There was a time when an HIV+ diagnosis was a death sentence.
According to Elizabeth Ranes, RN, “life expectancy for a person infected with HIV now extends to 70 years of age. That’s a remarkable improvement from the early days of HIV, when many men succumbed to the disease in their 30s.”
Someone diagnosed with HIV in 1989 would have little to look forward to, and no need for retirement planning at all. Anyone with any savings would spend it all, as most had no heirs and many were isolated from their families.
However, as diagnosis and treatments quickly improved during the 1990s, a subset of HIV patients started to outlive their wealth. This subset had planned for the worst, but unexpectedly benefited from new treatments. This new hope was a mixed blessing, as many of these people were now penniless.
Today, a growing number of teenagers are increasingly hopeless about the future. Instead of a disease, a convergence of global warming, resource shortages, political extremism and wealth disparity is painting a bleak picture.
Guidance counselors and therapists have commented on a growing number of young people seeking help amid existential gloom. Like it or not, agree or disagree, Greta Thunberg is the poster child for global teenage grief, anger and hopelessness.
The thread below illustrates what’s going on:
I know people love to hate on Greta, but remember she is a child. The value she provides might not necessarily be her arguments. Rather, the fact she is expressing her worry is what we need to take away. She is a barometer for the psychology of a growing portion of tomorrow’s leaders.
As I’ve explained by looking at the AIDS epidemic, when people lose hope they adjust their behaviours. They live like they have no future.
What does that mean for teenagers today?
And what if they are wrong?
Let me tell you a secret. When I was a teenager I had little hope for my future. I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps I received no encouragement or help. Maybe I had pessimistic tendencies. I definitely had no path in front of me.
So I behaved like I had no future. I did many stupid things. Luckily I snapped out of it and doubled-down on forging my own path. But I could have easily gone the other way and simply continued to be a burden to those around me. Or worse.
What happens when a big segment of the population feels this way for similar reason, thus reinforcing their belief? They certainly won’t be thinking about retirement savings. More likely, they’ll be drop-outs, criminals and pot-heads. Not all. But more than under normal circumstances.
Maybe they’ll be proven right in the end. Maybe there is no future. But if they’re wrong, they’re basically cornering themselves into a pretty shitty life. In the end, it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.
I’m not blind to the problems we face, but I think it’s important to maintain some hope. We each have our ways. Acceptance, action, religion.
We must continue saving and investing like we have a future. Perhaps the nature of those investments and the way we budget for risk change. We need to broaden our definition beyond financial instruments and invest in skills, resiliency and self sufficiency. We also need to plan for a greater number of contingencies and develop a better understanding of ‘risk’.
As we’ve learned during the AIDS crisis, simply dropping the ball to sulk on the sidelines won’t do anyone any good.