Our advice to recently graduating Millennials? Live long.
Because according to a just conducted analysis by NerdWallet, looking at the future of the average recent college graduate, and more importantly looking at the mountain of student loans each graduate will be saddled with and the implications for the earliest possible retirement age onset, Millennials may well have no choice but to postpone their retirement by about a decade, to the ripe old age of 73.
The reason for this, of course, is the magic of compounded interest: that “manageable” debt load grows and grows and grows even assuming one dutifully pays interest on time. And with unemployment at graduation running at 18%, that is a rather generous scenario. Still, even under base case assumption, the median student loan of $23,300 will end up costing students over $115K by the time they retire.
What does that mean in practical terms? “When will students be able to retire given that many are spending the first ten years (or more) of their careers paying off their hefty loans? NerdWallet… found that while retirement is certainly not impossible, for most it will have to wait until their early to mid 70s— over 10 years later than the current average retirement age of 61.” It goes without saying that all else is assumed equal. Alas, in the America’s welfare state future, few things will be equal, and most things will be far worse.
Which, one wonders, may be the secret plan after all: since by now everyone knows that the US’ welfare state is unsustainable for the mid- and certainly long-term future, what better way to avoid draining it, than to force those who would otherwise benefit into at least ten more years of work to pay off debts accumulated over 50 years earlier.
Quite a brilliant strategy when one thinks about it. And to think, all that was required was record low interest rates, fooling everyone into believing all those tens of thousands of dollars of debt, was cheap.
- Most of today’s college grads won’t be able to retire until 73 due to high debt load —12 years later than the current average retirement age
- Given a life expectancy of 84, grads will only have 11 years to enjoy retirement
- The median debt load of $23,300 will cost students over $115,000 (in today’s dollars) by the time they retire
- Employer 401(k) matches are crucial, and will compose 50% of retirement savings
Student Debt Will Follow Graduates To Retirement
With the total amount of outstanding student debt approaching $1 trillion, the plight of debt-straddled college students is more important than ever. In the past 30 years, not only has the number of high school graduates enrolled in four-year universities increased by 11%, but college tuition has also soared over 200%. As more students attend college at a cost higher than ever before, Millennials have increasingly turned to loans to help finance their education. While much of the college debt dialogue is over immediate issues like employment and repayment, there is another glaring challenge that graduates will have to deal with for years to come: retirement.
When will students be able to retire given that many are spending the first ten years (or more) of their careers paying off their hefty loans? NerdWallet conducted a study that examined the financial profile of a typical college graduate and found that while retirement is certainly not impossible, for most it will have to wait until their early to mid 70s— over 10 years later than the current average retirement age of 61.
Quick Facts On Students And Their Debt
Here are some quick facts to give context on exactly what students are grappling with:
- Median debt for a student upon graduation: $23,300
- Percentage of students who are unemployed at graduation: 18%
- The median starting salary for those who do have jobs: $45,327
- Standard loan repayment plan: 10 years
- Average yearly loan repayment: $2,858
- Number of college graduates currently estimated to be in default: Over 7 million
$23,300 In Loans Ends Up Costing $115,096 By Retirement
The goal of the study was to find realistic retirement projections for the typical college graduate and create projections that applied to a broad range of students. The study compared three different financial profiles: the median graduate, with median debt and salary; the struggling graduate, with high debt and a below average salary; and well-off graduate, with low debt and an above-average salary.
Graduate Retirement Outcomes
Clearly, student debt has an impact on retirement outcomes. Currently, the average retirement age is 61. But for most of today’s college grads, the realistic retirement age will be closer to their mid-70s. Given an average life expectancy of 84, this will leave only 10-12 years for people to spend in retirement. The main reason for this is that although the median college graduate leaves with a seemingly manageable $23,300 debt load, 7% of a student’s earnings go toward yearly loan payments of $2,858 for the first ten years of his or her career. This prevents any meaningful contributions toward retirement. In fact, by the age of 33, when the typical college grad has finally paid off their standard 10-year loans, he or she can only be expected to have saved $2,466 for retirement—over $30,000 less than if the student had graduated with no debt. Even worse, the foregone savings carry a serious opportunity cost, as this money would have been earning a compounded rate of return every year until retirement. At the projected retirement age of 73, the lost savings directly attributable to student debt is $115,096, nearly 28% of total retirement savings.
Surprisingly, for the struggling graduate, the retirement outcome isn’t dramatically different. Despite being in nearly twice as much debt and starting with 10% less pay, the expected retirement age is still just 75, only two years later than the median case. The main reason for this is social security. Much has been discussed about whether or not social security will be around by the time Millennials retire. To be conservative, social security benefits are factored into the study at $11,070 (75% of current average) per year beginning at age 67. That said, a substantial reduction in benefits or the disappearance of the program altogether would significantly alter the retirement equation. If the current social security payouts were to remain unchanged for the next 50 years, the benefits would provide future retirees a significant boost by covering nearly 15% of their required yearly income in retirement.
Well-off Grads Retire 7 Years Earlier
The retirement prospects for the well-off grad are significantly better than the others as illustrated in the graph above. By graduating with a reduced debt load and landing a job that pays 22% more, the well-off grad can expect to retire at age 67. This is a huge departure from the other cases, and demonstrates the importance of contributing to a retirement plan early on in one’s career. Compared to the median grad, the extra $40,406 that the well-off graduate is able to contribute during the first ten years of his or her career results in a $446,452 difference in retirement savings by age 73.
So How Do You Beat The Odds?
Given these circumstances, should students resign themselves to an eternity of work with little to look forward to in their latter years? Not necessarily. Though an increasing retirement age does appear to be an inevitable economic reality, being conscious of this problem and tailoring financial and career planning accordingly can go a long way toward achieving retirement objectives. There are many factors that influence the ultimate age at which people are able to retire, but there are a few variables that have a particularly large impact. Making above-average yearly contributions to a retirement account, working for an organization with a decent 401(k) match, and making sure to invest money in index tracking mutual funds are three ways to help add years to retirement.
Employer 401(k) Match Is Crucial
As fewer and fewer companies offer defined benefit plans, Millennials will have to depend upon employer 401(k) plans to save for retirement. According to a recent Fidelity survey, the current median yearly matching contribution is $3,420. As shown below, these employer contributions are expected to make up roughly 50% of the retirement equation for Millennials. By working for a company that offers a yearly matching contribution of $4,420 ($1,000 more than the median), potential retirees can reduce their expected retirement age by up to three years.
401(k) Match Composes Half of Retirement Savings
Make Above-average Contributions To Retirement Accounts
While working for a generous employer can do wonders for retirement, not everyone is in a position to be overly selective about whom to work for. Another important component of retirement planning is the yearly contribution rate. Making above-average contributions can significantly improve retirement outcomes. Though the study projects a 6% annual post-tax contribution (the average personal savings rate for Americans), increasing that number to 10% reduces the expected age of retirement from 73 to 69.
Invest In Index Funds
Contributing money towards retirement won’t be helpful if the money is simply left in a savings account or a CD. To earn a return, Millennials need to be willing to take some risk and construct an equity-oriented portfolio. This may be difficult for today’s grads who have seen the stock market seemingly implode every five years, but unfortunately, retirement will be impossible if people invest too conservatively. The study assumed a 6% yearly return on retirement savings which is a conservative figure given the historical performance of the market. That said, it is a rate of return that can’t be achieved by completely avoiding equity exposure. The best way for an individual to overcome this problem is by investing in index tracking mutual funds, which will offer a market return with low fees.
Retirement Isn’t Hopeless, But It Will Be Difficult
Far more than their parents, Millennials will have to rely upon proactive financial management to achieve their retirement goals. Each generation is afflicted with distinctive financial ills, but the challenge of college debt is unique to Millennials. The decline of pension plans, the uncertainty surrounding social security and the college debt epidemic have placed the onus on graduates to make conscious, forward-thinking decisions about their retirement.
Future retirement statistics were projected by profiling three potential situations that students might find themselves: the median graduate, with median student debt and median starting salary; the struggling graduate, with a high debt load and a below-average salary; and the well-off graduate, with a low debt load and an above-average salary. The study factored in a range of other relevant variables to create the projections: average 2012 social security benefit, average 2012 401(k) match, 30 year average national salary growth rate, 30 year average inflation rate, 30 year annualized S&P 500 returns, life expectancy, 30 year average personal savings rate, 2012 Stafford loan interest rates, and standard loan repayment terms.
All projected figures are inflation adjusted and discounted back to 2013 dollar-terms.
- 73 could become the new retirement age (rare.us)
- Study estimates millennials can’t retire until age 73 (charlotteobserver.com)
- Study: Nearly 3 in 10 millennials have had to move back home (stltoday.com)
- Young will wait to retire (goerie.com)
Local Dhaka police chief Sirajul Islam put the number of the crowd at the rally at “over 100,000” [Reuters]
|At least six people have been killed and more than 100 injured across Bangladesh and more than 100,000 opposition activists rallied in the capital, Dhaka, on Friday to demand that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina quit and order polls under a caretaker government.
Police said the protesters died after officers and border guards opened fire in three towns as the supporters of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist allies protested across the country, AFP news agency reported.
Two protesters were killed and several others were injured by bullets in the southern resort district of Cox’s Bazaar when border guards opened fire at several thousand supporters of the BNP.
“The border guards opened fire after the BNP activists defied a ban on rallies and attacked the forces,” Cox’s Bazaar district deputy police chief Babul Akter told AFP.
Several television channels reported that three people died in the central district of Chandpur when police and ruling Awami League supporters clashed with opposition supporters.
At least 30 people were injured in the clash in the area, which is 64km east of the capital.
A demonstrator died in the northern town of Jaldhaka after the elite Rapid Action Battalion opened fire at about 10,000 rampaging supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, a key ally of the BNP, area police head Mohammad Moniruzzman told AFP.
The violence also spread to the eastern district of Comilla, where at least 20 people were injured.
Similar clashes were also reported in Bangladesh’s second-largest city, Chittagong, which is in the southeast, and in many other towns across the country.
In Dhaka, opposition supporters allegedly set fire to a car and a bus, but no injuries were reported.
At least 10 homemade bombs were exploded at a premier public university area in Dhaka.
Ruhul Kabir Rizvy Ahmed, a spokesman for the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, said at least 400 opposition supporters were arrested across the country.
The clashes occurred as the BNP and its Islamist allies called nationwide mass protests to force Hasina to resign ahead of the January 2014 elections and set up a technocrat-led caretaker government to oversee the polls.
BNP leader Khaleda Zia addressed a rally of over 100,000 supporters at a national memorial in central Dhaka, renewing her threat to boycott the polls and setting Hasina a new weekend deadline to hold a dialogue on her demand for a caretaker government.
“There will be no election under Hasina. We won’t allow any one-party election. The election must include all parties and be conducted by a neutral caretaker government,” Zia told the crowd, announcing a nationwide strike for Sunday to Tuesday to press her demands.
Bangladeshi politics has long been dominated by a feud between the two dynastic leaders who distrust each other.
Local Dhaka police chief Sirajul Islam put the number of the crowd at the rally at “over 100,000”. Witnesses and BNP officials said the figure was double.
Tensions have been rising in Bangladesh since Hasina’s ruling Awami League (AL) party rejected an October 24 deadline set by the BNP for accepting its demands.
Zia, who has twice served as premier, branded the government “illegal” as of Friday, citing a legal provision that requires a neutral caretaker government to be set up three months before elections slated for January 2014.
But the ruling AL abolished the provision in 2011, handing the job of overseeing polls to a reformed Election Commission.
The government has deployed thousands of police and paramilitary border guards in Dhaka, in the port city of Chittagong where the ruling party called a rival rally that was peaceful, and other potential flashpoints.
“We’ve sent BGB (Border Guard Bangladesh) troops to 20 major cities and towns,” BGB director colonel Hafiz Ahsan told AFP.
Police said they fired rubber bullets in half a dozen other towns, leaving scores injured after the supporters of the AL party and the BNP clashed.
While the nation has a long history of political violence, this year has been the deadliest since Bangladesh gained independence in 1971.
At least 150 people have been killed since January after a controversial court began handing down death sentences to Islamist leaders allied to ex-premier Zia.
- Five dead as 100,000 opposition supporters rally in Bangladesh (channelnewsasia.com)
- Bangladesh security officials clash with opposition supporters, killing 3, injuring dozens (vancouverdesi.com)
- Bangladesh Opposition Unveils Strike Plan (abcnews.go.com)
An earthquake of magnitude 7.3 struck early Saturday morning off Japan’s east coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Japan’s emergency agencies declared a tsunami warning for the region that includes the crippled Fukushima nuclear site.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency issued a 1-meter (3-foot) tsunami warning for a long stretch of Japan’s northeastern coast. It put the magnitude of the quake at 7.1. The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not post warnings for the rest of the Pacific.
There were no immediate reports of damage on land. Japanese television images of harbors showed calm waters.
The quake hit at 2:10 a.m. Saturday Tokyo time (1710 GMT) about 290 kilometers (170 miles) off Fukushima. Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima plant, ordered workers near the coast to move to higher ground. Japanese news service Kyodo said there were no signs of trouble at the plant.
The tremor was felt in Tokyo, some 300 miles (480 kilometers) away.
All but two of Japan’s 50 reactors have been offline since the March 2011 magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami triggered multiple meltdowns and massive radiation leaks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, about 250 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Tokyo. About 19,000 people were killed.
- 7.3 Quake Strikes Off Japan; Tsunami Advisory Issued (ktla.com)
- Magnitude 7.3 Quake Strikes off Japanese Coast (fox40.com)
- 7.3 Earthquake Hits Near Fukushima Off Honshu Coast, Tsunami Advisory Issued (republicbroadcasting.org)
First: we are not suggesting Japan’s army is comprised of radioactive mutants – perhaps just those stationed within 10 kilometers of the Fukushima gift that keeps on giving alpha through gamma rays. We are merely saying that if one takes Abe’s latest deluded ramblings that Japan is “ready to counter China’s power” literally instead of merely more nationalistic bluster by a prime minister whose first term ended in the runs (literally), then the demographically crippled island nation that has a soaring food and energy inflation problem, sliding wages and radiation that comes in 100,000+ RDA dosage increments, would be well advised to have a few invincible X-Men in its army’s ranks if indeed it has any intention of taking on China. Because as Walter Sobchak would say, “this is not Man(churia).”
What else did the not so big man, with the very big ego (supposedly because he thinks doing Goldman’s reflationary bidding helps anyone besides Goldman’s year end bonus pool), say? Some very strange things – from the WSJ:”Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he envisions a resurgent Japan taking a more assertive leadership role in Asia to counter China’s power, seeking to place Tokyo at the helm of countries in the region nervous about Beijing’s military buildup amid fears of an American pullback.” He added that “many nations were concerned that China was attempting to use force to change the status quo in Asia, adding that Tokyo’s role as the region’s leader is to urge Beijing not to follow such a path.”
Uhm, did he say “Tokyo’s role as the region’s leader“? Precisely in what is Tokyo a leader any more? Imported Chinese smog? Unsolicited gamma radiation? Goughing at the pump? Sex doll sales? That pretty much covers Tokyo’s current leadership areas in the region. Sadly, it is this kind of sociopathological self-delusion (and denial) that is the mark of the Japanese government, and why not only was Fukushima a guaranteed outcome (and has now become the worst radioactive catastrophe in history, nearly three years after the explosion), but why day by day, Japan’s society is slowly sinking into the Pacific. Mostly metaphorically, but also literally.
The absolutely hilarious snippets from the sociopath continue:
In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with The Journal, Mr. Abe also defended his program of economic reforms against growing criticism that the package lacks substance—though he offered few details of new programs, or a timetable, that anxious foreign investors have been seeking.d
What can one say but LOL. But the funniest stuff was naturally reserved for how this feeble, mutagenic David is approaching the Chinese goliath.
“There are concerns that China is attempting to change the status quo by force, rather than by rule of law. But if China opts to take that path, then it won’t be able to emerge peacefully,” he added.
“So it shouldn’t take that path, and many nations expect Japan to strongly assert that. And they hope that as a result, China will take responsible action in the international community.”
Mr. Abe, whom China has criticized as attempting to whitewash Japan’s wartime actions and beef up its military, also said countries in the region shared concerns over Beijing’s arms buildup.
“It’s not just Japan. Many countries have expressed concerns over the increase in China’s military spending which is not transparent,” he said.
Actually it is just Japan, because unlike Japan which still lives in the 80s and thinks it is a superpower, still thinks the Nikkei 30000 is just within reach, still thinks it can restart its 30 or so nukes, still thinks that buying Rock Center was a brilliant idea, and the Walkman and Trinitron are the second coming of the iPod, the other countries in the region know to keep their mouth shut when it’s good for them.
We are far more amused and impressed by China’s resilience to putting Abe in his place. Then again, it is just as easy to bleed Japanese society dry by exchanging China’s massive trade surplus for Japanese labor on ever more-devalued terms.
In retrospect, perhaps it really is not too late for Japan to get that radioactive mutant army, because at the rate things are going that will very soon be its only hope…
- Radioactive fish and the NRDC (vernonradiationsafety.wordpress.com)
- Fukushima overwhelmed with radioactive water – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English (olduvaiblog.wordpress.com)
- Storm Causes Radioactive Leaks at Fukushima (voanews.com)
- Giant Fukushima Mutant Turtle Finally Captured By Japanese Military (topekasnews.com)
Rather than go to exhaustive lengths identifying the “terrorists,” we identify (based on every piece of data you have ever touched in your life) the ‘patriots’ and thus, by process of elimination find the real terrorists…
- ZeroHedge: Patriot Act Author Calls For Clapper’s Prosecution And Reign In NSA Abuses (silveristhenew.com)
- NSA lies? Agency lacks evidence it thwarted 54 terrorist attacks (rinf.com)
- Patriot Act author prepares bill to put NSA bulk collection ‘out of business’ | World news | theguardian.com (theguardian.com)
It’s happening again. The US lack of intervention in Syria (and implicit and explicit support for the rebels) has apparently emboldened none other than Al-Qaeda. As the WSJ reports, a flurry of recent attacks by al Qaeda-linked militants in Iraq – strengthened by their alliance with jihadist fighters in Syria – is threatening to undo years of U.S. efforts to crush the group, widening sectarian conflict in the Middle East. Iraqi security officials say al Qaeda-linked fighters from the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, are moving aggressively to re-establish a base of operations in Anbar province, the stronghold of the Sunni insurgency during the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
The chaos across the border in Syria and Iraqi Sunnis’ feeling of discrimination under the Shiite-led government has reignited the kind of intense sectarian strife that brought Iraq to the verge of civil war in 2006-2007. A security vacuum left by the withdrawal of American combat troops in December 2011 is also helping the fighters regain a foothold.
Iraqi security officials say al Qaeda-linked fighters from the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, are moving aggressively to re-establish a base of operations in Anbar province, the stronghold of the Sunni insurgency during the U.S.-led war.
If the extremists succeed, they would undo one of the hardest-fought gains of U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies. By the time of the U.S. pullout at the end of 2011, the insurgency had been significantly weakened, in large part by a U.S. alliance with moderate Sunni tribesmen.
Following recent attacks in Anbar and the northern city of Mosul, Syrian and Iraqi jihadis openly congratulated ISIS operatives on jihadi Web forums.
Whereas attacks in the rest of the country tend to be isolated acts of terror such as car and suicide bombings, Anbar officials say attacks in the province look more like muscular efforts to gain and hold territory.
The growing instability in Iraq coincides with the strengthening of jihadist rebels in Syria, many of them foreign fighters, battling to unseat President Bashar al-Assad.
The fighters flow fluidly back and forth across the Iraq-Syria border, staging attacks on both sides, Iraqi intelligence officials said.
“The regional situation is applying huge pressure on us,” said Falih al Essawi, the deputy head of Anbar provincial council and a member in a prominent Sunni tribe. “ISIS is trying to control the borders to find a means to transport weapons, equipment and fighters between the two countries.”
While most local residents in Anbar don’t support al Qaeda, many see the group as a last bastion of resistance against Shiite domination.
“ISIS isn’t facing any refusal or resistance from the locals,” said Mr. Tou’ma, the Shiite legislator.
The Obama administration, in turn, has angered its Persian Gulf allies with its overtures to Iran and its decision not to intervene in Syria.
As the ‘diplomatic’ debacle continues to rage between the US and Europe (most loudly France and Germany) over the Obama administration’s ongoing eavesdropping on its allies’ cell phones, Reuters reports that (state-backed) Deutsche Telekom is calling for German comms companies to cooperate to shield local internet traffic from foreign intelligence services. “It is internationally without precedent that the internet traffic of a developed country bypasses the servers of another country,” notes one academic, warning that if more countries wall themselves off, it could lead to a troubling “Balkanisation” of the Internet, crippling the openness and efficiency that have made the web a source of economic growth. Despite Obama’s denials, the situation is not fading away, and Germany and France continue to demand a “no spying” agreement.
As a diplomatic row rages between the United States and Europe over spying accusations, state-backed Deutsche Telekom wants German communications companies to cooperate to shield local internet traffic from foreign intelligence services.
More fundamentally, the initiative runs counter to how the Internet works today – global traffic is passed from network to network under free or paid-for agreements with no thought for national borders.
If more countries wall themselves off, it could lead to a troubling “Balkanisation” of the Internet, crippling the openness and efficiency that have made the web a source of economic growth, said Dan Kaminsky, a U.S. security researcher.
Controls over internet traffic are more commonly seen in countries such as China and Iran where governments seek to limit the content their people can access by erecting firewalls and blocking Facebook and Twitter.
“It is internationally without precedent that the internet traffic of a developed country bypasses the servers of another country,” said Torsten Gerpott, a professor of business and telecoms at the University of Duisburg-Essen.
“The push of Deutsche Telekom is laudable, but it’s also a public relations move.”
Government snooping is a sensitive subject in Germany, which has among the strictest privacy laws in the world, since it dredges up memories of eavesdropping by the Stasi secret police in the former East Germany, where Merkel grew up.
The issue dominated discussions at a European summit on Thursday, prompting Merkel to demand that the U.S. strike a “no-spying” agreement with Berlin and Paris by the end of the year.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, angered by reports that the U.S. spied on her and other Brazilians, is pushing legislation that would force Google, Facebook and other internet companies to store locally gathered or user-generated data inside the country.
The Greatest, Most Relevant Speech Ever | Zero Hedge. (source/link)
Every now and then, it is good to refresh knowledge of what is truly important in life. So it’s time to post “The Greatest Speech Ever” by Charlie Chaplin. Charlie Chaplin was known as the greatest silent actor ever. The most powerful excerpts from his speech, still very relevant today, in my opinion, are below:
“And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.“
“To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.”
And particularly relevant, is the following, as it applies to nearly all world leaders today and it should serve to awaken us to the knowledge that divided we will fall to the brutal immorality of today’s banking/government/military complex, but united, we have the power to change our futures for the better:
“You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let’s use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfill their promise, they never will. “
Here is more about Charlie Chaplin, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Chaplin arrived in Los Angeles, home of the Keystone studio, in early December 1913. The 1940s saw Chaplin face a series of controversies, both in his work and his personal life, which changed his fortunes and severely affected his popularity in America. The first of these was a new boldness in expressing his political beliefs. Deeply disturbed by the surge of militaristic nationalism in 1930s world politics, Chaplin found that he could not keep these issues out of his work: “How could I throw myself into feminine whimsy or think of romance or the problems of love when madness was being stirred up by a hideous grotesque, Adolf Hitler?”
He chose to make The Great Dictator – a “satirical attack on fascism” and his “most overtly political film”. There were strong parallels between Chaplin and the German dictator, having been born four days apart and raised in similar circumstances. It was widely noted that Hitler wore the same toothbrush moustache as the Tramp, and it was this physical resemblance that formed the basis of Chaplin’s story. Chaplin spent two years developing the script and began filming in September 1939. He had submitted to using spoken dialogue, partly out of acceptance that he had no other choice but also because he recognised it as a better method for delivering a political message. Making a comedy about Hitler was seen as highly controversial, but Chaplin’s financial independence allowed him to take the risk. “I was determined to go ahead,” he later wrote, “for Hitler must be laughed at.” Chaplin replaced the Tramp (while wearing similar attire) with “A Jewish Barber”, a reference to the Nazi party’s belief that the star was a Jew. In a dual performance he also plays the dictator “Adenoid Hynkel”, a parody of Hitler which Maland sees as revealing the “megalomania, narcissism, compulsion to dominate, and disregard for human life” of the German dictator.
The Great Dictator spent a year in production, and was released in October 1940. There was a vast amount of publicity around the film, with a critic for the New York Times calling it “the most eagerly awaited picture of the year”, and it was one of the biggest money-makers of the era. The response from critics was less enthusiastic. Although most agreed that it was a brave and worthy film, many considered the ending inappropriate. Chaplin concluded the film with a six-minute speech in which he looked straight at the camera and professed his personal beliefs. The monologue drew significant debate for its overt preaching and continues to attract attention to this day. Maland has identified it as triggering Chaplin’s decline in popularity, and writes, “Henceforth, no movie fan would ever be able to separate the dimension of politics from the star image of Charles Spencer Chaplin.” The Great Dictator received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor.
Chaplin decided to hold the world premiere of his film Limelight in London, since it was the setting of the film. As he left Los Angeles, Chaplin expressed a premonition that he would not be returning. At New York, he boarded the RMS Queen Elizabeth with his family on 18 September 1952. The next day, Attorney General James P. McGranery revoked Chaplin’s re-entry permit and stated that he would have to submit to an interview concerning his political views and moral behaviour in order to re-enter the US. US Congressman John E. Rankin of Mississippi told the House in June 1947:
“[Chaplin] has refused to become an American citizen. His very life in Hollywood is detrimental to the moral fabric of America. [If he is deported] … his loathsome pictures can be kept from before the eyes of the American youth. He should be deported and gotten rid of at once.”
What is remarkable about the above is that Chaplin’s speech about fascism in The Great Dictator nearly 75 years ago is as relevant today, if not more relevant, as it was back then. In addition, as Chaplin was demonized for telling the truth back then, administrations worldwide today, like the current White House administration, are relentlessly demonizing and persecuting truth tellers as well, after deceitfully pledging to protect them. It is for these reasons, in an Orwellian age when telling the truth is a revolutionary act, that we must spread “The Greatest Speech Ever” far and wide.
- #144 (tie) – The Great Dictator (1940), dir. Charlie Chaplin (fanwithamovieyammer.wordpress.com)
- Urwand undoes Chaplin’s Dictator (clarespark.com)