Might this generation have less wealth?

by on March 15, 2013 at 7:03 am in Data Source, Economics | Permalink

A new study from the Urban Institute finds that Ms. Brady and her peers up to roughly age 40 have accrued less wealth than their parents did at the same age, even as the average wealth of Americans has doubled over the last quarter-century.

Because wealth compounds over long periods of time — a dollar saved 10 years ago is worth much more than a dollar saved today — young adults probably face less secure futures for decades down the road, and even shakier retirements.

“In this country, the expectation is that every generation does better than the previous generation,” said Signe-Mary McKernan, an author of the study. “This is no longer the case. This generation might have less.”

That is from Annie Lowrey.  I would note that some of these “future benefits” will be consumed in the form of health care, but still I think this is far from an efficient (or just) outcome.

Ed March 15, 2013 at 7:27 am

If the peak oil crowd is correct,, the world as a whole is poorer. More resources are being diverted to keep up the rate of energy extraction. I realize this hasn’t really hit the mainstream yet.

The decision seems to have been made somewhere by someone that for those who grew up during the good times, the good times will continue. The quality of life of the later generations -which is going to fall anyway- will be reduced even more so that the earlier generations won’t have to notice the difference.

Finch March 15, 2013 at 9:24 am

Oh I don’t know. We have nuclear power. We can always choose to be rich if we want to be; we just choose not to for political reasons. Surely that will eventually change.

john personna March 15, 2013 at 11:06 am

Formally, the peak oil crowed predicted a sharp peak and decline in oil production, resulting in rapidly increasing prices, and TEOTWAWKI. The shouldn’t really get credit for slower evolution which look much more like their opponents starting positions. Especially given surprisingly cheap natural gas.

That said, a slow increase in the cost of energy might be having a more subtle effect. It’s hard to say though, because we are rich and do have all these options. Whether you buy a fast or luxury car at this point, or a hybrid, is up to you. You can choose to insulate yourself.

At the industrial level efficiencies are marching on as well. I can’t really see this as the smoking gun on lost wealth.

Much more likely it is the standard suspects: globalization and automation. Given that, I think Alex Tabarrok prescriptions are pretty good. We should get busy and do something about kick-starting American growth. There are too many bad answers in this thread that are kicking the sand.

Brian Donohue March 15, 2013 at 11:20 am

“kick-starting American growth.” Ah yes, the answer on every politician’s lips, the siren song that avoids any hard thinking about difficult decisions and trade-offs, or, better still, allows one to assume there are no difficult decisions or trade-offs to be made after all. Hallelujah!

From what I gather, there is an entire profession devoted to furnishing politicians with magical, bootstrappy, self-fulfilling stories along precisely these lines. Business is brisk.

john personna March 15, 2013 at 11:32 am

Isn’t the simple reality that we live in a mixed economy (have done for centuries) and cannot turn a blind eye to the interaction?

In fact, when I was saying “kicking the sand” I was thinking about people at an intellectual dead end. We have spent the last couple decades wasting political energy on a false dichotomy. It was all “free market versus socialism.” GTFU.

john personna March 15, 2013 at 11:34 am

Shorter me: you live in a mixed economy, concentrate on how to run one properly.

Brian Donohue March 15, 2013 at 11:46 am

Dude, what’s with all the ideological baggage?

If the economy grows at 3%-3.5%, all our problems, and conversations like this, melt away. But despite clever people like Alex thinking up ways to make it happen, it’s not obvious to me that we are not simply in a 2%-2.5% world and can’t be easily bailed out be technocratic wizardry.

In any event, I find it very imprudent to continue along “as if” 3%-3.5% growth is just around the corner and proceed accordingly. And even if that does pan out, there’s the little matter of the $16 trillion millstone we’ve saddled ourselves with over the past dozen years.

No escape from tough choices, IMO.

john personna March 15, 2013 at 11:56 am

What if an overhaul of our patent and copyright systems are necessary for that nice, fat, growth? Too bad those kinds of questions are blocked by the political baggage I observe, and do not actually invent.

prior_approval March 15, 2013 at 12:07 pm

‘the peak oil crowed predicted a sharp peak and decline in oil production’

Except for those predicting a plateau – which seems to have been fairly accurate, as long as one considers ‘oil’ to be something which isn’t dug from the ground or condensed from natural gas production.

That group seems to have pretty much on the money, as it turns out. At least till now, that is.

john personna March 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm

There was a time when Daniel Yergin, with his plateau, was the devil. What changed? I’m saying it was the absence of that sharp decline. You can only say the sky is falling a few times before you have to say it is … maybe in a plateau after all.

mpowell March 15, 2013 at 3:06 pm

The classic peak oil argument was that oil production would peak and then decline, just the way that it typically does for your average oil field. And that this decline would set up massive and disruptive price increase. This was always an incredibly stupid argument because a single oil field doesn’t set global prices and is subsequently not a reasonable comparison point. If a lack of supply of oil in the face of increasing demand causes prices to rise, then more supply will become available through a variety of technical mechanisms but all related to the fact that more gas can be extracted if the selling price is higher. Nobody really knows what this particular supply/demand curve looks like or what kind of extraction rate trajectory it will create, but the original extraction rate trajectory famously postulated by ‘peak oil’ is clearly false. ‘peak oil’ saved its reputation by eventually adopting a more reasonable position, but the original foolishness is right there in the name. Noting that oil is not a renewable resource and that global demand for oil has clearly exceeded the supply of the cheaper extraction methods is useful, but it’s not exactly a grandiose revelation.

prior_approval March 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm

‘And that this decline would set up massive and disruptive price increase.’

So, a hundred dollars a barrel is not massive enough for you? And never forget, a hundred dollars a barrel makes it worthwhile to dig up an area the size of Florida for its ‘oil’ sand – a process for oil production that an old style Texas oil man might invest in, but would never confuse with actual oil drilling.

prior_approval March 15, 2013 at 3:46 pm

‘but the original extraction rate trajectory famously postulated by ‘peak oil’ is clearly false’

Except when applied to the U.S., of course –

‘Production remains well below the peak achieved in 1970 and below a secondary peak—a lower high, if you will—which resulted from the ramp up of production in Alaska. But, as the graph shows, after that it was relentlessly downhill until just recently.
————————————-
The EIA projects that U.S. oil production will peak later this decade—a little below the previous secondary peak in 1985. That would result in a tertiary peak, or yet another lower high. The extra supply in the meantime means that America will be spending less on imported oil. But the modest turnaround in America’s oil fortunes won’t solve the larger problem of worldwide oil depletion which, despite American gains, has kept worldwide oil production on a bumpy plateau since 2005.’

http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2013/0303/US-oil-production-Don-t-believe-the-hype

And the source for the article’s world production figures is here – http://www.eia.gov/cfapps/ipdbproject/iedindex3.cfm?tid=50&pid=57&aid=1&cid=ww,&syid=2005&eyid=2012&freq=Q&unit=TBPD

Steven Kopits March 15, 2013 at 3:42 pm

The peak oil crowd is as homogenous as, say, NATO. There are wide divergences of opinion within it. But I think there are some generally accepted views:

– something happened to the oil supply in late 2004, and it lost its resiliency, which it has not recovered

– oil matters to the economy, and the inability of the oil supply to keep pace with demand has hurt the global economy, particularly the OECD countries.

I believe a symmetrical peak is the right way to think about a peaking oil supply. But keep in mind that reaching a peak in 2004/2005 prompted a huge wave of investment into the oil sector; thus, the industry has been on steroids for the last eight years or so (upstream spend has more than doubled to $644 bn last year), and this has kept us on a plateau.

Now, we reached the global carrying capacity for oil in 2011. Carrying capacity is the oil price at which oil consumption begins to decline in any given country. In the US, the carrying capacity is $95-100 Brent (US oil consumption is declining at a 2.2% pace); in China, it’s $115-120 Brent. Once you reach the global carrying capacity, you can no longer count on oil price rises to exceed global GDP growth + oil efficiency improvements (per unit of GDP) + dollar inflation, which is 6-8% per annum.

Oil costs have been rising faster lately, as much as 13% (for Exxon and Petrobras last year, for example). So you have a closing wedge, which may well peak out the global liquids supply pretty soon. In such a case, you could see increasing oil production costs coupled with declining upstream spend. I might note that Exxon, Shell, BP, Total, and Hess are all forecasting declining upstream spend going forward.

So, the oil supply is in considerable trouble. Thus, the emerging economies are looking to OECD consumers for incremental supply. In the last year, for the first time, 100% of incremental emerging market demand was met exclusively with OECD demand reductions. China is drilling on Main Street. That’s the reality.

john personna March 16, 2013 at 2:02 pm

In 2004, if you weren’t about TEOTWAWKI you were pretty much an outsider to PO. I can see how that had to change. And of course current voices will disavow the former … millennialism.

Steven Kopits March 16, 2013 at 4:33 pm

TEOTWAWKI. The End of the World as We Know it.

I didn’t know that’s what it meant.

But, yes, I think it’s clear. The world as we knew it in 2006 is gone.

It’s hard to know if it will return.

betamax March 17, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Fluctuating prices due to oscillating supply and demand destruction is what many in the peak oil community predicted:
See this prophetic youtube video from 2007: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7vGDwGLU7s

Marginal utility of oil is much higher in emerging economies. So demand destruction occurs in the OECD. And oil exporting countries consume more, including their own oil.

“Our Investment Sinkhole Problem”: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/9825

Floccina March 19, 2013 at 8:42 pm

Petroleum is just not that important nor is energy. Energy is not that big a part of the economy.

We use so much petroleum because it is so cheap.

Brian Donohue March 15, 2013 at 7:44 am

Hey baby boomers- here’s a mirror.

Steve Sailer is pretty cool March 15, 2013 at 7:48 am

“Because wealth compounds over long periods of time — a dollar saved 10 years ago is worth much more than a dollar saved today”

Is that the only reason you can see for the difference in value between the two dollars?
Is Tyler Cowan really letting that pass?

The D-man March 15, 2013 at 4:47 pm

He didn’t give a reason. He pointed out an observable fact.

Steve Sailer is pretty cool March 16, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Can you read?

These sentence began with “Because … “

prior_approval March 15, 2013 at 7:49 am

‘This generation might have less.’

By someone’s arbitrary definition of less, that is.

Brian Donohue March 15, 2013 at 7:56 am

no TGS then? prior_approval = Don Boudreaux? attaboy.

prior_approval March 15, 2013 at 8:03 am

No – for example, more parents staying home to raise their children is to me is an example of more wealth, not less. However, parents staying home to raise their children are unlikely to be well represented in such statistics as percent of population employed full time.

And please note that I said ‘parents’.

Millian March 15, 2013 at 10:04 am

“more parents staying home to raise their children is to me is an example of more wealth, not less”

It is not clear that this is true, based on women’s revealed preferences since 1945.

Finch March 15, 2013 at 10:11 am

Is this revealed preference or a prisoner’s dilemma? Sometimes I ask myself the same question about hours worked per week.

In any event, a parent staying at home is doing work that is worth something, but that output is not captured in conventional economic statistics. It’s black market work, in a sense.

prior_approval March 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I wasn’t talking about women – but no surprise that some people read ‘parent’ and replace it with ‘mother.’

liam March 15, 2013 at 12:19 pm

According to this less than 5% of stay at home parents are male.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stay-at-home_dad#United_States

Cliff March 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm

prior_approval,

You were talking about parents, Millian was talking about revealed preferences of women since 1945. No conflict there. I’m sure you were understood perfectly.

Urso March 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Even 3% seems high (anecdotally), although who knows. It probably sounds right if you take into account involuntary stay at home dads.

prior_approval March 15, 2013 at 3:49 pm

‘I’m sure you were understood perfectly.’

I’m sure I wasn’t – since parenting is not just for mothers.

But I’m guessing that the idea that children can be raised by parents, and not just through a ‘woman’s revealed preference’ is just a leap too far in this comment section.

Pavel March 15, 2013 at 7:50 am

Isn’t this primarily caused by longer education and more student loans?

Andrew' March 15, 2013 at 8:06 am

But why? If it is because it takes more credentials to get the same (or lesser) job then what?

Pavel March 15, 2013 at 8:13 am

Well, yes, mostly. The obvious solution is to tax education.

Andrew' March 15, 2013 at 9:27 am

Even for me, that’s cold. What if the education is actually, you know, education? We know it isn’t, but what if it is? As in, we really do need more education just to keep worse and worse jobs here?

John March 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm

What if education was a byproduct of actually doing things? It wouldn’t cost so much and couldn’t easily be taxed — and if it were then it would probably look a lot like income taxes.

Michael March 15, 2013 at 10:49 am

No, it is primarily caused by the narcissistic, now-centered me generation spending money instead of saving it.

Herjolff Gundarssen March 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Baby Boomers?

8 March 15, 2013 at 7:50 am

Maybe the Americans shouldn’t put trannies in charge of their country.

Mulp March 15, 2013 at 10:01 am

Nailed it.

anon March 15, 2013 at 10:13 am

Is this a new Obama conspiracy theory? That he’s a transsexual?

Urso March 15, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Maybe THAT’s why he won’t show the birth certificate.

Edgar99 March 15, 2013 at 7:53 am

“But she paid for her undergraduate and graduate education in part with loans, which cost her about $400 a month. She also is trying to pay down her credit card debt, which requires about $500 a month.” Yes, I suppose a just outcome requires universal loan forgiveness.

JWatts March 15, 2013 at 10:31 am

It’s ridiculous to get an undergraduate and graduate education (approximately 8 years) for a job that pays $11.25 per hour. She could be tending bar or delivering pizza’s for the same amount of money. And if she had been doing that for the 8 years she was in school, she’d have no debt and probably a have more assets.

From society’s point of view, we are spending too much on education for too little output.

Michael March 15, 2013 at 10:56 am

Part of the problem is that much of what they call “education” is frequently not.

Jan March 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Often people without college degrees have to compete with those who have earned at least a bachelors for jobs that don’t really require a college education. The employers are almost always going to choose the more credentialed person. At least with a college degree you have the opportunity to move into those upper level positions later on.

John March 15, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Very true.

Larry Siegel March 15, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Are you absolutely sure? My first professional job paid $2.50 an hour, then I got a raise to $5.00 an hour when I got my BA. My first *full-time* professional job paid $13,200 which is $6.60 a hour. (Feel free to inflate these amounts from the mid- to late 1970’s to current dollars.) I had to start somewhere other than at the top. 35 years later I’m doing fine and so will today’s young people.
The lower wealth levels of today’s young people compared to previous generations are probably due to longer preparation times for professional careers. That is the parsimonious explanation and, absent evidence to the contrary, I’m sticking to it.

Ted Craig March 15, 2013 at 8:00 am

What about inheritance?

Andrew' March 15, 2013 at 9:39 am

And elder care.

Hans March 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Harley-riding Baby Boomers shouting “Viva Viagra!” aren’t leaving us much

Alexander Hamilton March 15, 2013 at 8:22 am

I am confident that our younger generation will soon figure out the answer. Taxes, steep progressive income and wealth taxes. Distribution of income is a political question, soon to be re-answered.

Brian Donohue March 15, 2013 at 8:27 am

Close. We already have steep, progressive income taxes. For best long-term economic performance, which is what the kiddies need, think consumption, inflation, and other wealth taxes.

Andrew' March 15, 2013 at 9:40 am

Hmmm. How do taxes magically solve the problem of government redistribution?

Brian Donohue March 15, 2013 at 9:52 am

I’m sure I don’t completely grok. We need tax money, taxes suck for the economy, consumption/wealth taxes are the least damaging, the current crop of 50-70 year olds is leaving a shameful, unprecedented legacy as they wind down their working careers, and Willie Sutton tells me there’s money there. Let’s go git it.

Andrew' March 15, 2013 at 10:36 am

Like they helped lower skilled workers afford healthcare by fine/taxing them $750. What could go wrong!?!

Benny Lava March 15, 2013 at 8:52 am

“I would note that some of these “future benefits” will be consumed in the form of health care”

Can you elaborate on this? Typically young people, by virtue of age, are healthier than the elderly and consume less healthcare. But are we to assume that healthcare transfers will look the same in 30 years as they do today? And what about Social Security?

The Anti-Gnostic March 15, 2013 at 9:04 am

But are we to assume that healthcare transfers will look the same in 30 years as they do today? And what about Social Security?

If I were a young person, I wouldn’t assume either will be around in 30 years.

JWatts March 15, 2013 at 10:37 am

According to the most recent SS Trust fund reports, you can expect roughly 75% of the current level of SS benefits and 50% of the current level of Medicare benefits given the current FICA taxes and retirement age (67). So it won’t be worthless, but it will be substantially less than what we give to retirees currently.

Dismalist March 15, 2013 at 9:03 am

To accumulate wealth, one must save. Anyone remember US household savings rates until the financial crisis? I recall the rate as negative for some years.

Spend like there’s no tomorrow, and wonder why one has no wealth.

Urso March 15, 2013 at 9:49 am

So you’re blaming the 20-28 cohort for not sufficiently saving when they were in junior high.

jacobus March 15, 2013 at 10:09 am

And blaming them for having vastly more expensive educations for worse jobs.

Japanese BusinessDooD March 15, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Which is a de facto jobs program for baby boomers.

ad nauseum March 15, 2013 at 10:13 am

I agree, but the trend over the past decade or so has been cheaper costs to borrowing, and less (even negative) benefits to saving. Perhaps people are simply reacting to these incentives in the short term. Can’t blame them either, $1000 dollars in a savings account with 0.25% interest is going to be eaten by inflation. Why not spend that money now and enjoy it?

John March 15, 2013 at 7:06 pm

But why spend it now? Putting money in the bank was never the best retirement plan but there are other assets one can invest in that have strong tendencies to track inflation.

liberalarts March 15, 2013 at 9:06 am

The inheritance comment above is perhaps important. Without going to look for the data, I am going to guess that 30 years ago a higher proportion of 40 year olds had received their inheritance than now, because parents are living longer now.

zbicyclist March 15, 2013 at 9:29 am

But as average age of having children goes up, this works in the opposite direction. If your parents had you when they were 22, they are 62 when you are 40. If they had you at 32, they are 72 when you are 40 (and more likely to be deceased).

As noted upthread, if there’s a low savings rate there will be low savings.

Finch March 15, 2013 at 9:41 am

If you are 40, they may to the extent permitted by taxes, skip your generation as the beneficiary of their estate. I’d expect a lot of the wealth of those 72 year-olds to go to their grandchildren, not their children.

Michael March 15, 2013 at 11:08 am

Do you have any data on how much inheritance typically is? I’ve grown up my whole life basically assuming I’ll never receive an inheritance of any value, my parents never received anything of significance. Am I that unusual? I always figured that people who received inheritances where the non-standard ones.

David J March 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I believe most people don’t receive much, if any, inheritance. I think it’s poor planning to count on it when people are living longer and frequently ending their lives after significant periods spent with terminal illnesses which completely deplete their assets.

mpowell March 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Anecdotally, I’ve heard of people who inherited a small amount (think $100K), and thought they were set for life. Oops. I think that’s pretty typical in the middle class.

zbicyclist March 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm

With the caveat that this is from 2003 CNNMoney magazine.http://money.cnn.com/2003/11/25/retirement/inheritance/

“You can’t take it with you
Percentage of the population receiving inheritances.

Inheritance� % of population�

$0� 91.9%�

$1 – $25,000� 4.3%�

$25,000 – $50,000� 1.1%�

$50,000 – $100,000� 0.1%�

More than $100,000� 1.6%�

So you and David J are right. Inheritances are the exception.

liberalarts March 15, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Well, I guess that I was pretty off on this. I believe that my parents inherited over $100,000 from their 8th grade educated parents back in the 1970s and 80s, which would be at least 2x or more in today’s dollars.

Larry Siegel March 15, 2013 at 9:33 pm

I’ve studied Kotlikoff’s work pretty closely and I think these amounts represent inheritances already received. That is completely irrelevant for a 30-year-old or even a 55-year-old. Most older people own their own homes and their children will at least inherit that. My father-in-law only made it to 8th grade, was a coal miner and a steelworker, and is worth about $90,000. That’s not a fortune but it would put him in the top 1.7% according to a naive reading of Kotlikoff’s study.

zbicyclist March 16, 2013 at 1:39 am

Hmm. Looking at this article by Kotlikkoff http://people.bu.edu/kotlikoff/Baby%20Boomer%20Inheritances.pdf table 2, it’s unclear what exactly this is — e.g. just during the survey year, ever to date, or ever among those who’ve had the chance to receive an inheritance, or (less likely) includidng expectations of future inheritances, although Larry Siegel undoubtedly has spent more time on this issue than I have. Tracking down the survey wording from

http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/NACDA/studies/03155

page X-149 has the relevant questions, starting with
1. Have you (or your husband/wife/partner) ever received an inheritance or been given substantial assets in a trust or in some other form? (Do not include inheritances from a deceased spouse.)
2. How many of these have you (or..) ever received?
… (questions about $value, etc.)
9. Do you (or…) expect to receive a substantial inheritance or transfer of assets in the future?
9.1 Is that likely to involve a large amount of money, a moderate amount, or what?
9.2 About how much do you expect ($ amount coded).

So, looking at the survey, this is probably “received so far”, although it could be “received so far, plus expect to receive”, although that second number would be very soft. It’s pretty normal to be surprised at the amount inherited (either a good surprise or a bad surprise).

Spencer March 15, 2013 at 9:25 am

But if parents are living longer doesn’t this mean they consume more of their wealth and so have less to leave to their kids?

TallDave March 15, 2013 at 9:28 am

It’s not surprising, there’s a massive wealth transfer from the under-40 crowd that didn’t really exist a generation ago, or was at least much smaller.

Urso March 15, 2013 at 9:51 am

I guarantee if you polled average Americans the majority would guess that old people are the poorest cohort. Our societal concept of SSI is inexplicably stuck in the 1930s.

joan March 15, 2013 at 10:17 am

That is true of income but not wealth. 47% of low income households own their homes and I think it is safe to assume that they are the old ones. see https://visualizingeconomics.squarespace.com/viewincomeguide page 63

Urso March 15, 2013 at 11:04 am

What looks like a “low” income on paper isn’t so bad if you’re not paying a mortgage or for any dependents. A 40 year old would be hard pressed to live on $20K a year, but for a 70 year old it’s plenty.

Now this would not be true if the 70 year olds had to pay 100% of their health care costs, but of course they pay an order of magnitude less than that.

FE March 15, 2013 at 10:39 am

I agree it’s not at all surprising. Young people today start in a deeper hole (student loans), face poorer job prospects (recession), find it harder to buy starter homes (making houses more expensive is a main goal of our economic policies), and the ones making enough to save can’t earn a decent return thanks to ZIRP. I can’t even think of a scenario where they could acccumulate as much wealth as the previous generation.

JWatts March 15, 2013 at 10:48 am

They could live like the 20 year olds of the 1950’s did. Go to work right out of high school. (for roughly the same $11.25 a master’s got the graduate in the article.) One car per family, one TV, no cable, no internet, 800 sq foot house and cooking their own food.

Perhaps the problem is we consume too much and too quickly, not that we don’t earn enough?

FE March 15, 2013 at 11:20 am

They can live that way, and maybe it’s the least bad option, but the point of this topic is they can’t accumulate wealth. All a super-thrifty lifestyle will get them is the opportunity to deposit more money in accounts that pay 0.01% interest.

JWatts March 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Bank accounts have always been a poor vehicle for wealth generation. Placing the money in stocks, businesses and real estate are the traditional venues of wealth accumulation. That hasn’t changed. The disposable income is generally there also, however it’s eaten up by a largely consumption driven lifestyle.

FE March 15, 2013 at 1:43 pm

The Dow first hit 10,000 in 1999 and now stands at 14,000. So no, this generation could not have accumulated wealth by skipping in college, living thriftily, and investing in stocks. If that really is how they did it in the 1950s, it might have worked because 1949 to 1966 was one of the great bull markets.

Michael March 15, 2013 at 2:08 pm

FE,
Typical retirement timelines are a little longer than 14 years. Even still, a 40% rate of return ain’t that bad compared to how much wealth you’d have if you spent that money on overpriced rent in the trendy parts of Brooklyn, mismatched clothing with ironic sayings, and sushi.
Also, review dollar cost averaging, and try not to cherry-pick your timelines so closely.

Benny Lava March 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm

What job pays a high school grad 12 bucks an hour? Unemployment rates for 20 year olds without post-secondary education is double digits. I think this is part of your problem right here.

TallDave March 16, 2013 at 10:11 am

Farming, nearly all trades.

Benny Lava March 16, 2013 at 6:49 pm

So cartels is the answer? Not surprising coming from you.

yuppie March 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm

+1

It’s really great how moronic college students vote for their own expropriation and impoverishment for the benefit of a much wealthier population.

Jack P. March 15, 2013 at 9:55 am

Nobody has mentioned the obvious (to me): interest rates have been very low for many years. Why would anyone save if the real rate of return is zero, or even perhaps negative?

When the rate of time preference is higher than the rate of return, people consume a lot more today.

ad nauseum March 15, 2013 at 10:20 am

+1

Cow Goes Moo March 15, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Thanks Bernanke!!

Michael March 15, 2013 at 10:12 am

I think we’ll see a confluence of different factors. Whether or not higher education actually provides skills, the signaling value alone will likely still push young people to take on hundreds of thousands in debt. Gotta get an MA in Engineering so that you get picked to run the McDonald’s cash register over the person with a BA in English Lit.

That’s a hyperbole, but increasingly we’re a wage-based service economy in a world where median real wages are stagnant and you have to pile yourself in debt just to get there. Not only are children making less than adults, I also suspect inheritance may also be worse. The newest generation of retirees are the first of the 401(k) era and I think the data bears out that they don’t have enough in those accounts. Add in ever-increasing health care costs, assisted living etc. I’ve seen plenty of elderly couples blow through $20-30k a month. I’ve heard financial advisers tell recent retirees with a million in the bank that they have just enough to die broke.

So not only is the younger generation not acquiring as much wealth from their own labor, I think they’re likely to inherit a lot less as well.

Add to that the every-increasing share of national income that goes to capital owners over labor, and you’ve added another problem since the debt and lack of wealth accumulation means their on the wrong side of the capital-bias technological change trend.

I think in about 30 years, we’re going to have a big issue with very poor old people, which will likely be made worse by a weakened safety net for seniors as well (ie, entitlement cuts).

JWatts March 15, 2013 at 10:43 am

“I think in about 30 years, we’re going to have a big issue with very poor old people, which will likely be made worse by a weakened safety net for seniors as well (ie, entitlement cuts).”

I predict that before it gets really bad, we’ll do what we should have done 15 years ago and continue the 1980’s trend of raising retirement age. Gradually raising the retirement age to 70 fixes most of the problem. Raising it to 72 is probably a complete fix without requiring any other major changes.

You can’t keep the same level of benefits for retirees at a constant starting point (67) with an ever rising life expectancy. At some point we have to fix the ratio of workers to retirees and adjust the retirement age based on that ratio.

ivvenalis March 15, 2013 at 10:50 am

Well, as others have pointed out, if you have money in a savings account right now it’s evaporating. This is a deliberate economic policy designed to encourage consumption and investment, not to accumulate wealth i.e. “hoard cash”, with the concomitant economic devastation.

It’s also probably a product of globalisation. American wages were high, so they adjusted downward when made to compete foreigners with a lower standard of living.

Andrew' March 15, 2013 at 11:19 am

Thus people have to spend and hope for some return on the speculation, but interest rates are low, so QED.

Anonymous March 15, 2013 at 11:57 am

As a representative of mid-20s generation, I would like to say that having less wealth might also be a result of a cultural shift. We already have enough. My life is not going to get any better if double my income level. Thinking the life as a local wealth maximization problem is something that middle aged and economists do. We young (European) people know that we are already rich on absolute scale and concentrate on doing things that interest us instead of those that get us most money.

Cliff March 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

That’s a good argument for getting rid of the social safety net. “I could do things that help other people, but I prefer to participate in selfish pastime activities”

Finch March 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm

+1

It’s also an argument for not worrying so much about income inequality. He’s got a point. No matter how rich I get, I get the same iPhone as everybody else. It doesn’t make sense to buy two of them. Bill Gates and I experience the same internet, for another example.

The Anti-Gnostic March 15, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Translation: “Those darned kids won’t fund my retirement!”

By the very act of posting on this thread, you’re demonstrating you have more leisure time and resources than you need. You could feedAfrican village for what liberals pay to access the Internet and tell everybody else how selfish they are.

Personally, I think it’s great that more young people are realizing that enough really is enough. Let Krugman swoon in horror as credit card balances decline and tax revenues dip.

Starve the beast.

Anonymous March 15, 2013 at 6:21 pm

More like “I could play meaningless zero-sum games for the benefit of the infamous one percent along with everyone else, but I prefer to do something actually useful.”

David J March 15, 2013 at 2:41 pm

“My life is not going to get any better if double my income level.”

I don’t know anyone who would say this (as another mid-late 20s person), but I’m in the US. My life would be a whole lot better if my income doubled.

nuffer March 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Indeed. A rather nutty statement to extrapolate from that should be disregarded.

The Anti-Gnostic March 15, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Diminishing marginal utility.

Not to mention, higher taxes, higher overhead, longer working hours, competing with all the other sharks, etc.

Anonymous March 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm

That statement you quoted was maybe just applicable to me and should probably not be generalized too much. However, my feeling is that there is a growing number of young people who opt out from the rat race. Most extreme cases stop working completely and live on social support or something, but more often these people just take extra weeks of vacation instead of a raise in wage or switch from full time to part time job.

Eh March 15, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Speaking as someone whose income more than halved and then, a couple years later, more than doubled again, I can honestly say that I haven’t noticed a whole lot of difference in living standards in that entire time period. (Both moves voluntary btw).

Of course it depends what you started at.

Eh March 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm

To put it otherwise. If you told me I could make double what I’m making now, but I had to work double the hours or even 1.5 the hours, the answer would be not just no, but fuck no. Apologies to Cliff this sentiment violates his moral imperative that everyone should do nothing but make as much money as possible

uffy March 16, 2013 at 10:06 pm

That’s a remarkably unhelpful hypothetical though. Working a hundred hours a week is not feasible.

TallDave March 16, 2013 at 10:14 am

I’ve made this point often too — low incomes aren’t necessarily irrational, and they’re a better deal than they’ve ever been before.

Everyone wants to be a millionaire, but few people are willing to work 70 hours a week for 40 years.

MarioMaserati's TINYmc March 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Baby Boomers are incredibly greedy. They hold all the wealth, and want their SSI payments and free healthcare. Oh and they want their make work goverment jobs and they want to stick the young generations with the bills. The worst generation from any country of all time.

The Anti-Gnostic March 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Arguably their emotionally distant, technocratic parents were worse. And then there was the warped, Prohibitionist generation before that. Gen X may yet be called the ‘worst’ for cravenly going along to get along when they had the numbers to stand up and strangle a lot of bad things in the crib. We all have our own particular motes.

Boomer Esiason March 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Gen X never had the numbers. Baby Boomers sucked the country dry and left us to fight over its withered carcass. I’ll take the emotionally distant, technocratic Greatest Generation over the self-indulgent, tax-deferring, pork-loving, hypocritical Baby Boomers any day

Paul March 15, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I suspect the dynamic is something like this:

People are uprooted from their landed freehold status somehow — usually by conning the generation that “sells out” with secure employment, low cost homes and dependent wives — as was done with the GI-Bill and the low cost AND LOW RISK of family formation for them.

Then, once you have them off the land — most likely alienated from their “hick” parents — grab the land from their parents through some subterfuge. It doesn’t really matter the conceit — just get the land.

Then remove the job security while jacking up the cost of home ownership and alienating women from their husbands and children — as was done during the Boomer generation — but make sure this is done while pumping up the sell-out generation and convincing them the only reason their children are so undeserving of any inheritance is the moral depravity of their children. Then have some Jew write a book titled: “Die Broke”.

Finally, after you have fucked the girls and castrated the boys — put them all on drugs before turning them over to “youths” from other countries who will help them with their “terminal care”.

If during this time you have some children of your own that you don’t want quite so mutilated, start up a new form of conservatism, say NEO-conservatism, within which they can find some shelter from the bio-hazard shitstorm you’ve created.

somaguy March 15, 2013 at 7:11 pm

One thing I haven’t heard brought up much is, what happens when the baby boomers start dying out around 2030-2040? What happens to housing prices – who will fill all of the empty homes? Maybe it’s a good time to be building up a powder store and keeping it dry.

Brandon H March 19, 2013 at 12:26 am

This was shocking news to me. I hadn’t really thought about my retirement much, but to think that I will be worse off financially than my parents is horrible. However, I’ve thought about this long enough to come up with a few things in particular that would explain this difference in accrued wealth. Take for instance that as a whole, more people are going to college now than the previous generation. So here we have two things at play. First, the parents didn’t take on (massive amounts of) debt by getting a college degree. Second, the current generation is going to be making (usually) more money because of their college degree. That explains the lack of accrued wealth despite the average wealth doubling in the last 25 years.
I’ve also got to question what the trend has been in home ownership over the past few generations. From what I’ve seen growing up, home ownership was very important to the last couple of generations. However, I feel that over the years more and more people are renting either because of lack of money or lack of desire. Now I realize I have essentially no proof here, but this would help to explain the lack of accrued wealth, since money would be going to rent payments and not towards a home thereby not contributing to accrued wealth.
Lastly, I’ve got to question the motivation of an entire generation. I’ve read statistics and looked at graphs that show that the United States is way behind other nations in education, has higher drop-outs rates and other similar things. Huffington Post has an article stating that Finland has the best education system in the world and that the U.S. comes in 17th. It’s as if for decades, Americans strove to be the best in the world in education and worked tirelessly to do the best work they could do. Looking at those number and where the U.S. ranks, I’ve got to think that once we reached the top we just stopped trying to stay there. Maybe this lack in quality in education led to more people tugging the average accrued wealth down while those with a college degree help with the doubled average wealth statistics quoted earlier.
I can’t yet be sure why this decrease in accrued wealth is happening simultaneously with an increase in average wealth. I started out this post believing that if I thought this out long enough I could somehow dispute the original author’s statements and somehow make the case that the current and next generation will be better off than the last. However, the longer I thought and the more I wrote, I’ve only come to see that I’ve rationalized my fears.

Floccina March 19, 2013 at 8:26 pm

“This is no longer the case. This generation might have less.”

I doubt that but if it turns out to be true it will because they consumed much more.

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