I have no idea if any of that which is written below is correct. How could I? I suppose I could do research but my opinions are never based on facts, so why start now? I was just wondering why the economy is so flat and further….is there a good time to make a break for it? Just musin’, mostly.
Is there a natural time to stop playing? Is there a time for everyone to quit the rat race? Is there an ideal time to move off the material grid?
I don’t imagine so. We are all so different. But young people are especially (read: hormonally) driven to find mates and so that fact alone suggests that the 20-somethings are more inclined to seek the largest gene pool available and that’s in the city. Swimming in the gene pool is expensive. Living in the city is expensive. Young people drive the economy.
Thirty-somethings are usually fully engaged in whatever career they are pursuing and, if not, usually still looking for one to pursue. If they have mates and children, those two factors mitigate to staying in the city and working and spending to do it all. Thirty somethings sustain the economy.
There aren’t many forty-year-olds out here. They are economic sustainers, too. I guess if you are forty or so and have NOT YET been kicked out or committed to opting out, you are, by circumstance, pretty locked in to the major circuits and drains of the city and all that that requires. Of course, there are exceptions but I don’t know any.
We have always had the marginalized but I think we have more now. The homeless, the mentally ill, the under and unemployed, the millenials who never left the basement…these people are just not playing in the game.
But, by far, the largest contingent of new opters-out and OTG’ers are 50 to 65 year olds. They are the retirees. They may already be rich and retire early, they may be late in that contingent and simply retire modestly or else they may have had the dream for decades and are slowly making the move incrementally. For many of them, they are making the REMOVE. If there is a new face in the sparser, non-competitive population, it is usually someone checking out around 55 to 60.
So, maybe 55/65 is the natural time-to-exit group? There is no question that the majority of OTG’ers out here are 55+. But I am still not so sure that indicates much except that it is true in our time. And in our place. It was true for me and Sal. It was true for many of the folks we know. But there are plenty of exceptions, too. So, hard to say.
But one commonality is largely true for all of us (at whatever age) who were rejected or who opted out: we are not huge consumers. In our case, our consumption levels dropped off because our kids fledged and we moved from a fast-paced urban setting which required high consumption levels so as to keep up with the Jones’s and to buy the convenience necessary to make more money. To be fair, we ‘consumed’ a lot getting ourselves established out here (although, no more than we would have in the city just living there) but, since then, our needs and wants have been reduced by 75%. We simply do not buy as much as we did even in our thirties.
The point of all this musing in demographics is ultimately economics: Marginals, urban retirees and OTG’ers do not constitute much of a market. Never have. Nor do those who are exiled by early retirement or illness even if they live in the city. Of course, there are plenty of products we can buy and employ for our use and convenience and we do. But products specifically aimed at early retirees or OTG’er are rare. Products aimed at the marginals are non-existent.
I suppose more and more products and services are being generated for the ‘aging-in-place’ generation but that is a zero sum market. A good example is a retirement home. The regular, good ‘customer’ is relatively short-lived, so to speak. Hard ot build up a steady clientele. And even if oldsters still buy, they don’t buy big and they don’t buy big-ticket items. Few, if any, move up-scale, they down-size. Ninety year-olds don’t have two-foot-itis nor do they lust for the latest muscle car. When you are old, OTG or urban, you simply buy less. The marginalized consume even less.
Another way of looking at the lower consumption levels for me is simply looking at what I can buy out here. Virtually nothing. We have no stores, no restaurants, no services. One can hire local help for some transportation issues and maybe lumber supply. Maybe. Sometimes a heavy machine is available but, most often not. And that is also true of older urbanites. They don’t shop for fun any more. They aren’t accumulating. Fashion does not motivate them. They don’t want for much.
You might say, “So what?”
Well, here’s the point: the homeless, the early retirees, the OTG’er and the perpetually unemployed are a bit like the financial canary in the capitalist coal mine. They were rejected or opted out early and are no longer heavy consumers. And that contingent is growing. Fast. Add in the ‘greening’ effect and people are buying less, recycling more and being less indulgent. I think. So, I am saying less consumption is a growing phenomena.
It is very much a function of age. That’s for sure. And, in particular, our lifestyle seems to accelerate that. So, we who used to be drivers of the economy are no longer doing so. The bulge of the boomers marching to retirement is going to magnify that.
As people get increasingly marginalized as a consequence of inequality or incapacity or age they stop playing the capitalist game. They cease to spend as much. Ergo, the economy is flagging.
And you can see it. The global downturn may be simply demographics. It seems so. Japan aged faster than the rest of the world and it’s economy has waned for some time. And, at a smaller scale, we have plenty of older friends in the city and those living OTG and they are not spending as much either. Large chunks of the consumer population are dropping off the statistical consumer radar. Those of us older OTG’ers are just the early and more noticeable balers. The urban old bale, too. The dysfunctionals never had a chance.
The point: we will have zero to negative economic growth for the foreseeable future. And it may be partly my fault.