May 7, 2013

Futurist Lowell Catlett Closes FPA Retreat With Laughs

Funny, somber speech from New Mexico State University prof ends annual conclave

Dr. Lowell Catlett had FPA members laughing as he closed the organization’s 2013 Retreat in Palm Springs, Calif., on Monday afternoon.

Catlett, a futurist and dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University, began by noting his age.

FPA logo“I was considering the short time I had left and said, ‘Whoa, I better do all I can to extend it,'" he said.

He noted the “marriage premium” men have over women when it comes to their life spans, “although some married men would rather die.”

He also said he thought the fact that he drank red wine would help him, until his doctor explained what moderation meant, “and I had to give those years back.”

Lastly, he discovered men in Canada live to an average of 78 years, so he decided to move there, “until I realized you need a marketable skill before I could move to the country, so that didn’t help.”

Cattlett then noted that the accuracy rate of the financial industry in predicting market outcomes was just 47%, despite increases in expertise and technology.

“Just 47%, can you believe that?” he asked the audience. “That means you could flip a coin and we’d still be behind by 3 percentage points.”

Catlett noted that the amount it costs the average American to eat as a percentage of disposable income has never been lower. He also said he is now able to tell college graduates the price of owning a home has never been lower.

“When I bought my first home in 1979, the interest rate on my 30-year fixed was 11%,” he related. “A colleague at the time said, ‘Stop bragging, mine’s 17%.’ Think we were underwater? A little bit, we just weren’t bright enough to do the calculation and figure it out.”

He noted that when he added up food, homeownership, utilities and Internet access, it accounted for 31% of the average American’s income.

“That means 69% of their income is left over,” he explained. “Think they’ll have any for you?”

So what are they doing with all that’s left ove?r

“Buying crap, which I call the crap factor. We could call it economic democracy and economic freedom of surplus or whatever. But you forget those terms. Crap factor is harder to forget.”

He noted the rise of “organic this and gluten-free that” has resulted in more segmented markets, and consequently, more jobs.

“I met with the producer of organic vodka,” Catlett said in disbelief. “I thought 90 proof would kill any impurities anyway. The owner looked at me and said, “Laugh at me all you want, but I can sell 10 times more than I can currently produce.”

Catlett closed by noting the 30% increase in developing countries as a result of women increasingly entering the marketplace.

“Women in developing countries get more money and spend it on food and education for their children. Men in developing countries typically spend it on protection, because it doesn’t matter if you have 30% more if your neighbor steals it. And yet we have organic vodka. As my father once told me, people afford what they want.”

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View complete AdvisorOne coverage of FPA Retreat 2013 on our Retreat landing page.

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