One day in the not too distant future in these United States, little Sally, age five or so, is going to climb onto grandpa’s lap, look up at him and ask, “Grandpa, what’s a pension?”
Then, in a scene reminiscent of an outdated sitcom, the room will cloud up as grandpa goes into a reverie, remembering how things used to be. When he comes to, little Sally, in the way of children, is still staring at him, patiently but intently waiting for the answer to her question.
Grandpa, who is all choked up with emotion, tells Sally, “Sweetheart, a pension is a form of financial protection that many, many people in this country used to have. It would pay people who had retired (just like grandpa is now) a certain amount of money every month. It was something people could depend on and gave them a sense of security about being able to pay their bills when they got older.”
Then grandpa asks Sally, “Honey, where did you hear about pensions?”
Sally, in all innocence, replies that her kindergarten class was studying things that had gone extinct like dinosaurs and dodos, when one of her classmates said he had heard his dad talking to a friend and saying that “pensions were no longer even on the list of endangered species, they were extinct.”
Grandpa then asks Sally what her teacher’s reaction was to what the boy’s father had said. Sally responds that the teacher told the boy that although the pension was not an animal like a woolly mammoth, it was what some people used to call a species of financial protection.
Then the teacher explained that most species go extinct for one or two main reasons. First, the teacher said, the species finds that circumstances have changed in its external environment and it can’t compete with other species the way it used to. Then, when it has weakened sufficiently, other species step up their attacks and finally kill off the last one.
Then the little boy whose father had made the remark about pensions asked the teacher, “Is that what happened to pensions?”