weekly blog--one for the ages
The watchword this week is Retirement Planning. The click started with a blog that I received from
Squared Away, an online retirement planning tool produced by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, alerting readers that the National Council on Aging (NCOA) had redesigned its website and featured information on reverse mortgages. The significance of a reverse mortgage is that you need more cash to fund your retirement years or pay for an unexpected crisis. Later in the day, I was scanning Yahoo news and stumbled across a Chicago Tribune article proclaiming that the dreams of living well in retirement are dimming for Americans.
With that said, I began digging deeper, and if you are a baby boomer, especially one who has watched their mothers and fathers retire comfortably and are not Trump-like wealthy, please take out a handkerchief because you are probably not saving enough money to do the same. And not helping matters are roller-coaster stock and real estate prices, rickety 401k plans that have replaced the tried-and-true defined pension system, a shaky job market, skyrocketing health care and tuition costs, stagnant incomes, and a social security system which could go broke in 20 years.
Add up the numbers and it’s conceivable that many baby boomers will spend their later years experiencing the desperation and uncertainty of poverty and near-poverty unless they postpone retirement for as long as possible, figure out ways to get by with less, and/or find more creative housing solutions. There is also the possibility that private business and government will work together to find a solution. But don't hold your breath...it could come down to the centuries-old dilemma of who needs the most help: the young, the elderly, or everyone in between.
This past week my wife and I spent a few days visiting her mother who lives in a Continuing Care community near New Haven, Connecticut. The quintessential social activity at this community is dinner. All of the residents have their “table" -- the place in the formal dining room where you eat with a set group of friends. My wife’s mother’s table includes 6 women who range in age from the late 70s to 102. They have their issues--health and otherwise--but their commonality is in a zest for living. Meanwhile, I sit at the table trying to project if I will still be alive at their age, what health issues might arise, and where my wife and I might reside. The simple conclusion--I can't see past the day-to-day routine of my current life even though I will be turning age 64 in one month and collecting a social security check in a few years.
MIT’s AgeLab sponsored a forum yesterday on the state of automated driving. Some elements are already available such as systems for self-parking, adaptive cruise control and automatic braking. The end game is to develop a self-driving (autonomous) car that is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the operator in an occupied or unoccupied vehicle will provide destination or navigation input, but not control movement.
Getting all vehicles on the road to communicate with each other is at the heart of making self-driving cars sustainable, and when you factor in state and federal regulations, it could take at least 30 years to achieve this goal. Several states, including Nevada, California and Florida have enacted legislation that expressly permits operation of autonomous vehicles under certain conditions. Car fleets with less than 2,500 vehicles can often get around many of these regulations, so you will most likely experience the self-driving future in robot-like taxis and other shared vehicles. You are also most likely to see self-driving regulations and policies modeled after those currently used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Regardless, the top priority is to ensure that self-driving vehicles and their occupants are safe, and often overlooked in the conversation is the need to improve driver education.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines vehicle automation in five levels. Some car-makers are skipping over the semi-self autonomy levels that add features and cede human control over time to focus on the ultimate challenge of producing a full, self-driving automated vehicle.
NHTSA's 5 LEVELS
Level 0, No-Automation: The driver is in complete and sole control of the primary vehicle controls – brake, steering, throttle, and motive power – at all times.
Level 1, Function-specific Automation: Automation at this level involves one or more specific control functions. Examples include electronic stability control or pre-charged brakes, where the vehicle automatically assists with braking to enable the driver to regain control of the vehicle or stop faster than possible by acting alone.
Level 2, Combined Function Automation: This level involves automation of at least two primary control functions designed to work in unison to relieve the driver of control of those functions. An example of combined functions enabling a Level 2 system is adaptive cruise control in combination with lane centering.
Level 3, Limited Self-Driving Automation: Vehicles at this level of automation enable the driver to cede full control of all safety-critical functions under certain traffic or environmental conditions and in those conditions to rely heavily on the vehicle to monitor for changes in those conditions requiring transition back to driver control. The driver is expected to be available for occasional control, but with sufficiently comfortable transition time. The Google car is an example of limited self-driving automation.
Level 4, Full Self-Driving Automation: The vehicle is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input, but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles.