Two economists predicted the United States may face another Great Depression in 2030. How Americans prepare now may determine if they can weather the possibility of that financial crisis, the two said.
Brian Beaulieu, CEO of the Institute for Trend Research Economics, a Manchester, N.H.-based economic research and consulting firm, and Alan Beaulieu, president of ITR, said the country’s aging population and government programs tied to that group will have a huge impact on the economy.
Both authored a book titled Prosperity in the Age of Decline: How to Lead Your Business and Preserve Wealth Through the Coming Business Cycle.
“Our current system is not viable. We will go broke and experience the Great Depression of the 2030s unless something changes,” Brian Beaulieu said.
While 2015, 2016, 2017 will be years of solid economic growth, if changes aren’t made to current systems such as Social Security and Medicare, the U.S. economy could plunge into another Great Depression during the 2030s, both economists warned.
“It may be extremely difficult or impossible to alter some of the demographic and entitlement spending trends as we head toward 2030; it is very possible for us as individuals to take action to safeguard our family’s financial well-being,” Alan Beaulieu said.
Both economists shared who will be the winners and losers should the U.S. experience another Great Depression.
Read more: The four winners …
Winner #1: Businesses that focus on countries or regions with comparatively young populations.
Whether a business focuses only on the next year or the next 10 years, expending capital and energy in China may make sense, the two economists said. However, if a firm is looking further down the road for the better growth percentages, it will have to turn to where there is an expanding middle class, not a shrinking middle class.
“Those countries with inverted people pyramids are not the ones where middle-class expansion will organically occur,” Alan Beaulieu said.
Winner #2: Firms that target Hispanics.
In 2005, the Hispanic market constituted 14% of the U.S. population while Caucasians represented 67%. By 2030, Hispanics will account for 29% of the total U.S. population, and Caucasians will drop to 47%, both economists predicted.
“There is a tremendous surge of Hispanic culture, language and needs coming our way that successful businesses will pay attention to if they want to gain market share and enjoy relative prosperity, even during the coming Great Depression,” Brian Beaulieu said.
He added, “African-Americans will be relatively constant at 13% of the population, the same as 2005, and the Asian population will grow to 9% of the total from 5% in 2005.”
Winner #3: Firms that develop niche products and services for the elderly.
Be it independent living facilities, skilled nursing homes, special dietary needs, personal care requirements, travel or entertainment, catering to the needs of those 65 and older will be a growth industry between now and 2030.
“In the United States, the market will cease to grow as a percentage of the whole population after 2030, so expect pricing to become more competitive and the field to become more crowded beginning in the Great Depression of the 2030s,” Alan Beaulieu predicted. “Turning to older populations outside the United States will also prove to be a winning strategy.”
Winner #4: People who save or contribute to their 401(k)s.
People of every demographic who create an effective combination of saving and investing will be better prepared for the coming Great Depression than those who don’t, the economists said.
The savers and investors will be able to augment government retirement and medical program costs to maintain a reasonable standard of living, they added.
“Saving alone won’t do the trick because inflation will eat into the value of the dollar – $1 in 2030 will buy a lot less than $1 can buy in 2014,” Brian Beaulieu said.
Read more: The four losers …
Loser #1: Generation Y (Born 1981–2000)
“Our concern for Generation Y regarding the 2030 depression is twofold. One, it is going to have to care for a disproportionately large elderly population. This is both costly financially and emotionally and time-consuming,” Brian Beaulieu said.
“Two, (Gen Y) will be entering its peak earning years around the time the United States and the rest of the globe is slipping into what looks to be a decade-long depression. Unless they are especially prepared they will become the economically lost generation.”
One remedy is for the retirement age to be increased, Beaulieu suggested.
“We are healthy enough to work longer, and we may need to because most Americans are not financially prepared for retirement. If people are financially encouraged to work longer, they are less dependent upon the economy, and the government is in a position where it does not need to support them,” he explained. “The economic solution seems clear, but no doubt it will be extremely difficult to achieve politically. That’s because the elderly vote in such high numbers.”
Another way for Gen Y to have an impact is to increase voter turnout, Beaulieu advised.
“The elderly vote in higher numbers as a group than the 20- to 39-year-olds do. Politicians want to be reelected,” he said. “The younger voters are going to need to give politicians a reason to make the logical economic choice of raising the retirement age enough to avert the financial stress that’s going to fall on their shoulders.”
Loser #2: People 65 and older who haven’t created a nest egg.
There is a coming stress point where retirement and medical benefits will be reduced, delayed, or cost more, said Alan Beaulieu.
Any way you look at it, people who are relying on the system to provide for them in their elder years are likely to experience a significant drop in their standard of living. That will be especially true for people who will be reaching retirement age during the 2030s, he said.
“The good news is it seems people are putting more money into their nest eggs,” Beaulieu said. “The median income for people aged 65 and older in 2011 was $19,939. That doesn’t seem like much but it is actually up 10.9% from 10 years earlier, adjusted for inflation.
He added, “So it does seem that people are getting the message about needing to take care of themselves and not relying on Social Security. And, we think this trend toward higher inflation-adjusted incomes provides maneuvering room for altering benefits in the future. But for now, people, in general, depend on Social Security.”
Loser #3: Incumbent politicians.
Both Alan and Brian Beaulieu said the political choices that face Americans between now and 2030 are going to range from “painful to dangerous.” In the end, doing the economically right thing is not likely to win votes for reelection, they offered.
“Additionally, anyone in office as we head into a Great Depression is going to have a difficult time justifying why they should be reelected,” Brian Beaulieu said. “Politics as a career between 2025 and 2034 is something Generation Y should avoid if they are going to try to earn a consistent wage during the depression.”
Loser #4: Taxpayers.
Reduce benefits or raise taxes will be the primary choices confronting politicians, the Beaulieus said. The path of least resistance will be to increase taxes on the rich, they predicted.
“That is an interesting concept because politicians will get to decide who the rich are,” Alan Beaulieu said. “Most likely they will construe the rich as those with higher incomes or with substantial assets.”