As we get older, things change. From food to fitness to fashion choices, we make different decisions as consumers. After many years in adulthood, we tend to accumulate more things — meaning we have more things to fix, maintain and insure. Many folks also have more people in their lives for whom they are responsible.
These changes also affect our national economy. As a large demographic grows older, such as baby boomers, we see a drop in the products and services they typically purchased and a step up in others. In addition to purchases, here are a few other changes we might recognize:1
- We are more protective of our time.
- We pay less attention to what others think and more attention to what we value.
- We see the cause and effect between how today’s decisions affect our lives tomorrow.
- We are more focused on what is important in our lives and let the “noise” of life drift away.
- We no longer care about becoming wealthy but care more about having a rich
- We listen more to our head and our heart, and less to our “gut.”
- We stop thinking we know everything and recognize how much we don’t know — and never will.
- We’re no longer focused on making our mark in the world, but rather on the lives of loved ones.
Each of these insights leads to decisions that inform how we spend our money, what we eat, where we go and with whom we spend our time. Ultimately, the economy we pursue in our personal life is reflected on a national scale. If you ever have any questions about aging in today’s economy, don’t hesitate to give our office a call.
1 Jonathan Clements. Next Avenue. Aug. 13, 2018. “11 Ways Our Views About Money Change in Our 50s and 60s.” https://www.nextavenue.org/views-money-change-50s-60s/?utm_source=sumome&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=sumome_share. Accessed Sept. 4, 2018.
What’s Happened to the Middle Class?
In Great Britain, social class was established by birth for centuries. In the much younger United States, the social class in which you landed has historically been defined by a broader range of factors, including wealth, occupation and education.
Now, those factors appear to be narrowing, as many analysts provide evidence that the middle class isshrinking. Today, how well one can maintain middle-class status is more related to job and income. Unfortunate circumstances — such as being consumed by student-loan debt, rising housing costs and stagnant wages — mean that many in today’s younger generations may not be able to remain in the middle class where they grew up with hard-working parents.1
In fact, one report asserts that the middle-class lifestyle is now 30 percent more expensive than it was in the 1990s.2This is not a result of general consumer inflation, which has remained remarkably and consistently low for the past 20 years.3
Instead, other factors are involved. For example, rising housing costs in major metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City have necessitated more two-income households. In turn, this generates the issue of paying for the cost of day care for children and, increasingly, perhaps even caregiving for elderly parents. Only 14 percent of today’s employees have access to paid maternity leave.4 Then, consider college tuition, which more than doubled on average at four-year public universities since 1998.5
The biggest problem is that wages haven’t kept up with key rising expenses. In 1998, the median household income in the U.S. was $57,248; in 2015 it had dropped to $57,230 before rebounding in 2016 to $59,039.6
Furthermore, many occupations have shrunk or become obsolete due to new technology. For example, there are half as many journalism jobs now than there where in 2005. Many people who lost their jobs after the recession — including college graduates who couldn’t find one — went further into education debt to pay for additional training.7
Self-employment became one of the new avenues of work after the recession, resulting in our new “gig economy.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 10.6 million Americans work as independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary help-agency workers and for-contract firms. Another report claims that contract workers are paid 20 to 30 percent less than full-time employees. For many, this means no paid benefits, no savings and poor prospects for long-term financial confidence and independence.8
1 Knowledge@Wharton. Aug. 15, 2018. “Why Middle-class Families Can No Longer Afford America.” http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/why-is-the-middle-class-in-such-a-precarious-position/?utm_source=kw_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2018-08-16. Accessed Sept. 4, 2018.
3 US Inflation Calculator. 2018. “Historical Inflation Rates: 1914-2018.” https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/historical-inflation-rates/. Accessed Sept. 5, 2018.
4 Knowledge@Wharton. Aug. 15, 2018. “Why Middle-class Families Can No Longer Afford America.” http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/why-is-the-middle-class-in-such-a-precarious-position/?utm_source=kw_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2018-08-16. Accessed Sept. 4, 2018.
5 Emmie Martin. CNBC. Nov. 29, 2017. “Here’s how much more expensive it is for you to go to college than it was for your parents.” https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/29/how-much-college-tuition-has-increased-from-1988-to-2018.html. Accessed Sept. 5, 2018.
6 Statistica. Nov. 29, 2017. “Average (median) household income in the United States from 1990 to 2016 (in U.S. dollars).” https://www.statista.com/statistics/200838/median-household-income-in-the-united-states/. Accessed Sept. 5, 2018.
7 Knowledge@Wharton. Aug. 15, 2018. “Why Middle-class Families Can No Longer Afford America.” http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/why-is-the-middle-class-in-such-a-precarious-position/?utm_source=kw_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2018-08-16. Accessed Sept. 4, 2018.
8 Caleb Gayle. The Guardian. June 7, 2018. “US gig economy: data shows 16m people in ‘contingent or alternative’ work.” https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jun/07/america-gig-economy-work-bureau-labor-statistics. Accessed Sept. 5, 2018.
Long-Term Recession Impact
Unemployment levels increased dramatically during the Great Recession as companies laid off workers in efforts to cut costs. Unfortunately, jobs were slow to return and, even with today’s historically low unemployment, wage increases are still slow in rebounding.1
One reason is that some jobs simply did not return to previous employment levels. Employers found ways to manage with decreased staff levels by using automated technology and artificial intelligence to serve in their stead.2
Today’s job market tends to favor positions that require higher skill levels, education and creativity, as well as service-based roles such as hairdressers and janitors. The true victims of the Great Recession were those working “routine” occupations — such as bank tellers, manufacturing plant employees and office clerks.3
1 Knowledge@Wharton. Aug. 8, 2018. “Why Some Jobs Disappear Forever Following Recessions.” http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/recessions-jobs/. Accessed Sep. 4, 2018.
Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.
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