on the health of all the companies they once worked for, rather than some independent insurance company? That sounds like a really unreliable way of handling things.


To a large extent, yes. Companies are required to pay for insurance on the pension, which is run by the federal government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation [1], so it's not 100% dependent on the long-term health of the company. But the insurance doesn't necessarily cover the full pension, especially if it was a fairly generous one (there's an absolute cap of $60k/yr, and various other caps relating to years of work). In practice it does mean that how people fare in retirement depends in part on how lucky they were picking an company. If you're a retired electrical engineer who worked for IBM or AT&T, your pension is still fine. If you did the same job for U.S. Steel, less so.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pension_Benefit_Guaranty_Corpo...


That was the dream a long time ago, mainly in the 1950s-1970s. You'd work hard in school and hope for a good job at a good company like IBM or Ford, then you'd be the best company man possible to cling to that job and rise as high in the ranks as possible, then retire with a substantial % of your salary paid out in pension and generous benefits until you died.

It was real, but mostly only for the high born, the nepotistic, people in the "correct" church, and the backstabby. And of course white males only, hahah that almost goes without saying. It wasn't quite as amazing as people thought, but those who benefited sure did enjoy it.


Very few companies offer pensions now - mostly the government.


Aren't they normally differentiated as Defined Benefit pensions vs Defined Contribution pensions.


In the literature/law yes. In every day use in the US a pension means a defined benefit plan sponosered by your employer.


> Very few companies offer pensions now

All professional jobs offer pensions, I'm sure. Including all the major tech companies.


Haha, nope.

You have the "opportunity" to contribute to a 401k, and if you use the company's (poorly run) 401k option, they may decide to match up to a percentage of your contribution.

For instance, I contribute 10% of my paycheck towards the 401k, my employer matches 4% of that. That's it. And I work in IT for a Fortune 500 company.


But a 401k /is/ a pension.

> In the United States, a 401(k) plan is [a] tax-qualified, defined-contribution pension account

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/401(k)


A 401(k) (defined contribution) is not the common parlance "pension" (which would be defined benefit).


So why does Wikipedia use the 'pension' terminology?


Wikipedia has more than just an American audience. "Pension" in many other countries means any form of retirement plan; that's the definition that the Wikipedia article on pensions describes. In colloquial usage in the U.S, it explicitly means defined-benefit plans to distinguish them from 401(k)s and other retirement savings accounts, which are defined-contribution.


Well it's more confusing that helpful then! Because as a foreigner when I look up what a 401(k) is and it tells me it's a pension, and then everyone tells me it's not a pension, I don't know what's going on!


This is one of those things where details matter, and that's why terminology is different. It's like if I went to England and someone told me "Parliament is like Congress" and so I go around thinking "Oh, you have two houses just like us, and you have political parties and elected representatives, must be just the same", blissfully ignorant that the way parliament operates is very different from how the U.S. Congress operates, and the different mechanics lead to very different emergent effects (I had no idea what this coalition government thing in the last election meant, for example; such a concept doesn't exist in the U.S.).

Whether you have a pension or a 401(k) has a very big impact in how you organize your career in the U.S. If you have a pension, you're strongly incentivized to stay with one employer for a lifetime, because you lose it if you leave and your benefit usually depends upon length of service. That in turn means that you don't care how your resume looks to the outside world, you don't invest as much time in professional development, and you generally accept whatever advancement schedule is available in the organization.

If you have a 401(k), you're strongly incentivized to maximize your earning potential, because you only get out of it what you put into it (plus investment returns). That usually means switching jobs, which means you need to consider how your professional experiences will look to the outside world. It means that you need to be constantly up-to-date with how the industry is changing around you, and with how the financial markets are doing, and manage your own finances & career development. On the plus side, you take your 401(k) with you if you quit or move, and so you have greater flexibility. And you're not exposed to the risk that your employer could just die and take your pension with it. You are exposed to the risk of the stock market crashing, though.

Because life strategies are so different based on the different retirement schemes, people will assume certain things about you if you say you have a pension, and they'll assume other things if you talk about your 401(k). If you say you have a pension when it's really a 401(k), those assumptions are likely wrong, which leads to awkwardness all around. That's why they're different terms in colloquial usage.


> because you lose it if you leave

Typically no, unless you're unvested, I think. You may get a much smaller benefit, though.


Ouch. I haven't worked at a place that contributed less than 6%; my current employer also adds a flat 5% to a separate pension so people don't get bit by the maximum tax free limit (as opposed to simply matching more than 6%)


Matching isn't affected by the tax deductible contribution limit. There is a separate and much higher limit for employer contributions (~$35k/year).


Just to make sure I am correct, your 401k gets matched with 0.004 of your total pay? Thanks


No. The way it usually works is you can contribute up to X% of your pay tax advantaged (with a hard dollar cap) to your 401k. The company can match up to Y% pay.

What he is suggesting is that he can contribute 10%. Everything he contributes up to 4% is matched by his company (ie a 4% pay increase). Usually its a little more complicated than that. Like they'll match 1:1 the first 2% and then 1:2 the next 2% for a total of 3% matching funds.


What are typical matches?

In Norway there are no matches. The company just have to pay 2-7% of your salary to your fund each year. For tech jobs it's mostly at the top of the range.


Its fairly variant. As far as I can tell (and I'm no expert) the max is either non-existent or so high that i've never encountered it in the wild. Between 2-5% seems common in my experience.

The companies do not have to do this. It is purely optional, though there is a tax advantage I believe. Most "professionals" have the option at their company.

A bigger problem is that the 401k offerings are fairly bad usually. The people picking them are HR staffers who frequently don't have experience in finance, so the plans frequently have murderously high expense ratios. Even to the point where some companies repackage Vanguard funds that you can get on the open market for 10x less.


There is a maximum total contribution.

https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/401k-plans-deferrals-an...

total employee and employer contributions (including forfeitures) - the lesser of 100% of an employee’s compensation or $54,000 for 2017 ($53,000 for 2015 and 2016 not including "catch-up" elective deferrals of $6,000 in 2015 - 2017 for employees age 50 or older) (IRC section 415(c))

So the max is basically 200% match of the individual's contribution, which is maxed out at $18,000 for an individual under 50.


That varies by employer. For professional salaried jobs usually 3-6% from my experience.

Many companies are doing odd things now with half percentage matching. So they will say they match all of the first 4% and then the half of the next 2%.


It varies widely. I have had nominal 3-6% matching, but it was capped at an absolute dollar amount. That amount made the effective match more like 1.8-3.8%.


Likely 4% of his paycheck or 0.0385 of total pay after matching.


I've never even heard of anyone getting a pension, out of all my friends in tech & myself. They're basically extinct at this point.


Well I work for Oracle and I get a piece of paper every year telling me how much money is in my 'Personal Pension Scheme'.


Are you sure that's a pension plan and not their internal branding for a retirement savings account? Pensions are totally unheard-of among tech companies, I don't know a single person who has one. There are 401(k)s, and the good companies will match contributions generously, but no pensions.


A 401k is just another type of pension though. When you say 'pension' you really mean 'defined benefits plan'. But that's not what pension means. A pension is any kind of savings or investments for retirement, with certain tax benefits.


Maybe that's the dictionary definition, but in common parlance, everybody uses "pension" in the sense of distinguishing it from a 401(k) or other tax-advantaged savings/investment account.


Retirement plans, yes. Pension plans, no.


But a retirement plan is a pension. Maybe it's a British English / American English thing, but to me a pension is any savings or investment you keep for retirement.


Its a difference between "general" use and "technical" use. Usually when us normal people in the States talk about a pension we mean a defined benefit retirement plan sponsored by your employer.

But in the legal/literature use it means any savings you keep for retirement. The defined benefit plan is basically gone from the private sector in the USA and is only existent in the public sector.


Most people seem to refer to pension in the U.S. as a private company's social security set-up - you get a set amount per month for the rest of your life after a term of working at the company.


Pensions in the popular sense are more properly named "defined benefits plan" in financial jargonese.


in the US a "pension" is a mostly guaranteed (and insured) payment for the rest of your life.

A 401k is a fixed amount of money that you contribute, sometimes with your employer "matching" and it is usually invested in the stock market or in company stocks. It can run out quite easily.


Whut? They offer a 3% 401k match. Very different from a pension.


Wikipedia says 401ks are pensions.

> In the United States, a 401(k) plan is [a] tax-qualified, defined-contribution pension account


Defined contribution is the key part.

In the US at least, if you say a job has a pension... it has a pension in the sense that you work X years, you get paid $y per year for life after you retire. Chicago teachers and Fire Fighters have a pension (for now). Tech employees almost never do.

No one would EVER advertise a job as having a pension if it had a 401k. It would be advertised as "401k match OR retirement benefits OR something along those lines"


Not even close.

Facebook didn't even have a 401(k) last time I interviewed there. This was after they went public.


The pension system in the US has gone down the ratholes. About the only people now entering the workforce that can get them any more are government (mainly municipal) employees and railroad workers.

The larger employers have moved from employer-managed defined-benefit pension plans to employee-managed defined-contribution pension plans, usually named for the section of tax code that describes the characteristics of the plan.

With defined-contribution plans, while you are working, your employer has the option of paying some money into your retirement account, which has various discouragements against early withdrawals. When you stop working, they stop paying. But you still control the account. With pension plans, the company sets money aside for future pension obligations, and may occasionally get audited by a regulator to ensure that the money is still there and adequate to pay out future benefits under certain assumptions that might not necessarily be true.

But the promised benefits of each pension plan are different, selected by the company (or muni-corp) that offered them. There was always a perpetuity (until death), and there might have also been benefits for surviving widow(er)s and minor children. Various health care benefits might have been attached, but probably not, as most retirees would probably go to Medicare.

The employee-managed accounts are seen as preferable to the older pension system, because some companies chose to use the employee pension fund to leverage their other investments or embezzle outright, and thus reneged upon their promises to retirees, who were forced to fall back on government-run pension insurance and Social Security.

Even now, the pension funds for municipal employees are at risk in towns that overpromised benefits to attract their employees, and are now going bankrupt because of it. What do you do if you are forced to either take a permanent haircut on your pension payments, or live somewhere that cannot afford to hire a firefighter? In short, I think it very likely that every remaining pension plan in the US is based on accounting that simply does not compute. At some point in your career, you discover that someone was lying to you and cheating you, and by then it's usually too late.

With the 401(k) plans, at least you know you're getting screwed out of your retirement as you're still working.


Defined benefit plans are often required to invest in investments with a terrible return.


I never understood why everyone is against smoking if it saves those corps money in the long run.


Slowly dying from cancer is expensive. Dying from a sudden stroke induced by a lifetime of lethargy isn't.


I believe even smokers who die early from disease are cheaper in the long run compared to those who end up dying much later in life.

I think the same idea holds true for the obese because they tend to die early, as well.

Being old and sick is incredibly expensive. Living healthily enough to get to be old and sick is a monetary drain from insurance companies' perspectives.


> Dying from a sudden stroke induced by a lifetime of lethargy isn't.

Lethargy has never gave anyone a stroke

But drinking 20 coffees a day for staying awake working 80 hours a week for your startup while you could easily have a normal job, that grants you a normal, quite life, had.


because the last couple of years suck when you're dying from the things caused by smoking.


While smokers or the obese might have a smaller total lifetime healthcare cost, the timing of the costs is likely a factor. As the bulk of healthcare costs typically come from end of life care, the cynic in me explains the concern/anti-smoking campaigns in the workplace as an effort to shift that large cost to a time when the person is a part of the public healthcare system and off the private insurance policy.


Maybe I'm wrong here, but I think many of the people responding to you missed the sarcasm.


Lung and throat cancer are no joke, I would rather save them money then die from it.


Because we value lives over corporate profits?


I wouldn't paint that generalization with so broad a stroke. Very few people truly value lives 100% of the time over corporate profits. If we truly did that, we would never turn a blind eye to many of the actions that corporations take while so many of us own their stock in retirement portfolios.

Live, quite unfortunately, is rarely so black-and-white.


I think you missed the sarcasm (or I am too optimistic about GP ?)


I honestly can't tell anymore. Poe's Law has gone from "lol" to "this covers virtually everything" lately.


Its not hard to see why exactly Americans are dying younger. Hell, just look at the headline here.

When you have increased wealth concentration flowing upwards and more involvement of profit machines in people's lives (healthcare, correctional facilities, food, environment), people on average are working harder for less pay with increased cost of living. This means less recreational time to blow stress off, less time for doctor visits (not to mention the fun games our federal government is playing with healthcare), and less time/money/emphasis to treat yourself spiritually/psychologically. I am hardly surprised this equates to higher mortality rates.

America has a huge problem spending money on the betterment of its citizens, and it is starting to show.


> Its not hard to see why exactly Americans are dying younger

American's aren't dying younger, life expectancies are still increasing... The headline is a lie.


Yep, not dying as young, just not growing life expectancy year over year as fast this past decade.

The title of this article, just like most things in our modern media, are a complete fabrication of the truth.


purely anecdotal, but when my Doctor tells me he cannot tell fat people to diet because bad surveys affect the reviews of Doctors and their hospital; surveys from both government and insurance companies; it should be a clear indicator we are doing something wrong. He cannot connect their diabetes to their weight, only suggest what foods would help manage their diabetes without crossing the line into mentioning weight management.

what are people's actual expectations for how long they should or can live? I am at the age where I am not seeing relatives who I grew up learning from passing on, I am even having coworkers pass on. Perhaps I notice it more when people younger than I go.


Interesting. I was never asked to do any reviews of my doctors or other healthcare providers.

As for your second question, I semi-jokingly tell my kids that my consciousness will be uploaded to the cloud and I will be posting dad jokes to their twitter long after I am dead. Just need to make sure I pay for hosting in advance.


Research has shown that patient satisfaction surveys have approximately zero correlation with care quality or adherence to medical best practices. Consumer directed healthcare has some disadvantages.


Looking at the chart, it seems like they're reading an awful lot into 1 or 2 data points. It's very noisy data.


The list of municipal and state governments that are trending towards bankruptcy due to underfunded pensions is longer than a rich kid's Christmas list. A shortening life expectancy benefits them most.

That's the news here, if there is any.


Personal opinion: Life expectancy gains will actually reverse over the new 20 years, given how little is being done to combat extremely poor health choices many Americans make.

Then it will skyrocket due to medical innovations like CRISPR.


But our healthcare is the best in the world...at least I pay like it is...


US healthcare is far lower value for money than other developed nations, at least using average life expectancy as the metric:

http://2oqz471sa19h3vbwa53m33yj.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-c...


Life expectancy is a terrible measure for quality of health care. The best health care in the world won't change how much overeating and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to heart disease (the #1 cause of death in the US), stroke (#5), and diabetes (#7).

Life expectancy can vary dramatically by county, even when there are no differences at all in health care policy. [1]

That's not to say we aren't paying too much and getting too little. We are. It's just life expectancy isn't the way to measure it.

[1] http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/who-lives-longer-s...


> Life expectancy is a terrible measure for quality of health care...

Depends how you define health care. If you include preventative medicine, education, etc. then things look a bit different.

Note sure what happens in the US, but countries that practice what you might call "socialized medicine" do a lot of that.


Far and away, lifestyle is the biggest contributor. The very source I linked above claims it accounts for 74% of differences, and "access to health care accounted for much of the rest of the difference, the team found."

I'm open to contrary claims, but if you're making one at all it's a pretty loose one.


You seem to have missed my point, and keep focusing on overly narrow health intervention. Going back to my previous comment, education (through direct communication and through schools) is a channel through which lifestyle and hence health outcomes can be improved. Similarly, the UK we have a forthcoming sugar tax, as do many other countries. Cycle infrastructure. etc.


Sure, also understand that the productive segment is also be affected in turn impacting future GDP calculations. It's a net loss in the long run..


Are you sure about that? Don't most people stop being productive long before they die?


The article states that there are higher deaths of despair which affects younger population disproportionately. This impacts productivity and GDP calculations.


Always nice to see a perverse incentive. But thankfully, in America we work for corporations, not the other way around.


I'm trying to understand what this comment means.


wonder how the influx of "corporate wellness" plans affect this. It seems more and more that your lifestyle can be adjusted/improved via your workplace rather than personal drive.

Could that be an input into insurance? potentially...



This kind of reads a little like sensationalist journalism, imo.

Seems to me that our technology may actually just be hitting a wall in regards to life expectancy.

That, and the proliferation of sugar in our every-day diets has long-term consequences (who knew? /s)


It's culture not technology:

"The USA has the highest child and maternal mortality, homicide rate, and body-mass index of any high-income country, and was the first of high-income countries to experience a halt or possibly reversal of increase in height in adulthood, which is associated with higher longevity," wrote the study authors.

http://fortune.com/2017/02/23/us-life-expectancy-projections...


The maternal deaths statistic is not that straightforward. The Economist just had an article about this [1]. It appears that differences in measurements can explain that higher risk.

[1] https://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21725832-questi...


CDC methodology vs UK methodology doesn't explain why California has a rate of 7.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 compared with 22.0 for the US as a whole. Or why the rate in California is falling (like other developed countries) while the rate for the entire US is rising year on year [1].

The author just threw out data (with no explanation of their methodology) until they got the American rate similar to the UK rate and then stopped so they could assert that there's absolutely nothing wrong with the US health industry. The author would have been fully aware of the regional differences in the US because the Economist article is a response to the various articles this summer about maternal deaths in the US which have generally focused heavily on the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative and the improvements California has made compared to other states[2][3].

Not that I'd take the 21 year old interns writing without bylines in The Economist very seriously on health matters (or anything else for that matter).

[1] https://archive.cdph.ca.gov/programs/mcah/Documents/MCAH%20B... [2] https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/6/29/15830970/wo... [3] http://www.npr.org/2017/05/12/527806002/focus-on-infants-dur...


> Seems to me that our technology may actually just be hitting a wall in regards to life expectancy.

"Americans Are Dying Younger". That will mean that the wall is moving making technology less useful to keep life expectancy. And this is not true.

If we can do more to keep people, not just alive, but healthy. We should do it. Even if there are people that don't see it that way: Fox News host laughs at Democrats saying thousands will die under Trump healthcare bill: 'We're all gonna die'

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics...


> Seems to me that our technology...

Life expectancy has continued to rise in other countries. The US is lagging behind.

I'd guess the most likely cause is some combination of diet and having the comparatively expensive healthcare.


> That, and the proliferation of sugar in our every-day diets has long-term consequences (who knew? /s)

This is pretty good guess for the reason for us lagging behind other countries.


Seems to me that our technology may actually just be hitting a wall in regards to life expectancy.

^ | This is probably happening there has to be a limit, also after 80 things get bad really fast, who didn't have a relative doing great then suddenly getting ill and dying in less than a year at those ages


Let me explain.

I meant that there is only so much that technology can do. That, combined with bad eating habits in general, have a compounding effect on the mortality rate, especially at ages 70+ when heart attack risks are at their highest.


Finally, some good news! /s


Every cloud, huh.


So we've reached Peak Human?


People still get pensions?


Buy every retiree a high-performance motor cycle. They'll have some fun, and when they die you won't need expensive end-of-life care; you'll just need a mop and a body-bag. It'll save billions.


"I love the movies, love ‘em. Now, I’m watching Terminator 2 the other day, and I’m thinking to myself: They cannot top the stunts in this film, they cannot top this shit, unless … they start using terminally ill people as stunt people in feature films … well, hear me out, ’cause I know to a lot of you this may seem a little cruel. “Aww, Bill, terminally ill stunt people? That’s cruel!” You know what I think’s cruel? Leaving your loved ones to die in a hospital room surrounded by strangers. Fuck that! Put ‘em in the movies! What, you wanna let your grandmother live out her last days in a sterile hospital room, with translucent skin so thin you can see her last heartbeat work its way down her blue veins? Or do you want her to meet… Chuck Norris?

Hey, how come you dressed my grandmother up as a mugger? Shut up and get off the set. Action! Push her towards Chuck! (Karate noises) Wow, he kicked her head right off her body! Did you see that? Did you see my Grammy? She's out of her misery, you've seen the greatest film of all time!"

- bill hicks


Not really, assuming every gets a $15,000 bike. it's about $20b more than we spent last year on Medicare.

But, It really depends on the bike you're suggesting. Supply and demand for 46.2M units will surely raise the price as well.

46.2M Americans over the age of 65 (retirement age) * $15,000 a bike (conservative, since we're talking "high-performance motor cycle") = $693B.

http://www.kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/the-facts-on-medicar...


It is an amortized cost. The NYT claims Medicare costs the government roughly $6,000/person/year. So the question is whether the motorcycles reduce an average of 3 years of life per person. (Ignoring price shocks from giving them out.)

But... 2015 data says ~5,000 cyclists died out of a total population of 8,600,000, making for .05% of cyclists dying per year. Assuming a grant at 65 and a life expectancy of 85, that's an average of .01 years of life lost in the first year. (And this assumes everyone rides them as much as people who choose to buy motorcycles!) The years lost decline as people age, of course, but even raw multiplication only gets us an average of .2 years of life lost per person over the course of the project.

Obviously this doesn't adjust for varying risk profiles compared to normal motorcycle riders, but we'd be talking about being more than 15 times as likely to die as most motorcyclists to make this math add up.

All moral issues aside, it looks like the math just doesn't back this one.

https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/upshot/medicaid-gives-the...

http://www.iii.org/issue-update/motorcycle-crashes

edit: taking bike price down to $8k doesn't really change this logic, especially given the "not actually riding" issue I didn't factor in.


But you don't need to buy a new bike for every senior every year. Bikes last. In steady state, you only need to buy one for whoever retires that year, which is maybe 3 million per year. So the cost is roughly $45 billion per year, and that's assuming all retirees participate.

As for cost, I expect mass production on a vast scale would ultimately drive the price down. Every damn vehicle manufacturer is going to want a piece of the GLR* contract. They'll knife each other in the streets for it. $10K per unit seems like a workable target.

[*] Let me just say, in my official capacity, that the initials do not stand for Granny's Last Ride. They stand for, uh, something else.


> Bikes last.

Not when used in this manner...


> a $15,000 bike

That's a really high price for a bike, you're talking a small percentage top of the line or stupid over-priced for name brand sake bikes there. Kinda feels like you might have backed in to that number?

For reference, a bike like a GSXR 600 or Ducati Monster can be had for under $10k - and one would assume a decent discount for buying a few million at a time ;-)


I don't follow bikes, and I assume the immediate demand for tens of millions of one would drive the prices up.

I also vaguely knew that HDs go for big bucks.

But we're being ridiculous here, so...


In a rational world, demand for 10s of millions of bikes could easily be absorbed by the asian supply chain over teh course of a few years. What would likely happen though is the the contracts for them would go to a US company that sells the bikes for 10x the price and can't deliver them on time.

Oh wait, I forgot - we're being ridiculous ;-)


Yeah, you all are being ridiculous. No need for tens of millions of motor cycles. Just get one and pass it around. The whole point here is that the owner won't be spending decades putting around the country!!!!!!


You don't get a new bike every year. You're talking about a 1 time payment for all 65+. After that just give it to everyone who turns 65.


That was a bit too graphical for my lunch to handle, thanks :D


Behold, the wonders of the Scientific Utopia of "Progress". GMOs, Big Pharma, Health (Sick) care system, Compulsory Medicine, outlawing of Natural/traditional "unproven" health care, etc.

Is it time to begin discussing the desirability/effectiveness of certain policies, institutions, & popular beliefs?


Sorry, but without GMOs, Big Pharma, Health (Sick) care system, Compulsory Medicine people would be dying even faster.

I hate Bigpharma as much as the next guy but just look at the statistics of children deaths in the early 1900 it's clear something changed and medicine and vaccines are among it.

Completelly inflamatory statement...


I'm unfortunately on mobile and can't write much - however, my understanding is that there is still some debate about the benefits of medication vs sanitation in overall mortality in Western countries. While this doesn't necessarily hold true for children, I thought I'd link to a discussion of this debate. (Can't find the reference I wanted...)

Here's a figure for death from infectious disease by the CDC - note that antibiotics don't appreciably change the rate in decline

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4829a1.htm#fig1

just a random find - this paper from 1902 mentions the debate, too, with some descriptions of 'natural experiments' https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2401255/?page=1

Also, I am not saying that antibiotics and medications don't work - just that the story actually is more interesting than one might initially guess.

Lastly, these data discuss Western populations - I've heard the opposite may be true in poor countries.


Amazing how sanitation caused polio to drop rapidly for years without having an effect on measles, then suddenly measles starting dropping. Or we can just notice how the drop occurs right after the introduction of the vaccine.


I did not mean to be belligerent in my response and I'm sorry if I offended you.

As I said above, in the Western world, sanitation and other interventions both contributed to our current state of health. As the graph I linked to shows, antibiotics haven't appreciably changed the rate of decline of infectious disease. This is no way means that antibiotics and/or vaccines are ineffective. As you point out, looking at specific diseases shows that these interventions are helpful.

Here's the data for measles if folks are interested - there was indeed a remarkable drop after the institution of the vaccine[1].

1. https://www.quackwatch.com/03HealthPromotion/immu/immu01.htm...


I think I'm outside the edit window for my comment. As a coda, it looks like mortality due to measles may have been declining before the incidence of measles began to decline; this further supports a role for other societal developments in decreasing death from infectious disease.

This is purportedly related to the use of antibiotics to decrease bacterial sequelae of measles. I saw an academic reference to this effect but I can't find it again - here's a popular article. You'll note that this commentator ascribes some of the decrease in measles-related death to sanitation.

1. http://www.iayork.com/MysteryRays/2009/09/02/measles-deaths-...


I am not sure how you managed to insert GMOs in this list.


> just look at the statistics of children deaths in the early 1900 it's clear something changed and medicine and vaccines are among it

As did the development of Public Sanitation, pasteurization, electricity, transportation networks, & information networks. Many factors into a complex system, yet attribution to a few select changes that just happen to benefit certain parties.

Perhaps it's time to revisit old assumptions based on old P.R. written by parties with conflicts of interest.

> Completelly inflamatory statement...

Not completely, particularly when speaking to those in an "ideological echo chamber". It helps to desensitize people to opinions that challenge unspoken beliefs.

Also, why do we always need to capitulate to the ideologically narrow-minded? America succeeded due to Freedom of Speech & exchange of ideas.


The wonders of our consumerism. The golden age of pesticides, air, ground and water pollution. The golden age of MacDonald, KFC and Coca-cola and of super-size meals.

Maybe we should listen to the scientists when they say something is bad.


Meanwhile Europeans are working older, to the same effect. The boomers enjoyed a nice work life balance across the classes for the first time in human history, but the ruling class managed to get us back in our place.


Other than the classical whataboutism, it's blatantly not true. US is mostly a developing country regarding most social and health standards, from general health to lifespan.


you mean it's lagging behind most indicators from other comparable countries, including equality index, healthcare quality and average lifespan.


We are back where we were at the beginning of the 20th century.


We most certainly are not. We are really, really far away from it. Beginning of the 20th century was a time when Europe had high child mortality, utilized lots of child labour, pretty non-existing retirement benefits except for a very narrow elite, and abysmal maternal and hospital care. "Spanish disease" (in this case, the bird flu) wpied out hundreds of thousands of people at end of WW I. And even outside wars, violence was much more commonplace than today.

Sorry, I must say it's outrageously ignorant to say what you say.

Incidentally, I just wrote about early 20th century in another thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14966404

When Bismarck introduced the old-age pension system in Germany in late 1800's, the retirement age was 70 years. Life expectancy in these parts of Germany was 67 years.

As to the OP article, it seems that surprisingly few people have read this:

There’s no simple answer for why longevity gains are slowing. For years, economists and public health experts have been trying to ascertain what’s behind America’s troubling death trends, among them a rise in death rates for certain demographic groups. A much-discussed 2015 paper suggested that mortality was rising for middle-aged white Americans, citing suicides, drug overdoses, and alcohol, collectively sometimes referred to as “deaths of despair.” Women have been particularly affected.

What America then is seeing is not that old people, retirees, would die younger. It is seeing working-age people (not necessarily working people) die of unnatural causes.




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