Golden Years?

Are you ready for retirement?  While the idea might have its appeal, especially with the winter weather making for long commutes this year, an awful lot of workers are not on a track to be able to retire.  That’s according to a survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), conducted annually.  They found that only 18% are “very confident” that they’ll have enough for retirement and a further 37% are “somewhat confident”.  That’s up from the 2013 survey, in which only 13% was “very confident”.

The implications go beyond any one family’s ability to retire, however.  The decline in workforce participation has been largely due to retirement since the start of 2011, and retirement opens jobs for young people.  The wave of retirement that should accelerate after 2017 is one of the main reasons Barataria has hope for the 2020s.  But is retirement nothing more than a dream for many workers today?
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Point of No Return

Low interest rates are a good thing, right? They are if you are a borrower, but not if you are a saver. People salting money away for retirement right now are getting almost no return on their savings, thanks in large part to a zero interest rate policy (ZIRP). Banks can borrow money from the Fed with no interest, so why would they pay interest on ordinary deposits, CDs, or any other money making instrument?

There is a lot of talk about the Fed’s policy of quantitative easing, which currently is performed by buying $85B in mortgage backed bonds every month. They may or may not start “tapering” to zero sometime in the near future. Beyond that, at some point interest rates have to come off of the peg of zero that they have been at since 2008, but that’s even further into the future. And the implications are vast.

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Good, Evil, Puzzling, & Stupid

Every once in a while Barataria has to take a pause from deep economic rumination. It’s time rundown the odd stories that may not have received enough attention elsewhere. There is a lot of news in these chaotic times that smells like it may be important one day but hasn’t quite bubbled up to the level where it hits the mainstream yet. This is just one of those days.

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A Coming Golden Age. Really.

Perhaps the economy is a lot like the weather – if you wait long enough, it has to get better.

As we’ve noted before, income inequality is likely to improve in the US and the rest of the developed world once the postwar “Baby Boom” starts to retire.  With as much as a quarter of the population removed from the labor force, there will be more jobs to go around – perhaps even too many.  Wages are likely to rise and opportunities for employment will be everywhere.

If that doesn’t sound good enough, recent studies have suggested that inflation is likely to be low as the population ages, meaning interest rates will remain low and capital is likely to be plentiful.  It’s starting to sound like this Depression is going to end with a golden age.  Seriously.

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Retiring Inequality

Income inequality is one of the biggest barriers to sustained growth today.  You can’t have a consumer economy without income reasonably well distributed, and such an economy is going to have more sustained, reliable growth.  But as we’ve shown before, income inequality has grown since 1968, threatening long term growth.

Here is another way to look at that rising inequality as part of a long-term trend that defined 1968-2000 – the expansion of the workforce and subsequent collapse of that expansion that will solidify  when the Baby Boom hits retirement.  Economic changes are often demographic at heart, and we are due for some major upheaval that we need to be ready for.

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