If you are reading this, then you already know the economic problem the US is facing. It has been discussed of the last 8 years or so on many blogs, articles and online outlets. If you have opened up your mind and have seeked information elsewhere other than what the TV provides you, then you know that this is a very real thing.
Some of the big issues tied to the US economic problems ahead are our national debt, our unfunded liabilities (social security, pensions). Those have been disccussed in depth, and in far greater detail and accuracy than I can ever hope to write about. I am not an economist by any measure, but I would like to add what I am getting ready for based on information from sources better at economics than I could ever hope to be.
STUDENT LOAN CRISIS
Student loan debt is a huge burden to today’s workers. Imagine taking a huge financial loan-your very first significant investment in your adult life-one made with quite a significant lack of maturity-in order to pursue a career path where you were promised a viable income after college. Then,after the loan and the time has been invested, you find out that the income is not a guaranteed result. In fact, the job was not in high demand at all.
I have a few coworkers who are straight out of college. It is quite common to hear them complaining about their student debt. One that pains me, is how can they pay rent and afford a decent quality of life-and still just service the student loan. A few of them are taking onside hustles from other entrepreneurs (uber, dogvacay, taskrabbit,etc) to supplement their income. How can you encourage your siblings, friends, contemporaries, to pursue the same path of education if you cannot see the benefits of it yourself? Plus how will some of these graduates service their debts if the jobs they are pursuing become obsoleted thru technology?
If no new students come on board and take up student loans as a path thru college, the colleges will have a significant reduction in students. Will they have enough students to remain viable as an institution?
There are cities built around the universities in them. Their entire economy and lifestyle is built around these institutions. Imagine what would happen if these universities were to close down? Or even just cut their size by half? All those restaurants, cafes, bookstores, entertainment, bars will lose revenue. Those apartments and homes may empty out and may be forced to drop rent prices and attract different renters. Entire industries are tied to the college education system. These would take a big hit. Would you have a way to deal with it?
My current job is tied to universities. In my small area of influence I try to take on projects outside of the education sector. At least, in later years I can claim that I diversified my projects and have put some distance between myself and this economic disaster. Maybe I even get to keep my job a little bit longer.
A huge chunk of retail companies have closed, have shrunk or have adapted to the growing preference for online retail. Customers buy a lot of their everyday stuff online, especially if it’s a product they are familiar with. If it’s something you want to hold and get a feel for, if it’s an impulse purchase,if it just happened to be on sale-then customers get a lot out of the brick and mortar store. However, regular prices online are often lower than in stores. After the first purchase of a new item, you will likely get it online where the price is lower and it gets delivered at your door.
With this amount of competition however, and the huge overhead cost to maintain a physical store as opposed to an online store, a lot of physical stores just cannot keep up. Walmart closed 154 of it’s locations. Walmart is strong as a physical store, but they still were hit by the increased minimum wage in certain locations. Macy’s also had a slew of locations shut down. Target, Kohl’s and Sears-same thing. Sports Authority filed for bankruptcy and the same goes with RadioShack.
These are all large chains-the type that are anchor points at your local commercial center. The big store that holds together the smaller mom and pop shops. These drive a lot of activity to the smaller businesses in those commercial centers. Would it work inversely and sustain that area? I guess that would depend, right now we don’t know.
As this continues, imagine your local commercial areas changing and how this would affect your local economy, your neighborhood, your property values and your area’s security. Will these commercial areas become abandoned, dark shells that attract crime? Or will they be reused for local farmer’s markets and trade centers? If you bought your home or had planned on staying there for the long haul-how will this affect your plans? Your area may not be as good as before, crime may rise. It may also shift to something positive-maybe yours will draw local talent into opening up smaller shops. It will all depend, but it would be good to stay aware and have a plan.
JOB LOSS DUE TO AUTOMATION
I mentioned how I believe my present day job, my career for the last decade and a half, might see a significant reduction in the next 5 years. I know I cannot rely on retiring in this profession. Have you considered what might happen if your current career becomes no longer necessary, or perhaps not necessary in their current quantities? Most of us will deny this possibility, our minds will shut it out seeing as how valuable we have been to solving problems in our jobs. Some jobs will relate to this easily: secretaries, cashiers, couriers, warehouse stocking personnel and other redundant tasks.
But what happens to you if the trend continues to take jobs from medical technicians, doctors, managers, engineers, designers and construction workers?
There are technologies already in place or in development to take over these high paying jobs. They are not yet mainstream, but how soon before the public accepts them? How soon before the public is forced to switch to these technologies because they will be cheaper and more reliable? The first wave of these technologies will have issues or might be hard to interact with-but given how most tech today are very intuitive and very easy to update, the fix will not be far behind.
Here are some technologies that point in the direction of replacing the jobs noted above.
Radiologist– the replacement technology is already built and is preparing for commercialization
As these jobs are lost to technology, what of the employees who now have an obsoleted career path? What if your skillset is only useful for those jobs and do not transfer to other jobs?
GUARANTEED BASIC INCOME
There is some talk right now about how the government may end up providing the citizenry with a basic income. Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a guaranteed income provided to the citizenry out of some “abundance” in the economy. In reality this “abundance” may be some form of tax from the corporations that are earning the money, some form of tax for using technology to replace human labor.
Does this mean we will have some for of UBI? We don’t know yet. It is said to be financially impossible. What I do believe this means, is that job loss due to automation is a very real concern. So much that the leaders of today are already worried about how to deal with it years from now.
I am not an economic guru, but I have been aware enough to know that the US economy is on unstable ground. We are leveraged in debt. We have trillions of dollars of pensions and social security payments we cannot afford. Our children will be unable to pay off their student loans and the jobs we have trained them to take over, and the jobs we currently depend on-will all drastically change in the next few years. How will we as a people deal with this massive shift? I have no idea, but I would like to do whatever I can-no matter how small-to prepare me and my family for these changes.
How are we doing it? Well, honestly we have a long way to go. We’ve started by paying off our consumer debt. In 2016 we managed to pay off 3 credit cards and consolidated a bunch into one loan. We are currently putting 10% of my income into savings.
We have been a single income household since we were married. This year, my wife is pursuing real estate licensure so she can work a flexible schedule and ride the current housing boom in Texas. This would significantly increase our income as she gets settled into it.
Long term, I am looking to build multiple income streams. I am taking the path of entrepreneurship and I am looking to find small businesses that I can enjoy pursuing and make enough to live a good lifestyle. The days of being a wage slave are coming to an end. The new economy will redefine what income sources are and we will all need to be adaptable. Here at MakeResilient, I hope the information here will be useful to you in making your family ready for these changes.