We humans have viewed our life as being part of the great tide of humanity; we live our ancestor’s lives and we’ll continue to live through our offspring. Serial immortality is the heart of the great movements in human history, where successive generations have striven onwards – each adding to the successes and failures of those who came before.
Today, the ancient human law of serial immortality has been replaced by ‘spending the kids’ inheritance’ – or SKI – a movement that rejoices in blowing the family fortune over a single lifetime.
The motto often goes something like this: “We’ve worked hard. Why should we leave all of the money we've earned to our kids? We're going to live it up and spend the lot.” SKI embraces the consumer ideology of shopping, eating out and taking pleasure trips – without the guilt attached.
A recent study in the UK noted that some two-thirds of UK retirees plan to leave no financial legacy to their children beyond their home. Many are also withdrawing the equity from their home to free up more cash to spend. We think the baby boomer generation has a different attitude.
While other generations might have saved for the next generation, we don’t see why they shouldn’t have the time of their lives during their retirement.
The progression from blood-bound families to SKI has taken place over the course of four hundred years of social change.
Sociologist David Riesman argues that the age of consumption has coincided with a new social character: the ‘other-directed’ personality; and the demise of the ‘inner-directed’ type, a person who lived according to an inner gyroscope set by family, tradition and custom.
“What is common to all of the other-directed people is that their contemporaries are the source of direction for the individual – either those known to him or those with whom he is indirectly acquainted, through friends and through the mass media,” writes Riesman in The Lonely Crowd.
It is not surprising that in the age of consumption, the goal for vast numbers is to consume, whether that’s on pleasure experiences or consumer goods. When most folk today are what Riesman calls “other-directed” – i.e. they pick up the signals from the world around them - the advertising slogans bleating from television sets, newspapers, magazines and radio cause them to forever shift their goals away from family, tradition and custom to make space for commercial priorities.
Go spend …..