I'm an early millennial...high school class of 2000. Growing up in the 90s, a frequent topic of discussion on the news and current events was that by the time we got to retirement, social security and medicare would be bankrupt. We would of course be expected to pay in the system but we were unlikely to get anything close to what we paid out of the system. The demographics and math just didn't work.

I heard this narrative over and over during middle school and high school. When I got my first white market job, teaching swimming to other kids, I was promised something like 14 dollars per hour. When I got my paycheck though and did that math, I was actually getting way less than $14 per hour. Uncle Sam was skimming off the top and part of it was going into the widely advertised ponzi scheme of social security and medicare. I imagine my dollar bills going into some pot and then immediately be sent to my grandparents. It seemed like a raw deal...a scam. How could my grandparents' generation decide like a million years ago decide that yet unborn me would have to for their retirement? How was that fair?

Anyways, I got this idea stuck in my mind that there was no way I could rely on this system that everyone was saying was going to be bankrupt and gone by the time it was my turn to receive the sweet government benefits.

Fast forward a couple decades and I find myself in middle age in Hong Kong. By going abroad after university, save for one more summer job, I actually managed to avoid paying any money at all into the US social insurance system. Instead, I find myself responsible for my own future healthcare and retirement. There will be no social security and no medicare for me. Not being compelled to pay into that or a similar system is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I have the freedom to make my own decisions on what health care and retirement savings make sense for me. On the other hand, there is the responsibility that comes with that freedom. There are a lot of choices to be made and if I mess up, it's my fault, not some group of politicians.