Taking an exit from the labor force: Over the last ten years 16 million Americans have dropped out of the labor force.
The US economy has not recovered in typical fashion. Following the Great Recession, we witnessed a large growth in those not in the labor force. Part of this has to do with an older population but that does not address the issue completely. The US has added 16 million people to the “not in the labor force” category over the last decade and this trend has also assisted in padding the unemployment numbers. How so? If you are not in the labor force, you are not counted therefore the rate miraculously drops. It would be one thing if all older Americans were entering retirement age with adequate savings. This is simply not the case. Many Americans are simply broke and their version of retirement includes working until you drop. You would think that things got better since the recession officially ended back in 2009. The opposite is true since 12 million people have dropped out of the labor force within the last five years alone. In other words, the bulk of the people dropping out of the labor force occurred during a labeled recovery.
The thriving cronyism of the stock market: 81 percent of stock market wealth held in the hands by 10 percent of the population. Housing also being snatched from middle class families.
Most Americans are confronting a system where the deck is stacked against their interests. Most Americans saw the true colors of the system during the Great Recession panic when government joined forces with Wall Street to essentially fire the middle class with explicit and hidden bailouts. There is unfortunately a large amount of cronyism embedded in the current system. Most Americans have very little in stock market wealth. Over 81 percent of stock wealth is held by the top 10 percent of the population. This is why for most, retirement is largely one pipe dream. Yet the problem of the bailouts was the split of corporate welfare for connected institutions and austerity measures for the rest of the country. Wall Street is driven by profits and companies were able to slash their way into profitability while boosting earnings and using large safety nets and golden parachutes for those at the top. Banks that should have failed survived thanks to the too big to fail mantra. This is why, after a record stock market run since 2009 many Americans still view the economy as performing poorly. For them it is. You also have Wall Street invading the one asset where Americans used as a forced savings account, housing. Even in this one asset class Americans are being pushed out.
The price of learning from expensive books: The cost of educational books has soared by 150 percent since 2000 while the cost of recreational books has fallen.
There are many reasons why college costs are soaring even well beyond the regular rate of inflation. Schools are adding immense amenities to attract students. Student debt backed by the government allows schools to push prices higher since students simply go into deeper debt with little analysis on ability to pay at a later date. Similar to hospital charging outrageous prices for a standard Aspirin, book publishers realize that they can get away with charging more for textbooks as well. Any college student can tell you that the cost of a college text can eat deep into your budget. Many science books cost hundreds of dollars. Publishers quickly realized years ago that savvy students could photocopy and pass books around. The way around this? Requiring students to purchase access codes in conjunction with the book virtually forced students to always pay market prices for access to course content. So it should come as no surprise to you that since 2000, the cost of educational books has soared while the cost of recreational books has actually fallen.
The return of the stock market bubble: In a world with clear risk, investors are acting as if the market is completely risk free.
Some investors tend to believe the stock market is a perfect and balanced barometer of the underlying economy. Even with the recent bubbles in technology stocks and real estate, some still have this misguided assumption that stock values are always priced right. Most of the movement in the market is being driven by institutional investors since roughly half of Americans own absolutely no stocks outright. It should be rather obvious to those that read a few newspapers outside of the country that there are some major risk factors hitting the world right now: the Ebola outbreak, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and the Middle East. You also have anemic economic growth in Europe. In the US 92 million Americans have dropped out of the labor force. Yet somehow, the stock market is making new highs. Why? A large part of profits have come from firing workers, slashing wages, cutting benefits, and using cheap QE funding to juice up stocks. The market cares only about profits, not long-term sustainability. Yet if you were looking at the volatility index you would think that there was absolutely no risk in the current market. This market is looking very bubbly.
Student debt becoming a larger albatross for economic growth: $1.2 trillion in student debt is outstanding and many college graduates working in jobs that don’t require their degree.
There was a time when going to college made sense in every feasible way. It made sense professionally, economically, and many college graduates have a wonderful time in the process of completing their degrees. Most would argue that learning is vital in growing and moving forward. Yet students need to ask whether their return on investment is really worth it? Many people go to college in a compulsory fashion. This is simply the next step after high school. This was an easy decision to make during a time when the costs of going to college were affordable. Today, many schools charge $40,000 and $50,000 per year for a basic undergraduate degree. That is problematic. A large number of recent graduates are now working in positions that don’t require their specific field of study. In other words, they are employed in a field different from their undergraduate degree but still carry forward with mounds of debt. The total student debt market is now well over $1.2 trillion. It might be worth it to take a course in Student Debt 101.
A day of reckoning has arrived to retiring Americans: 63 percent of Americans that start working by the age of 25 will be dependent on Social Security, relatives, or charity by the time they hit 65.
The notion of retirement is a fairly new one outside of wealthy circles. For most of civilized history, people worked until they died. Not a glamorous way to go but that is simply the course of human history. Only until recently with the emergence of the middle class was there a general semblance that retirement may be accessible to all. However looking at actual figures reflects a very different picture. It is hard to get a perfect balance sheet as to where older Americans stand today since there are many differing resources floating out in the market. Yet one thing is consistent and that is, older Americans are entering into a major day of reckoning with not enough. Older Americans are woefully unprepared for what lies ahead in retirement. Many are basically at the mercy of Social Security, family, or charity. Not exactly the retirement paradise Wall Street started pitching to the masses starting early in the 1980s. The reason this has gone on for so long is the political system is co-opted by big money. Over this period of time real substantive reforms could have occurred. Instead a generation has passed and many have nothing to show for it even with the stock market at record highs.
New definition of retirement = work until you die: Half of Americans have little to no savings for what will likely be a long and drawn out retirement.
The ideal vision of retirement is one of constant leisure supported by a sizable nest egg. Building a nest egg takes decades of discipline and careful planning. Unfortunately, many Americans did not adequately prepare and combined with the casino like financial system, many have been washed out of the system. Many retiring baby boomers are going to use Social Security as their primary crutch for retirement income. The Social Security system was never designed to be the primary target for retirement income yet this is what we are facing. The problem of course is that Americans simply do not have much sizable wealth in stocks and bonds. While the majority of Americans own houses, most own very little to no stocks. This is why the current record in the stock market means little in the face of an imminent retirement. Also, the one vehicle to build net worth in housing is largely locking out young future buyers thanks to massive buying from Wall Street and big investors nearly guaranteeing another retirement disaster after this one. One crisis at a time. So why will so many Americans be in dire financial situations as they enter their golden years?