The Great Retirement Swap

The concept of retirement is undergoing fundamental change. Does anyone really believe anymore that it's possible for most folks to live comfortably over the final third of their lives while essentially generating no income? That changing dynamic is behind such ventures as the Great Retirement Swap: The way that we think about retirement in America is fundamentally flawed. The current retirement system assumes that people must diligently invest in the stock market over an extended period of 30 years or more in order to buy things in the future – like food, shelter, and clothing. But what if people are free to share, barter and swap for these goods? To travel to wherever they want, provided someone has a spare room for them to use? To have access to any item they need, as long as they have an item of similar value to swap? [. . .] Well, what if we fundamentally change the way we think about retirement to take into account the new trend toward collaborative consumption? Call it The Great Retirement Swap. At a macro-level, Americans would be swapping a bleak version of retirement for a positive, hopeful one. At a more tactical level, older Americans would be swapping for goods and services, rather than owning them. Wealth in retirement would become a relative issue – are you wealthier if you own a second home in Florida, or if you have unfettered access to apartments across Europe, at any time of the year? [. . .] While all this sounds a bit "un-capitalistic," it's actually the free market at work, on a grand scale. When you barter for goods, there is a market price established for those goods. And best of all, it doesn't require 7% annual compounded returns in the stock market to succeed. With millions of Baby Boomers set to start retiring within the next few years, retirement nest eggs shattered by the financial crisis, and even eternal optimists convinced that Social Security is no longer sustainable in the long-run, it's time to start thinking of a ground-breaking, innovative – dare I say it – radical solution for helping Americans attain the type of retirement they always dreamed of in their golden years. Regardless of the feasibility of the Great Retirement Swap, what are the chances that government will do a better job than markets in providing choices for retirees?

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