In "What Lies Ahead: Forecast for 2006," Today's Engineer author George McClure examines technology, energy, climate change, work force, employment benefits, immigration, infrastructure and the economy. McClure, a noted expert on technology careers and retirement benefits, looks at where things are today and where they're likely headed. A sampling:
* The United States has the lowest savings rate among developed nations, implying a lack of savings for retirement and children's college costs. McClure points out the trend of greater consumer spending than consumer income "works for only so long, and will cease to be a source of consumption funding as interest rates rise to combat inflation."
* Significant upgrades are needed to repair the United States' crumbling infrastructure, including $50 billion to improve the national power grid over the next five years. "As power demand increases by 50 percent in 20 years," McClure writes in Today's Engineer, "so will the problem of getting it to the user, as well as the prospect for further blackouts, if reliability is not improved."
* Retirement security is gaining more societal importance as the first baby boomers approach full retirement age in five years. Concerns about fewer workers to replace those retiring, and retirees wondering about having enough money to live comfortably in retirement point toward more older Americans working at least part-time past age 65. The prospect of partial retirement -- in which a person works reduced hours while drawing a partial pension -- could help alleviate these concerns, "but requires changes in the law," according to McClure.
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